As a group of Quakers, Peacemakers, and Puerto Rican independentistas converged on the little island of Culebra, Carlos Gallisá joined in their attempt to oust the United States Navy. Each day they built a small chapel on Navy territory for meditation. Each day the Navy destroyed it, only to find it rebuilt the following day. In time, Rubén Berríos, president of the Independence Party (PIP), was arrested for civil disobedience. Gallisá remained at liberty to carry on the leadership of PIP. Eventually, the Navy was removed from Culebra, only to have its activities escalated on the island of Vieques.
Gallisá, a graduate of UPR, was practicing as a labor lawyer at the time. He had been influenced toward independence by friends, and by a college professor, Antonio González. He first joined PIP, which was, by then, more militant and youth oriented than it had been under Concepción de Gracia. By 1972, PIP was represented in the Puerto Rican Congress with Rubén Berríos in the Senate, and by Gallisá in the House of Representatives. But by 1973, Berríos and Gallisá parted company, Gallisá entering the Marxist-Leninist-oriented Socialist Party, or PSP. Juan Mari Brás was secretary-general at the time; upon his retirement in 1983, Gallisá took over the leadership.
A tour of the United States brought him to San Francisco, where I had the opportunity to meet with him. I had heard him speak at PSP rallies in Puerto Rico. His powerful oratory and clear diction enabled me to catch bits of his message, despite my difficulty in understanding spoken Puerto Rican Spanish. But it was a relief to hear him in his quite fluent English.
He spoke of the long struggle of Puerto Rico for its independence, and how Americans have been deceived into believing that now that Puerto Rico has its own constitution, it enjoys self- determination. Such is not the case. The three million people in Puerto Rico are still in colonial bondage despite the fact that less than one percent of the countries originally colonized are still controlled by a mother country.
In 1981 a U.S. federal task force was appointed to deal with Puerto Rican status. George Bush, in his frequent visits to Puerto Rico, no longer mentions statehood as a possibility. But the Pentagon, Gallisá believes, might push for statehood in order to bring Puerto Rico more fully into the industrial-military complex.
Gallisá has appeared in hearings before the Decolonization Committee of the United Nations. In 1982 he denounced United States' refusal to honor U.N. resolutions for independence, or Resolution 2621 of the General Assembly, which states that "Member states shall carry out a sustained and vigorous campaign against all military activities by colonial powers in territories under their administration, as such activities constitute an obstacle to the full implementation of Resolution 1514 [for independence]." In defiance of this resolution, militarism moves at an increasingly rapid rate towards the creation of a vast military bastion.
In 1984, he spoke further on the militarization of Puerto Rico and also on the repression of the people. At that time there were twenty-six Puerto Ricans in U.S. prisons for the "crime" of fighting for Puerto Rican independence. The federal courts, grand juries, CIA, FBI, he pointed out, practice covertly and overtly against the independence movement.
In the 1985 Decolonization Committee hearings, Gallisá spoke of the great amount of energy—diplomatic, economic, political—being spent by the United States to avoid being condemned as a colonial power. Letters, phone calls, threats of reprisals, and offers of economic aid all work towards influencing countries to vote against Puerto Rican independence.
Gallisá has, himself, undergone harassment, his home fired on twice, his law office blown up in 1977. He was once hospitalized after a clubbing by the police.
In testifying before the Decolonization Committee 1986 hearings, Gallisá commented on the fact that though the United Nations has recognized the colonial status of Puerto Rico since 1972, the United States is still telling the international community that it is self-governing.
For fourteen years, he pointed out, dozens of the most important religious, labor, professional and cultural organizations representing almost all the political spectrum have testified. He asks for full support of the resolution for independence. Countries opposing are helping to perpetuate the colonial domination of the United States over Puerto Rico.
Gallisá had the opportunity of attending the 1986 hearings in Congress on the political status of Puerto Rico. He reported on the debate within the Insular Affairs Committee, in which consideration was given to extending the newly adopted policy towards Micronesia to Puerto Rico. Micronesia now has all governing rights except for defense. Gallisá does not find this acceptable for Puerto Rico.
PSP (Socialist Party) has long seen the importance of unifying the independence movement. Dialogues have been opened up through seminars in an attempt to adopt a common strategy despite ideological differences. Gallisá sees an alliance, not only with other socialist parties, but with autonomists working towards a more gradual transfer of political powers to Puerto Rico. He sees them joining forces to oppose attempts toward statehood.
Now that Congress has opened up the issue of political status, liberal forces in this country can do much. One thing would be to give support to Congressman Dellums' resolution for the transfer of powers to the people of Puerto Rico.
If the United States government wants a peaceful transition to solving the political status, the administration will have to take the initiative and necessary steps to this end, Gallisá warns.
However, if the government insists on maintaining its colonial hold on Puerto Rico, "our struggle for independence will continue," Gallisá declares. "We will use all the means we have to obtain our right to independence, the same right the thirteen colonies exercised to free themselves from the colonial domination of England."