In United States-occupied Puerto Rico, the movement for Palestinian liberation has been growing. A demonstration organised by students and the Palestinian diaspora on December 18 marched from the Israeli consulate in San Juan to the US Federal Court. The formation “Mothers Against the War” has been calling protests on a weekly basis outside the consulate.
This latest outpouring of support for the Palestinian cause is nothing new on the island. There is a rich history of solidarity with Palestine. As Dianne Viera, of Puerto Rican independence organisation Jornada Se Acabaron las Promesas, told Peoples Dispatch: “Like Palestine, we are also a people in resistance, a nation that exists and that continues and will continue to give birth to fighters who will not give up until the liberation of our nation is achieved.”
She said: “The Palestinian cause moves Puerto Ricans first because we recognize that their fight for their right to a dignified life, their independence, and sovereignty is one of the most worthy and admirable causes in the world today. Boricuas who fight for just causes and for the liberation of our nation can recognise ourselves in their cause.”
Puerto Rican environmental activist Alberto de Jesús, known as Tito Kayak, was arrested in occupied Palestine in 2007 after he climbed a surveillance tower near the infamous “apartheid wall” in the West Bank “and unfurled the Palestinian flag and stayed for hours to draw media attention to the Palestinian cause”, said Viera.
During a demonstration on November 5 last year, Tito Kayak scaled the flagpole outside the Puerto Rican Capitol, replacing the US flag with the flag of Palestine. Kayak also replaced the US flag outside the Capitol with the Puerto Rican flag in 2019 at the height of the #RickyRenuncia protests.
The Palestine Solidarity Network (Red de Solidaridad con Palestina) was formed in 2008 to denounce the ongoing Israeli assault against Gaza. This organisation has been active in promoting solidarity with Palestine since then and has been involved in organising the large protests on the island following October 7.
Like Palestine, Puerto Rico has a history of militant, organised resistance. Viera noted the attack carried out against the US Congress in 1954 by Puerto Rican liberation fighters such as Lolita Lebron. She also mentioned the revolts for independence that broke out in 1950 led by celebrated Puerto Rican nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos. Much later, Operation Pitirre II in 1981 was carried out by the Boricua Popular Army, which “shot down planes that would leave from the Muñiz Base in San Juan in operations against the libertarian struggles of Latin America”.
“Both struggles, the Palestinian and the Puerto Rican are linked. We Puerto Ricans are aware that we live oppressed by a colonial system imposed by the US Empire. We face the same genocidal torturing empire that hides behind colonialist intermediaries.”
[Abridged from peoplesdispatch.org.]