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A large delegation of 50 volunteer registered nurses from across the U.S. returns this week from Puerto Rico after a two-week disaster relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria, describing an ineffective federal response that has led to deadly conditions including extreme lack of food, water and medicine; people living in houses infested with black mold; and water-borne illnesses such as leptospirosis that are already claiming lives.
"The people over here in Puerto Rico are dying. We have a healthcare crisis right now," said National Nurses United (NNU) vice president and Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) volunteer Cathy Kennedy, RN. "Nurses have been going out into communities, where all they ask for is water and food. And when you have to make a decision of who's going to get the food today or the water -- we shouldn't have to do that. The United States is the richest country in the world; Puerto Rico is part of the United States."
The returning nurses are part of the Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a disaster relief program sponsored by National Nurses United, and are among 300 union members the AFL-CIO organized for the relief mission to Puerto Rico.
The RN volunteers were shocked at the perilous conditions residents were enduring a full three weeks after Hurricane Maria. From the outskirts of San Juan to isolated mountain towns, they encountered many residents had yet to be assisted by the U.S. government's relief effort. Many were staying in houses that had been destroyed by the hurricane, flooded, roofless, cut off from electricity, food and clean water. Residents often told the nurses they were the first people offering them assistance. In addition to providing medical care, the RNs instructed residents on how to decontaminate their water and remove black mold from their homes. They also visited community radio stations where they provided health tips and water decontamination instructions on the air.
"These communities are at great risk of water borne illness epidemics. They need clean water that is safe to drink," said Erin Carrera, RN UC San Francisco. "It is outrageous that we are leaving our fellow Americans with essentially no aid. Many more will die if we don't step up."
Nurse testimonies include:
"Today our team traveled into the center of island into the mountain towns of Utuado. These towns are so isolated that relief efforts have not made it into these areas. It was due to impassable roads. But the local community cleared most of the roads. People said we were the first relief group to come into the area ... They're struggling to get basics such as food, water and medicine." -- Roxanna Garcia, RN
"We couldn't believe this is part of the United States. We did home visits in a low-income community with the public health liaisons who identify those in need and help them do basic blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks, refill their meds, etc. They have already had chronic diseases going on and now their environment is full of hazardous materials and sanitation is so poor." -- Hau Yau, RN
"What our nurses witnessed daily is the harsh reality of a woefully inadequate government response and the brutal, inhumane impact on the Puerto Rican people. The Trump Administration, FEMA, and Congress must act immediately," said Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of NNU's RNRN program.
On October 11, National Nurses United sent a letter to all members of Congress pressing them to "take immediate action to prevent a further public health calamity in Puerto Rico".
"The response to the crisis in Puerto Rico from the U.S. federal government has been unacceptable for the wealthiest country in the world," wrote NNU RN Co-Presidents Deborah Burger and Jean Ross, citing eyewitness accounts by RNs on the ground, and the ongoing crisis of lack of water, food, and other emergencies faced by the island's 3.5 million residents.
NNU is calling on the federal government to supply greater technological and logistics support to Puerto Rico, immediately provide generators for hospitals and other essential infrastructure, install temporary telecommunications connections in remote areas, and deploy boots on the ground to help clear roads and deliver humanitarian aid. NNU has also called on the federal government to grant all Puerto Ricans immediate eligibility for Medicaid to insure that residents there receive the care they need in the midst of this public health crisis.
RNRN has more than 12 years of experience in providing disaster medical aid following global emergencies dating back to Hurricane Katrina and the deadly South Asia tsunami. Most recently, RNRN volunteers worked in a convention center in Houston and other locales in South Texas after Hurricane Harvey.
See RNRN Director Bonnie Castillo's Blog on Puerto Rico, With Video, Photos, Testimonials:
See earlier RNRN reports from Puerto Rico at:
"What is the common vision to guide the Global South out of this crisis?" asked the Progressive International. "What is the plan to win it?"
Delegates to the Havana Congress on the New International Economic Order—a gathering organized by the Progressive International and attended by more than 50 scholars and policymakers from 26 countries across all six inhabited continents—agreed over the weekend on a declaration that outlines a "common vision" for building an egalitarian and sustainable society out of the wreckage of five decades of neoliberal capitalism.
"The crisis of the existing world system can either entrench inequalities," the declaration asserts, or it can "embolden" popular movements throughout the Global South to "reclaim" their role as protagonists "in the construction of a new world order based on justice, equity, and peace."
Delegates resolved to focus their initial efforts on strengthening the development and dissemination of lifesaving technologies in low-income nations.
"Delegates agreed that a key priority must be to secure science and technology sovereignty."
This decision comes one year after Cuban officials announced, at a press conference convened by the Progressive International (PI), their plan to deliver 200 million homegrown Covid-19 vaccine doses to impoverished countries abandoned by their wealthy counterparts and Big Pharma—along with tools to enable domestic production and expert support to improve distribution.
It also comes as Cuba assumes the presidency of the Group of 77 (G77), a bloc of 134 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where "the combined crises of food, energy, and environment" are escalating, PI noted.
"What is the common vision to guide the Global South out of this crisis?" the coalition asked. "What is the plan to win it? What is the New International Economic Order for the 21st century?"
"After two days of detailed discussions about how to transform our shared world, delegates agreed that a key priority must be to secure science and technology sovereignty," PI general coordinator David Adler said Sunday at the conclusion of the Havana Congress. "From pharmaceuticals to green tech, from digital currencies to microchips, too much of humanity is locked out of both benefiting from scientific advances and contributing to new ones. We will, as today's declaration calls for, work to build 'a planetary bloc led by the South and reinforced by the solidarities of the North' to liberate knowledge and peoples."
Speaking at the January 12 ceremony during which Cuba ascended to the G77 presidency, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla emphasized the need for coordinated action across the Global South on science and tech, arguing that "scientific-technical development is today monopolized by a club of countries that monopolize most of the patents, technologies, research centers, and promote the drain of talent from our countries."
The G77 Summit on Science, Technology, and Innovation, scheduled for September in Havana, seeks to "unite, complement each other, integrate our national capacities so as not to be relegated to future pandemics," said Parrilla.
During his speech on the first day of the Havana Congress, meanwhile, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called for a new non-aligned movement to "end the legalized robbery of people and Earth fueling climate catastrophe."
\u201cAt the Havana Congress on the New International Economic Order, @yanisvaroufakis calls for a New Non-Aligned Movement to "end the legalised robbery of people and Earth fuelling climate catastrophe."\n\nRead his full speech here: https://t.co/P8zdht8FD9\u201d— Progressive International (@Progressive International) 1674836693
Read the full Havana Declaration on the New International Economic Order:
The Havana Congress,
Recalling the role of the Cuban Revolution in the struggle to unite the Southern nations of the world, and the spirit of the 1966 Havana Tricontinental Conference that convened peoples from Asia, Africa, and Latin America to chart a path to collective liberation in the face of severe global crises and sustained imperial subjugation;
Hearing the echoes of that history today, as crises of hunger, disease, and war once again overwhelm the world, compounded by a rapidly changing climate and the droughts, floods, and hurricanes that not only threaten to inflame conflicts between peoples, but also risk the extinction of humanity at large;
Celebrating the legacy of the anti-colonial struggle, and the victories won by combining a program of sovereign development at home, solidarity for national liberation abroad, and a strong Southern bloc to force concessions to its interests, culminating in the adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO);
Acknowledging that the project of decolonization remains incomplete, disrupted by concerted attacks on the unity of the South in the form of wars, coups, sanctions, structural adjustment, and the false promise that sovereign development might be won through integration into a hierarchical world system;
Emphasizing that the result has been the sustained divergence between North and South, characterized by the same dynamics that defined the international economic order five decades prior: the extraction of natural resources, the enclosure of 'intellectual property,' the plunder of structural adjustment, and the exclusion of the multilateral system;
Recognizing that despite these setbacks, the flame of Southern resistance did not die; that the pursuit of sovereign development has yielded unprecedented achievements—from mass literacy and universal healthcare to poverty alleviation and medical innovation—that enable a renewed campaign of Southern cooperation today;
Stressing that this potential for Southern unity is perceived as a threat to Northern powers, which seek once again to preserve their position in the hierarchy of the world system through mechanisms of economic exclusion, political coercion, and military aggression;
Seizing the opportunity of the present historical juncture, when the crisis of the existing world system can either entrench inequalities or embolden the call to reclaim Southern protagonism in the construction of a new world order based on justice, equity, and peace;
The Havana Congress calls to:
"It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel 'Tortuguita' Paez Terán," said one group. "We join calls for the termination of the lease and for Mayor Dickens' resignation."
A coalition of more than 1,300 climate and racial justice groups from across the United States on Monday joined a call for an independent investigation into the police killing of forest defender Manuel Paez Terán earlier this month, and demanded the resignation of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
Nearly two weeks after the fatal shooting of the 26-year-old activist and medic—known as Tortuguita—Dickens "has still failed to condemn the killing," said the groups, and has instead opted "to condemn protestors and parrot the rhetoric of extreme right-wing governor Brian Kemp."
Tortuguita was shot and killed on January 18 when a joint task force including Atlanta police officers raided an encampment at Weelaunee forest. The forest is the site of a proposed $90 million police training facility known as Cop City.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality."
Over the weekend Dickens, a Democrat, condemned people who have protested Tortuguita's killing in Atlanta, accusing protesters of traveling to the city to "wreak havoc" at demonstrations that were overwhelmingly peaceful.
"Within a few hours of the shooting, Dickens tweeted support for [an] injured state trooper and completely ignored the death at the hands of a task force which included Atlanta police officers on his watch," wrote the groups, which include People vs. Fossil Fuels, Jewish Voice for Peace, Climate Justice Alliance, and Oil Change International. "As a growing number of Atlanta residents, national and global news outlets, and human rights and environmental organizations worldwide call for an investigation of the police narrative of Tortuguita's death, Dickens has dismissed their concerns. He has refused to bring any scrutiny to the one-sided and unsubstantiated recounting of events. Dickens has yet to offer condolences to the slain protestor's family."
The groups noted that Dickens and the Atlanta City Council have the authority to terminate the land lease for Cop City in the forest and called for the mayor to do so immediately, denouncing his strong support for the Atlanta Police Foundation's proposal.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality," said the groups. "Mayor Dickens can somehow find $90 million dollars for Cop City, one third of which will come from taxpayer money. Still, he can't find money to keep our already overwhelmed hospitals open or to finance much-needed affordable housing."
Ikiya Collective, a signatory of the letter, noted that the training slated to take place at Cop City "will impact organizing across the country" as police are trained to respond to popular uprisings.
"This is a national issue," said the collective. "Climate justice and police brutality are interconnected, which is why we are joining the Stop Cop City calls to action with the frontline communities in Atlanta."
"It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel 'Tortuguita' Paez Terán," said Ikiya Collective. "We join calls for the termination of the lease and for Mayor Dickens' resignation."
Brazil's far-right ex-president has applied for a visa to remain in the U.S. amid worsening legal troubles in his home country, where he is facing multiple investigations.
Brazil's far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month visitor visa to remain in the United States amid worsening legal troubles in his home country.
U.S. authorities received Bolsonaro's application on Friday, The Financial Timesreported Monday, citing "his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, who has advised the former president not to leave the country while it is being processed—a period that could last several months."
Bolsonaro is facing multiple investigations in Brazil. That includes longstanding probes into alleged wrongdoing committed during his four-year presidential term as well as the Brazilian Supreme Court's recently launched inquiry aimed at determining whether his incessant lies about electoral fraud are to blame for the coup attempt that his supporters launched in Brasília on January 8.
The close ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump—whose unceasing lies about his loss in the 2020 presidential election sparked a deadly right-wing insurrection in Washington two years ago—retreated to Florida on December 30, two days before the January 1 inauguration of his leftist successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula.
"He has been staying at the Kissimmee home of a former mixed martial arts fighter, José Aldo, where he is often thronged by adoring members of Florida's right-leaning Brazilian expat community," the Times noted. "Bolsonaro had been traveling on an A-1 visa reserved for diplomats and heads of state. It expired the day he left office, with a 30-day grace period."
Earlier this month, several members of U.S. Congress urged the Biden administration to rescind Bolsonaro's visa.
"We must not allow Mr. Bolsonaro or any other former Brazilian officials to take refuge in the United States to escape justice for any crimes they may have committed when in office," stated a letter to the White House signed by 41 Democratic lawmakers.
Alexandre claimed that there is no evidence that Bolsonaro committed any crimes related to the anti-democratic assault in Brasília, when his election-denying supporters ransacked Brazil's presidential palace, Congress, and Supreme Court.
Bolsonaro has tried to distance himself from the rioters, saying that they "crossed the line." In December, however, Bolsonaro broke his post-election silence to tell his backers—many of whom spent weeks after the October 30 runoff calling for a military coup to prevent Lula from taking office—that his political fate rested in their hands.
"Who decides where I go are you," Bolsonaro told a crowd outside the gates of the presidential residence on December 9. "Who decides which way the armed forces go are you."
Days later, hundreds of Bolsonaristas set fire to cars and buses and tried to breach federal police headquarters in Brasília in a preview of the larger January 8 insurrection.
A bigger right-wing mob invaded Brazil's main government buildings earlier this month under the false pretense that Lula's victory in October's election was the result of widespread fraud—a mistaken belief fueled by years of Bolsonaro and his allies' baseless attacks on the integrity of the country's election infrastructure, disinformation that spread rapidly on social media.
The day after the attack, thousands of democracy defenders took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to demand jail time for those who carried out the violence as well as those who aided and abetted it.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Western Hemisphere panel, said earlier this month that the U.S. should comply if Lula's administration requests Bolsonaro's extradition.
Alexandre, meanwhile, told the Times that Bolsonaro "might eventually decide to petition for a more permanent U.S. visa than the six-month extension he is seeking."