Jorge Rodríguez Beruff
Professor Jorge Rodríguez Beruff is recognized as a foremost researcher on United States militarism in Puerto Rico. The United States took Puerto Rico over in 1898 for its strategic importance in the Caribbean. Since then, recent years have seen a rapid increase in its militarization, with seven military bases covering an area of 62,000 acres. Professor Rodríguez, through seminars and pamphlets published by the American Friends Service Committee's Proyecto Caribeño para Justicia y Paz, is alerting Puerto Ricans to the danger of becoming a source of manpower for an invasion of Central America, or a target in the event of a nuclear war.
Raised in a conservative family, Prof. Rodríguez came into political awareness at the University of Puerto Rico. He was there during a critical period. 1964 to 1968 was a time of student agitation, riots, clashes with pro-statehood students, beatings by the police. Students were demanding a more democratic administration and opposing militarism on the campus. Students demonstrated against the Vietnam War, burned the ROTC building, opposed military conscription because of the threat of being sent to Vietnam. Protest against conscription was on different levels, from refusal to register and card burning, to refusal to take the physical exam, or non-cooperation once inducted. Fortunately, Rodríguez drew a high number and escaped induction. But he would never have participated in the war he considered criminal and instigated by an imperial power. As it was, over a thousand Puerto Ricans were killed in the war, having been placed on the front lines.
A test case involving Sixto Alvelo, a worker who refused to be inducted, resulted in a prison sentence. But after the burning of the ROTC building, the federal judge reconsidered the case in view of the tense situation on campus. Alvelo was required to serve only one hour in prison!
At the university, Rodríguez came into contact with progressive professors who were critical of the university structure and the colonial system. His contributions to Brecha, a student newspaper, clarified his own position.
Rodríguez continued his studies in England at the University of York, majoring in political science. Returning to Puerto Rico, he took a post as professor of social sciences. He was there during the 1971 riots between anti-military students and the ROTC right-wingers. He chose to resign as a result of the atmosphere of persecution and intolerance against progressive intellectuals.
During this period, he completed his Ph.D. thesis on the Peruvian Military, which was subsequently published in Peru. Considered by then an authority on militarism, he was called to the Russell Tribunal, in Rome, to testify on militarism in Puerto Rico. The Tribunal had been investigating violations of human rights in Latin America. This led him to realize how much he had to learn about his own country.
In 1980 he began to point out the violation of the Tlatelolco Treaty by the United States, an issue which was denounced before the United Nations Decolonization Committee. Proposed by Mexico in 1963, it was formulated in 1967 and signed and ratified by all the states involved. It prohibits all use and fabrication of nuclear weapons in Latin America and requires its complete denuclearization. Article 4 requires the United States to issue reports in which it declares that no prohibited action has taken place in its territories. But Prof. Rodríguez claimed that numerous nuclear war activities were indeed being carried out in Puerto Rico. This was later substantiated in a document published by the Puerto Rican Bar Association, product of a painstaking study carried out by that institution.
His writing career began with the publication of two articles in West Germany, one on United States policy in Latin America and one on the United States Military in Puerto Rico. This led him to collaborate with the Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace, first with its youth exchange program, later with its support of the movement to get the United States Navy out of Vieques.
Through the Caribbean Project, he published his comprehensive tract, Puerto Rico and the Militarization of the Caribbean 1979 to 1984. In other writings, he describes the military importance of Puerto Rico dating from the days of Spanish control for the purpose of protecting the transport of gold and silver. For the United States, Puerto Rico is part of the system of defense of the Panama Canal and its trade lanes. It serves as a base of operations for invasions in the Caribbean region. Rodríguez quotes from the United States Senate Congressional Record a list of thirty-six United States military invasions in the Caribbean and Latin American area between the years 1890 to 1983, some of which originated in Puerto Rico.
The increase in militarization comes out of the Cold War mentality and determination to contain national liberation movements and retain the colonial status in the Caribbean. Training in counterinsurgency tactics is provided in Puerto Rico, as well as control tactics used against students and patriotic forces.
Prof. Rodríguez has now returned to the University after an absence of eight years. He continues to warn that "the military use of Puerto Rico constitutes a constant danger for all the people of the Caribbean and Latin America and for world peace, while the militarization of its society represents an obstacle for true decolonization."