Puerto Rican activist Berta Joubert-Ceci tours U.S., exposing colonial crimes and crises

Berta Joubert-Ceci speaks to students at Hostos in front of a photo of Albizu Campos.

Berta Joubert-Ceci began her U.S. tour speaking on the conditions and crises facing the people of Puerto Rico. The first stop, on April 10, was a presentation to Latin American students at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, New York. 

Joubert-Ceci spoke about history, starting with the 1898 U.S. invasion during the Spanish-American War and then focusing on the current $72 billion debt crisis. Her talk — illustrated with visual documentation — opened an intense discussion. Many students asked questions that proved their education on the colonization of Puerto Rico was obscured by deliberate misinformation.

Joubert-Ceci revealed the cause of this misinformation by quoting authorities responsible for U.S. policy on the colony. Below are a few instances of that policy she spoke about.

  • While responding to an island-wide agricultural strike in 1934, the Puerto Rican Chief of Police, Yale-educated E. Francis Riggs, whose father owned the Riggs National Bank, promised that: “There will be a war to the death against all Puerto Ricans.” 
  • Today, agricultural production on the fertile island has been reduced to the point where 85% of the food has to be imported from the U.S.
  • An authority on health care, Cornelius Packard “Dusty” Rhoads, the first director of Sloan-Kettering Institute, reportedly said, following a vile racist rant: “What the island needs is not public health work but a tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population.”
  • Health care in Puerto Rico used to be administered by a universal system. Now, the closing of hospitals and clinics and the general deterioration of health care are being driven by private insurance companies funded by the government. These companies open their own private clinics and absorb the greatest portion of the public funding.

Joubert-Ceci described a similar process of cutbacks and privatization that is ruining the economy and affecting housing, education, the power grid, and the environment.

By imposing the administration of bankers under the guise of the “debt crisis,” most government services, now privatized, are inundated by corrupt officials from the U.S.

Living conditions are so dreadful that the Island is in danger of being depopulated. Census figures show that since 2000, the population has shrunk by 14%, and the median age has gone from 30.2 to 41.6.

Following the meeting at Hostos, Joubert-Ceci spoke at two community centers on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Independence activists, community organizers, and students joined the discussions, which they summed up by suggesting a range of possible activities to end the colonization of Puerto Rico.

Berta Joubert-Ceci will continue her tour, speaking next in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Los Angeles. She is the convenor of the 2018 Puerto Rico International Tribunal of Colonial Crimes of the United States. She is also a founding member of Women In Struggle/Mujeres En Lucha, a member of the Women’s International Democratic Federation, and a regular contributor to Struggle-La Lucha. Joubert-Ceci resides in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

Join the Struggle-La Lucha Telegram channel