Interview with Eduardo Rosario, president of the New York City chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA, AFL-CIO)
The Organizer: NYC LCLAA has convened a press conference to call for the immediate resignation of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló. Why this call and what is happening on the ground in Puerto Rico?
Eduardo Rosario: We are holding the press conference later today [July 19] to stand in solidarity with the Puerto Rican labor movement that will be marching in San Juan and across Puerto Rico to demand Rosselló’s resignation. The Puerto Rican people have said, “Enough Is Enough!” — “Ya No Aguantamos Mas!” They are tired of a governor — and government — that do nothing but carry water for the U.S. State Department, continuing the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have been protesting and marching against Rosselló’s corrupt administration over the past week. On Wednesday, an estimated 500,000 people took to the streets in the largest demonstration ever held in Puerto Rico. The anger is so deep that — as we just learned today — the Puerto Rican Police Association, the union representing more than half the police force on the island, has joined the call for Rosselló to resign.
The Organizer: What sparked this week of mass mobilizations?
Eduardo Rosario: The straw that broke the camel’s back was the disclosure by the Center for Investigative Journalism of 889 pages of a chat on Telegram between Rosselló and his top advisers that revealed his misogynistic, homophobic, sexist, demeaning and disrespectful attitude toward the people of Puerto Rico, even those killed during and after Hurricane María.
That is not all. Past and present high-level officials of Rosselló’s administration have been arrested for their participation in money-laundering schemes involving vulture hedge-fund investors. The corruption is widespread. Millions of dollars have been stolen under Rossellós watch from the public coffers, including $18 million destined to the relief fund for Hurrican María. Rosselló, as the chats reveal, knew what was going on and may have been involved.
Meanwhile the unelected Fiscal Control Board that runs Puerto Rico’s economy — in the name of administering the repayment of a debt that was never incurred by the Puerto Rican people and did not benefit them — has sliced workers’ pensions; imposed austerity; and shut down 230 public schools, while advancing a brutal school privatization agenda, among other anti-worker policies. The Fiscal Control Board itself is a den of corruption. The Board has not released all the funds that reached the island, while approximately 30,000 houses still have blue tarps as roofs.
The Puerto Rican people are saying, “Ya Basta!” — “Enough!” They are undaunted. They are marching without trepidation. They want justice now! They will not stop until Rosselló steps down!
The Organizer: What can labor-rights activists and supporters of Puerto Rican self-determination do in support of this struggle?
Eduardo Rosario: More than 100 Puerto Rican medical students in Guadalajara, Mexico, have organized large marches on their campus in solidarity with the Puerto Rican people fighting for justice. Similar actions no doubt are taking place in cities elsewhere. The Puerto Rican people need international labor solidarity; they need to know that they are not alone, “que no están sólos.”
Solidarity messages with this struggle can be sent to New York City LCLAA to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. All messages will be forwarded to the labor movement in Puerto Rico.
— Interview conducted by Alan Benjamin on Friday morning, July 19, 2019.