(taken from my interview in Mint Press News, published November 2017)
MPN: For those who are concerned about Puerto Rico and its people, and who would like to contribute to the island’s recovery, what message would you like to share?
DBS: As far as material aid, I recommend giving monetary donations through PayPal and bank transfers to bona fide, already-existing Puerto Rican organizations, which have a proven track record and the capacity to receive the aid. I will list a few examples below of groups that I can vouch for. Donated supplies and materials are okay if you can verify that they will actually reach those who need it!
But perhaps more important than material aid is actively campaigning. I have a number of suggestions, any and all of which would be helpful and appreciated:
1) Keep Puerto Rico in the news! Letters, phone calls, protests, social media, whatever works.
2) Keep the U.S. government (Congress, the White House) flooded with demands to aid Puerto Rico. Demand the abolition of the cabotage laws limiting shipping to and from Puerto Rico to U.S. ships and U.S. crews. This makes everything at least 40 percent more expensive in Puerto Rico and props up the world’s most expensive and obsolete merchant marine.
3) Demand the repeal of the PROMESA law of 2016, which among other things created the junta. Call for the cancellation of debt. It’s not Puerto Rico’s debt. Let the U.S. pay the creditors if they must, at least pensioners. The vulture hedge funders should get nothing.
4) End efforts to privatize public services, buildings, natural resources. Place a moratorium on mortgage and tax evictions. Protect public education, and especially stop trying to dismantle the University of Puerto Rico system.
5) The U.S. needs to stop blocking efforts to discuss the decolonization of Puerto Rico in the UN General Assembly. Every year for decades, the issue has been approved but the U.S. has blocked it.
6) Debt should be part of negotiations for the decolonization of Puerto Rico, with indemnity for the $1 trillion likely stolen by the U.S. government and U.S. corporations from Puerto Rico since the 1898 invasion.
Independence for Puerto Rico would mean a chance to end the U.S.-imposed separation from the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America, to which we belong. It would also mean that we could open up to the rest of the world on a basis of equality and mutual respect as a sovereign nation responsible for its own decisions. There are of course no guarantees, but at least Puerto Rico deserves the chance to try.
Finally, regarding recovery efforts, I would recommend the following entities:
1) Taller Salud (women and health), the G8 of Caño Martín Peña, and other local, grassroots organizations.
2) Vieques en Rescate, Inc. (VER) — support to Vieques Island community.
3) Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica de Puerto Rico (sustainable farming): You can donate directly to the Organización Boricuá bank account, Banco Popular Account: #162039034 or by PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org.
4) Centro para el Desarrollo Politico Educativo y Cultural (Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico/community kitchens) PayPal: email@example.com.
5) Colectivo Ilé (anti-racist work in Puerto Rico, support to victims of Hurricane Irma and María).