Confessions of the Privileged: When the Puerto Rican struggle has no class distinction
Carlos Farmer and Valeria Herrera Huyke were arrested by the Ricardo Rosselló government in Puerto Rico. Their experience is a testimonial of how far corruption can reach on the island.
My name is Carlos Farmer. On the first of May 2017, I was unjustly arrested during a national strike in Puerto Rico against government austerity measures and the federally appointed fiscal board, which claims to oversee the island’s finances. Protestors filled the streets of the banking district, an antecedent of the anger and frustration demanding Rossello’s resignation we witness today.
After the arrest - the case, and a photo taken of myself and Valeria at the moment of our detention became iconic. Today, I feel it is necessary to tell you why.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló had threatened the judges that inevitably would be overseeing the cases of protestors, telling them that he was “watching.” Rossello had to give life to his narrative - of supposed violence incited by both domestic and foreign leftwing forces, and legitimize the use of force and draconian measures.
Today, after ten days of massive protests demanding he resign, Rossello still hangs on to the same defrocked narrative - refusing to see that it is the people who are protesting, it is the people that want his tenure to end.
An owner of an alleged establishment fabricated charges against myself and Valeria due to supposed damages to his property. A bail of $40,000 each was set. Let’s be clear, when Julia Keleher, the ex-secretary of Education under Rossello was arrested for federal fraud and corruption recently, along with other members of the Rossello’s officials, she walked out with a bail set at $30,000. Yes - $30,00 for violating federal law.
When we were arrested, a photo was taken of us kissing while in handcuffs and surrounded by riot police. This photo went viral and it became the iconic image of that march. This, together with the fact that my ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a well-known figure in Puerto Rico, made the case an instant favorite of the media.
The media is always vigilant, but not always for the right reasons.
Rosselló’s administration wanted to make an example of us. We spent five months under house arrest and had no preliminary hearing in court. They violated our rights and liberties, even after we handed over all of our evidence in good faith.
The case against us went nowhere, not because they evaluated the video evidence that clearly showed we had not perpetrated any crime whatsoever, but because the limitation period had expired.
It is important to make it clear that, although what happened was very hard on me, my family and my friends, it was nothing compared to what most of the young people in the criminal system in Puerto Rico go through.
I am a white man, raised in the posh sector of Guaynabo, a graduate of private schooling, and this affords me a privilege and a security blanket that the majority of Puerto Ricans do not enjoy.
This privilege allowed that, with the help of relatives, friends, and strangers, I could get out of jail on bail. In effect, the only reason that I went to jail and not directly to my house with an ankle bracelet is that we did not have a landline in my house installed by Claro - the Puerto Rican telephone company.
We had the bail money the moment the court found cause for my arrest. I was not in jail for even 24 hours. That same privilege made it so that, from one day to the next, a landline was installed in my house, something that just doesn’t happen in Puerto Rico. You usually have to wait for weeks.
In jail, I met other young people with cases similar to mine that had been waiting months for a preliminary hearing.
This is a clear definition of injustice.
I write this now because I feel it is more relevant than ever considering the present political climate on the island. Ricardo Rosselló, as his father Pedro Rosselló before him, have a history of oppressing and silencing those that protest against them.
I know this because I lived it.
I lived it again this past Wednesday 17 of July when almost half a million people took to the streets to protest against what has become a dictatorship. The people of Puerto Rico lifted their voice and fought, and will continue fighting against Rossello, his henchmen and any others that attempt the same.
The bail set for Keleher, I think, is another example of how the rich protect each other. Maybe it's because she will sing like a canary for a reduced sentence, selling down the river all of those that were involved with her?
But is that justice?
The rich always get their way, while common citizens, those that actually make the country run, kill themselves working to having something in life.
My privilege had made me a person totally disinterested in politics until I got arrested. I am embarrassed to admit that I had to feel injustice in order to open up my eyes, but that is what happened.
I have never been part of those people who actually run the country, but I did join their fight.
I was once told that, because of the photo that went viral, that I had become the voice of my generation, which I find unfair. My struggle has been easy compared to women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, our trans brothers and sisters. I prefer that they be the voice of my generation because - what does a white boy from Guaynabo know about the suffering at the hands of the government?
But, if you are reading this, I can use my voice in a positive way to beg you, please, to join this fight. We have gone through enough with this government and others to be silent now.