The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists

Author(s): Naomi Klein

Journalist Klein (No Is Not Enough) lays out the challenges facing Puerto Ricans who seek to transform their island into a democratic polity that serves the people’s interests rather than colonial kleptocracy in what is essentially an extended if enlightening pamphlet. The brief work reports on the actions taken after Hurricane Maria by Professors Self-Assembled in Solidarity Resistance and other organizations to develop strategies for combating neoliberal structural adjustments such as privatization of public services and deregulation of commerce, as well as the wealthy “Puertopians” investing in an attempt to use the island for cryptocurrency mining (surprising given the lack of adequate power for those who live there). Klein recapitulates elements of her work regarding the “shock doctrine,” noting privatizations of public assets in the wake of the hurricane, which worsened previously imposed austerity measures. She breaks Puerto Rico’s circumstances down into four categories—desperation, distraction, despair, and disappearance—and traces the problems to corruption, incompetence, and years of neglect, combined with a “starve-then-sell strategy” that has furthered privatization schemes elsewhere. But Klein finds sources of hope in centers of community-run resistance, such as the JunteGente network (to which she is donating royalties from the book), a network of organizers against austerity and inequality. Klein’s account is a welcome update on the situation in Puerto Rico—one that portends similar battles worldwide as climate change accelerates.