Victims of an Unfair Justice

By: Patricia Flores

“It’s unfair, completely unfair, to condemn people for fighting for what is theirs, what is ours, what is of Puerto Rico,” said Melvin Bonet a University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez(UPR-M) student in reference to the five students and one professor who were arrested last year on December 15 in Santa Isabel.

The town of Santa Isabel, better known as “The Capital of Agriculture,” is the second municipality that provides more to the gross farm income. The first one is Hatillo, that in so little space it provides a good quantity of milk. Santa Isabel exports approximately 1,400 food wagons to Europe, Asia and the United States. The land of Santa Isabel is classified as prime farm land and it is between the 3 percent of agricultural territory of great value worldwide.

The vast majority of fruits and vegetables that are consumed and exported from Puerto Rico are cultivated in Santa Isabel. The eighty percent of the exportations of Puerto Rico come from this town. This land is one of high fertility, abundant in water, dry climate and has an excellent tempeture and illumination and that’s why it makes it ideal for production and planting of fruits, vegetables and other crops of the highest quality.

Knowing this, how does the government of Puerto Rico want and is destroying this valuable land?

The ex-governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, decided to construct a wind farm in this precious land of Santa Isabel. The project includes 44 wind mills that belong to a private enterprise called Pattern Energy which invested $215 million. His promise to the people of Puerto Rico was to start leaving behind this dependency with other countries with the petroleum and start lowering the cost of light in approximately 63,000 houses in the island.

Puerto is presently suffering an agricultural crisis. The island used to export so many products but every year the amount declines so that presently it imports more than it should. Puerto Rico is importing as much as 85 percent of the food the people consume and that is a crisis. Farmers all around Puerto Rico urge the people and community to begin working to produce our own food and leave this dependency behind.

“My opinion is that the crisis that is going on in Puerto Rico is unnecessarily, because Puerto Rico has the potential to be a country capable of supplying the basic food alimentation. What is happening with the Puerto Rican agriculture is a sample of how the past and present governors of this island has been focusing on enriching foreign markets to show that we are not capable of being a self- sufficient country,” commented Ruth Robles, a student of the UPR-M.

Concerned about this situation, a group of people have organized a movement called “Frente Rescate Agrícola” (FRA). They are a movement that brings together various civil society organizations committed to agriculture and the self- sustainable development of Puerto Rico. This proposal arises as a concern of the excessive loss of the agricultural land Puerto Rico is experiencing.

On December 15, 2011 six persons were arrested early in the morning after entering the territory of Pattern Energy. They were trying to stop the construction of the wind mills in Santa Isabel. The people they arrested were students and professors of the UPR-M, who intended to establish a camp to stop this project because for them, and most farmers this island has, it would annihilate the fertile land Santa Isabel has to offer.

Among those arrested was the secretary of the organization “Federación Universitaria Pro Independencia” (FUPI) Luis Omar García, the voice bearer Edwin Velázquez, the young woman Rosemarie Vásquez, the post graduate student Raúl Mari Fernandez, the community leader Javier Smith Torres and the college professor Robinson Rodríguez Pérez.

The FRA makes a series of activities of conscience and resistance and their intentions of these activities were to stop the project, educate the communities, offer different alternatives, and to have the attention of all the Puerto Ricans.

The struggle continues and it’s already February 3, and it’s the first court hearing against the six citizens accused of violating the new article 208A of the Penal Code, better known as the Tito Kayak amendment. Right now the accused victims confront no less than three years of jail by this law that penalizes explicitly the freedom of expression.

“Like educated young people and aware of the atrocities that the government is doing, they have been given the task of defending what is ours, and even though those wind mills are an alternate way of energy, necessary in Puerto Rico, it is not logical that they construct it in one of the most fertile land that we have, preventing the development of our own agriculture,” said the student Ruth Robles.

“We demand the freedom of our fellow peers that were arrested for fighting for their rights of freedom of expression and protesting, knowing the importance of protecting and saving our lands. For this reason we sympathize with them and future actions that defend the agriculture and alternative proposals for the development of Puerto Rico,” said an organization called “La Nueva Escuela.”

 

The base of a windmill in Santa Isabel

The base of a windmill in Santa Isabel

People have come together to express their support to the people that were arrested only for defending their land.

People have come together to express their support to the people that were arrested only for defending their land.

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