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I examine tactics that I argue contributed in important ways to the creation of a political terrain that made the July protests possible. Slogans, cacerolazos, shutting down streets and plazas, confrontations with the police and the Special Tactics Unit, as Shariana Ferrer-Núñez of La Colectiva points out, make reference to a long tradition of opposition in the territory. These also make reference to a tradition of opposition elsewhere, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet in post-María Puerto Rico, La Colectiva’s consistent and unrelenting denunciation of the specific ways debt aterizza, or “lands,” on women through an explicit confrontation with the state gains distinct significance. La Colectiva’s actions make explicit the links between debt and gender violence; between a housing crisis, the operation of finance, and logics of expulsion that impact women disproportionally; between disaster capitalism and debt/austerity in the wake of María; between consumerism and poverty. Rather than emphasizing the creativity of the protests or the organizational capability gained through autogestión, then, I stress that the protests were a confrontation with the state/capital that held the state accountable.
“‘politics without guarantee’”
—Colectiva Feminista en Construcción
quoting Stuart Hall
n July 2019, after two weeks of protests, governor Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló resigned. The diversity and creativity of this unprecedented opposition were celebrated in national and international media. The protests were decentralized, organic, and self-convened. Although well-seasoned activists, longstanding organizations, and operating coalitions participated, ordinary people convened and organized the protests. Nevertheless, the protests were not spontaneous, as some argued while they were unfolding. They built on a longstanding anti-colonial, worker, student, environmentalist, and feminist resistance in the unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico. They built on forms of community self-management and mutual aid – autogestión – that became a sedimented practice especially in the immediate response to and extended aftermath of hurricane María. They built on interventions by organizations in resistance to the imposition of the Fiscal Control Board, la Junta, and demanding a citizen debt audit, such as Se Acabaron las Promesas and Frente Ciudadano por la Auditoría de la Deuda respectively.
In what follows, I discuss how the protests drew from well-established yet increasingly visible interventions by women and feminist organizations. However, I seek to track the contribution of the feminist movement more specifically, arguing that the protests built on tactics articulated, deployed, and circulated by La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción since 2016. I examine tactics that I argue contributed in important ways to the creation of a political terrain that made the July protests possible. Slogans, cacerolazos, shutting down streets and plazas, confrontations with the police and the Special Tactics Unit, as Shariana Ferrer-Núñez of La Colectiva points out, make reference to a long tradition of opposition in the territory. These also make reference to a tradition of opposition elsewhere, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet in post-María Puerto Rico, La Colectiva’s consistent and unrelenting denunciation of the specific ways debt aterizza, or “lands,” on women through an explicit confrontation with the state gains distinct significance. La Colectiva’s actions make explicit the links between debt and gender violence; between a housing crisis, the operation of finance, and logics of expulsion that impact women disproportionally; between disaster capitalism and debt/austerity in the wake of María; between consumerism and poverty. Rather than emphasizing the creativity of the protests or the organizational capability gained through autogestión, then, I stress that the protests were a confrontation with the state/capital that held the state accountable.
Since 2016, La Colectiva has employed tactics that seek to render the state accountable. These tactics name the state as necropolitical, I want to suggest. They index a state that decides not only to “make live and let die,” as Michel Foucault says, through austerity, debt restructuring deals, and public policy. The state decides between life and death by dismantling education and health care; raising utility costs and eliminating pensions; sustaining environmental racism and remapping land use amenable to logics of expropriation; intensifying tax exemption for the rich, creditors, and corporations while implementing regressive taxation, and so on. Indebted life in the colony is more precisely “subjugated to the power of death,” as Achille Mbembe says, in a political economy that creates and extracts value not despite but through the work of debt/austerity: precarization, expulsion, violence. La Colectiva’s tactics challenge the view that in merely actualizing the interests of capital the state is absent. As Vanesa Contreras of La Colectiva explains, for example, the state was not absent during hurricane relief in the immediate aftermath of María. It was present in hiding shipping containers with essential provisions, in imposing a curfew, in allowing the militarization of relief. The state was not in the service of citizens, but this does not mean that it was not operating effectively, she stresses. With a Black Feminist Friday; a protest against the militarization of hurricane relief days after María; a Plantón, or sit-in, calling for the declaration of a state of emergency regarding gender violence; and a Feminist Embargo, as we will see, the very form of La Colectiva’s actions interrupt commonsense about the operation of the state/capital. La Colectiva draws from Black Feminist theory and praxis in all of these cases, highlighting the differential impact of the necropolitical state along race/gender lines.
In the immediate aftermath of María and in post-María Puerto Rico, the view that the state is absent often sustains community self-management or mutual aid, autogestión, at a distance from the state. These are complex practices, since autogestión often fills the state’s lacunae without interrupting its necropolitical operation, without thematizing its own complex complicity with the neoliberal affirmation of the self as enterprise, without addressing its possible reproduction of race/gender/class hierarchies in the current juncture. La Colectiva employs tactics of rendering the state accountable that track how the apparatus of debt lands in distinct territories, economies, and bodies, as Verónica Gago and Luci Cavallero say. Drawing from Black Feminist theory and practice, La Colectiva’s tactics make visible the effectivity and not merely the effects of debt in such landing by centering the disproportionate impact on women of color, especially Black women, in Puerto Rico. La Colectiva underscores that it does not seek to organize communities. Communities are already organized. They are composed of knowers and agents that speak to their own conditions, needs, and desires. La Colectiva’s tactics, rather, target the state/capital. They seek to subvert the disproportionate impact of debt/austerity on women, particularly Black women, by exercising power from within positions of disempowerment. The tactics aim to build power in the street by indexing power already on the street, that is to say, latent in this disproportionate impact.
On July 27, 2019, in the context of Teorizando el Giro Decolonial: Reflexiones en Torno a Puerto Rico, an academic conference held at the University of Puerto Rico in Aguadilla (see Lebrón, this issue), La Colectiva offered remarks on the “cartography and methodology” of the organization since its inception in 2014. After mapping actions, ruptures, and responses the organization has pursued and navigated since its founding, Ferrer-Núñez offered methodological reflections on La Colectiva’s tactics. La Colectiva develops a “Black feminist, decolonial methodology” drawing from the Combahee River Collective’s commitment to an “integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking,” to a response to the fact that a “synthesis of oppressions condition our lives.” It thus centers the position of women traversed not only by gender violence, but by racial violence. It calls attention to the need to trace, name, and address the impact of debt/austerity differentially. La Colectiva hence seeks to index the race/gender/class hierarchies operative within the colony rather than assessing the general colonial condition. An undifferentiated account of the colonial condition obfuscates what María in fact revealed – a deeply unequal distribution of precarity, violence, expulsion along race/gender lines. A Black feminist, decolonial methodology orients actions that address more than the legacy of multiple colonizations in Puerto Rico, then. They engage the continuation of the colonial condition in the reinstallation of a race/gender/class hierarchy through debt/austerity.
It is crucial to underscore that La Colectiva develops a Black feminist, decolonial methodology through their actions, through their tactics. The tactics employed are hence not separable from the material conditions – economic, political, social – of the specific juncture they address. Two sets of conditions are key, as Ferrer-Núñez explains. First, the prominence of discussions about Puerto Rico’s unpayable debt, PROMESA and the imposition of the Fiscal Control Board, and the election of Donald Trump and Ricky Rosselló spelled a particularly dangerous political-economic juncture for the unincorporated territory in 2016. Although the territory has been navigating a recession for over a decade, although already in 2015 then governor Alejandro García Padilla stated that the debt is “not payable,” the passing of PROMESA and the imposition of la Junta represent a new political context from which to organize. The work of la Junta intensifies the impact of debt/austerity on women through debt restructuring deals and budget cuts, through foreclosures and evictions, including women living in public housing, through an increase in the utility costs, through the elimination of pensions.
Second, Ferrer-Núñez continues, throughout the Américas, especially with #NiUnaMenos and the Women’s March but also the Women’s Strike, women have emerged as the “political subject.” Women not only navigate the modalities of violence produced by what Rita Segato calls the “apocalyptic phase of capital,” where territoriality itself is traced on cis and trans women’s bodies. Women not merely navigate the form of gender violence specific to the operation of apparatuses of neoliberal financialized capitalism – debt, in our case. Feminism emerges as a substantive and forceful movement confronting this shape of capitalism along with its expression in the rise of right-wing states. In this context, then, feminism posits “women” as the subject position from which to resist, interrupt, turn inoperative the work of capital/the state. Black feminism deepens the claim, naming the position of racialized women, especially Black women, as the necessary starting point for any analysis of gender/race/class. A Black feminist decolonial methodology, then, indexes the specific ways finance capitalism is materially actualized on populations, generating different impacts and intensities. It recognizes, names, builds power by referencing the specificity of those distinct impacts. These objective material conditions provide a frame for understanding “subjective experiences” across generations of Puerto Ricans navigating more than a decade of precarization, expulsion, and other forms of colonial, patriarchal, and racist violence. Those who experience the erosion of economic infrastructures that generate livable conditions and those who never had hope of accessing those infrastructures, Ferrer-Núñez explains, met on the streets in July during the Ricky Renunicia protests.
La Colectiva’s confrontations with the state/capital helped shape a political terrain and political imaginary at work in the July protests. These references exceed the demand to declare a state of emergency regarding gender violence, which La Colectiva launched with El Plantón. They also exceed the contestation and subversion of the expletives, slurs, and insults that populated the Telegram chat and which served as a catalyst for the protests.
I want to suggest that the very form of holding the state/capital accountable for the specific forms of violence produced by debt/austerity is La Colectiva’s key contribution. Gender violence, the feminization of poverty, and other modes of violence precede the debt crisis, to be sure. In this economic-political juncture, debt functions as a form of coloniality, as I argue in detail elsewhere. It reinstalls race/gender/class hierarchies through intensified or altered modalities of violence. These include a rise in femicide and gender violence, an intensification of logics of expulsion evident in mass migration as well as heightened evictions and expropriations, sheer increase in poverty and precarization.
La Colectiva’s denunciation of the state/capital prepared the ground for the protests through an inversion of the positions of power debt generates. Debt operates by positing an asymmetry: the creditor-debtor relation. This asymmetry captures not only present but also future time, labor, body, land, coasts, so on. The indebted is disempowered when established as culpable, in need of heeding an injunction to pay with life itself – through austerity, debt restructuring deals, taxation. The indebted colony is summoned to pay with life itself through raised utility costs, lost pensions, foreclosed homes, evictions from private and public housing, unaddressed gender violence. Yet the indebted is here in fact the creditor. Since its inception and in altered conditions today, through debt within neoliberal financialized capitalism, Puerto Rico’s colonial political economy creates and captures profit through extraction, predation, expulsion, exploitation, dispossession but also experimentation. Foreign investment through tax exemption has generated an economy in which these have been reigning dynamics since at least 1917, for instance. La Colectiva’s tactics clarify that “nos deben a nosotras,” “they owe us [women].”
Consider the following interventions:
- The Black Feminist Friday of 2016 sought to subvert capitalist logics of Black Friday. The latter is traditionally a day of unbridled consumption and labor exploitation that promotes the false promise of access to commodities that are often out of reach to impoverished populations, as Ferrer-Nuñez states. In 2016, Black Friday coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: November 25. La Colectiva called for exchanges, discussions, and interactions with people waiting in line to enter stores in the early morning hours. La Colectiva printed circulars or “shoppers.” Rather than advertising mark downs and specials, the shoppers contained information on how the imposition of the Fiscal Control Board and the election of a “neoliberal misogynist governor” heightened precarious living conditions and gender violence for women. The shoppers called attention to the fact that gender violence and precarization are “ingrained in systems that operate simultaneously, are interdependent, and interweave to land with all of their weight.” The shoppers were more than informational, however. They aimed to build power indeed give back power by interrupting the wait, the hope, as well as the desire of the shoppers: the consumers.
- “Más agua, menos militares,” “more water, less military,” protested the state’s response to hurricane María in its immediate aftermath. On September 29, 2017, La Colectiva denounced inefficient rescue efforts, the militarization of those efforts, and the growing humanitarian crisis. The protest was held at the Convention Center in San Juan, headquarters for the intergovernmental recovery effort, yet used as a refuge center before the US military arrived in the territory. The “disaster is not natural,” La Colectiva underscored. They denounced poverty, environmental racism, and an increased discourse favoring privatization in this context. They denounced the intensification of the logic of capture, precarization, and expulsion that would occur at the intersection of the debt crisis and disaster capitalism. Response within social media was unrelenting. They were deemed “ridiculous,” “privileged,” “lazy,” “obstructive,” “inappropriate,” given that La Colectiva called for political intervention when people were struggling to find water, food, and gas. However, that was the time to grasp the disaster as political. That moment of danger was precisely the time to shift awareness indeed to interrupt the intensification of capture, predation, and expulsion within hurricane relief and recovery.
- El Plantón was a sit-in in front of la Fortaleza that began on November 23 2018. It aimed to deliver a draft of an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency regarding gender violence to Rosselló and his administration. The sit-in sought to hold the state accountable for the link between gender violence and debt/austerity. In addition to the latter’s precarization of women, budget cuts eliminate the state’s ability to respond to gender violence, heightened by the economic downturn, through education, security, and other institutional means. The sit-in lasted for three days. No government official interacted with La Colectiva, though they had confrontations with La Fuerza de Choque, the riot police, on November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Ferrer-Núñez explains that the Colectiva’s intervention sought to connect information about different modalities of gender violence already circulating in the media and being addressed by different feminist organizations. It thereby aimed to make visible the systemic nature of intimate partner killings, unprocessed rape kits, and cases of domestic violence by members of the police force. El Plantón sought to subvert the power of the state, using its own mechanisms, namely a declaration of state of emergency, to render it accountable.
- The Feminist Embargo denounced the role of banking in the housing crisis in turn caused by the debt crisis and the territory’s overall economic downturn. The Embargo shut down Santander, Banco Popular, Oriental Bank and First Bank subsidiaries in the largest and most important mall in Puerto Rico, Plaza las Américas. Signs and slogans cited the alarming number of foreclosures processed by these banks, stressing the number of families that lost or are about to lose their homes as a result. Two thirds of those who have lost their homes in Puerto Rico are women. Rather than individual irresponsibility, job loss in the context of the recession, bankruptcy, and the impact of hurricanes Irma and María are indexed as culpable. While the Embargo names banks, the state and the courts are also stated as culpable, generating public policy, legislation, and decisions that fuel this inverse redistribution of wealth. The point of the embargo, however, was to build power from within a position of disempowerment. Shutting down the banks inverts the power of the creditor over the debtor, foreclosing the bank itself. It inverts who owes what to whom, shifting perception of who is the creditor and who is the debtor.
The political terrain in which the July protests happened was prepared in great part by these interventions, I want to suggest. This is not to say that interventions by other groups were not also pivotal. On the contrary. We would need to map the multiple forms of protest that emerged in July in reference to multiple modes of resistance we have seen especially since 2016. La Colectiva’s consistent inversion of power through a confrontation with the state/capital, its rendering the state accountable, its indexing the state/capital as guilty, however, represents a distinct contribution. Their tactics bespeak a “politics without guarantees” – a quote from Stuart Hall La Colectiva has cited various times. Their tactics are risky, shifting, evolving because anchored in material conditions, committed to tracking and denouncing the violence of state/capital, aiming to build power from within positions of disempowerment. These feminist tactics helped unleash the power of the purportedly disempowered during Puerto Rico’s unprecedented SoVerano.
 Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, presentation in Teorizando el Giro Decolonial: Reflexiones en Torno a Puerto Rico, University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla, July 26-27, 2019, audio recording. See also Vanesa Contreras Capó, “La colonialidad de la lucha,” Ahora la turba, September 5, 2019: https://ahoralaturba.net/2019/09/05/colonialidad-de-la-lucha/.
 See Carla Minet and Luis J. Valentín Ortiz, “The 889 Pages of the Telegram Chat between Rosselló Nevares and His Closest Aides,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, July 13, 2019: http://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2019/07/the-889-pages-of-the-telegram-chat-between-rossello-nevares-and-his-closest-aides/ and Vanessa Colón Almenas, Carla Minet, Laura Candelas, Laura Moscoso and Joel Cintrón Arbasetti, “934 días en La Fortaleza,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, July 25, 2019: http://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2019/07/934-dias-en-la-fortaleza/.
 See Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm, Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón, eds. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2019), especially Giovanni Roberto, “Community Kitchens: An Emerging Movement” and Sarah Molinari, Authenticating Loss and Contesting Recovery: FEMA and the Politics of Colonial Disaster Management.” See also Voces de Mujeres: Estrategias de Supervivencia y de Fortalecimiento Mutuo Tras el Paso de los Huracanes Irma y María, ed. María Dolores Fernós, Marilucy González Báez, Yanira Reyes Gil, Esther Vicente (San Juan: INTER-Mujeres, 2018). Thanks to Sarah Molinari for recommending the latter source.
 Organizations worthy of note include: Proyecto Matria, Taller Salud, CLADEM – Puerto Rico, Caucus de la Mujer del Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores (MST), Centro de la Mujer Dominicana, Casa Protegida Julia de Burgos, among others. See https://8demarzopr.wordpress.com.
 For example, “Que se vayan todos!” turned into “Vamos por todxs!” For an extended discussion of this shift, see my “Checklists: On Puerto Rico’s SoVerano,” Critical Times (under review). See the texts in The Puerto Rico Review, No. Impromptu, ed. Cristina P. Díaz, Jorge Lefevre y Claudia Becerra, July 2019: http://www.thepuertoricoreview.com/rickyrenuncia.
 Verónica Gago and Luci Cavallero, Una lectura feminista de la deuda (Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón, 2019). Gago and Cavallero use the language of aterrizar to capture the reterritorialization of finance through apparatuses tied to the state.
 Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976, ed. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003).
 Achille Mbembe, "Necropolitics," Public Culture 15:1 (2003). See chaps. 1 and 2 of my Colonial Debts.
 Vanesa Contreras Capó, Teorizando el Giro Decolonial: Reflexiones en Torno a Puerto Rico.
 For a full account of the question concerning the framework of sense and the construction/interruption of commonsense in relation to protest in Puerto Rico, see chapter 4 of my Colonial Debts. Key here are Guillermo Rebollo-Gil, Última llamada (Carolina: Ediciones UNE, 2017) and Marisol LeBrón, Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico (Oakland: University of California Press, 2019).
 Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Teorizando el Giro Decolonial.
 I am paraphrasing Ferrer-Núñez, Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Teorizando el Giro Decolonial.
 Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Teorizando el Giro Decolonial.
 Combahee River Collective, “A Black Feminist Statement,” in Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought, ed. Beverly Guy-Sheftall (New York: The New York Press, 1995).
 We must recall that 2016 was also the year of the Supreme Court’s Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle ruling. Sanchez Valle v Puerto Rico, a double jeopardy case, made clear that the seat of sovereignty remains the US Congress despite the establishment of the Estado Libre Asociado in 1952. See United States v. Sanchez, 992 F.2d 1143, 1151 (11th Cir. 1993).
 Ferrer-Núñez, Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Teorizando el Giro Decolonial. See also Cinzia Arruzza, “From Women’s Strike to a New Class Movement: The Third Feminist Wave,” Viewpoint, December 3, 2018: https://www.viewpointmag.com/2018/12/03/from-womens-strikes-to-a-new-class-movement-the-third-feminist-wave/. For my analysis of the Women’s Strike in Puerto Rico, see my “Paro feminista: deuda y acción transversal,” 80grados, March 22, 2019: https://www.80grados.net/paro-feminista-deuda-y-accion-transversal/.
 See Rita Segato, La guerra contra las mujeres (Madrid: Traficantes de Sueños, 2016).
 This photo is from the May 1, 2019 Feminist Strike. La Colectiva notes that the strike was met with resistance, as other feminist strikes in the Américas have, from sectors that argue that the strike outside of the workplace is a category mistake. Of course, these criticisms fail to grasp women’s invisible labor in the very reproduction of life.
 For a book length treatment of debt as a form of coloniality, see my Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico (under contract, Duke University Press).
 See here Miriam Muñiz Varela, Adiós a la economía (San Juan: Ediciones Callejón, 2013).
 For a good summary, see Rafael Bernabe, “Puerto Rico: Economic reconstruction, debt cancellation, and self-determination,” International Socialist Review 111 (Winter 2018-2019), accessed October 1, 2019: https://isreview.org/issue/111/puerto-rico-economic-reconstruction-debt-cancellation-and-self-determination.
 The action was a form of “honoring in body and in the street the contributions of black feminism,  put[ting] gender, race, class and sexuality in perspective.” See La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Black Feminist Friday: https://www.facebook.com/events/718407824975663/.
 See ibid.
 The Spanish reads: “… engranadas por sistemas que operan de manera simultánea, dependen entre sí y se entrelazan para bajarnos con todo su peso.” See La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Black Feminist Friday: https://www.facebook.com/events/718407824975663/.
 Contreras Capó, Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, Teorizando el Giro Decolonial: Reflexiones en Torno a Puerto Rico.
 See here Aftershocks and Hilda Lloréns, “The Race of Disaster: Black Communities and the Crisis in Puerto Rico,” Black Perspectives, April 17, 2019, accessed September 27, 2019: https://www.aaihs.org/the-race-of-disaster-black-communities-and-the-crisis-in-puerto-rico/.
 La Colectiva did participate, albeit briefly, in relief efforts through La Casa Tomada. See Jhoni Jackson, “La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción is Helping Puerto Rico Recover from Hurrican María,” Teen Vogue, October 27, 2017: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/la-colectiva-feminista-en-construccion-is-helping-puerto-rico-recover-from-hurricane-maria.
 See Colectiva Feminista en Construcción: https://www.facebook.com/events/924236627964348/permalink/931225720598772/.
 See Colectiva Feminista en Construcción: https://www.facebook.com/Colectiva.Feminista.PR/posts/2087760464649007.
 See Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, “Hacia la recuperación justa: Fondos CDBG-DR y Desplazamientos Forzosos,” May 16, 2019: https://www.ayudalegalpuertorico.org/2019/05/16/hacia-la-recuperacion-justa-fondos-cdbg-dr-y-desplazamientos-forzosos/.
 Poet Urayoán Noel suggested this play on sovereignty and summer when responding to Yarimir Cabán Reyes’ query on Facebook about what to call the protests.
Other essays from this forum include:
Making Space for Decolonial Futures: An Editors’ Introduction, Joaquín Villanueva and Marisol LeBrón
La Calle Fortaleza in Puerto Rico’s Primavera de Verano, Aurora Santiago-Ortiz and Jorell Meléndez-Badillo
Summer 2019: The Great Racialized Puerto Rican Family Protesting in the Street Fearlessly, Bárbara I. Abadía-Rexach (a version of this article is also provided in Spanish)
Three Poems from the Summer 2019, Ana Portnoy Brimmer
The Public Reckoning: Anti-debt Futures After #RickyRenuncia, Sarah Molinari
Aguadilla, Decoloniality, and the Summer of ‘19, Pedro Lebrón Ortiz
Rocío Zambrana is Acting Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emory, Co-Editor of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, and columnist for 80grados (San Juan, Puerto Rico). She is the author of Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico (under contract with Duke University Press) and Hegel’s Theory of Intelligibility (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Her work examines critiques of capitalism and coloniality in various philosophical traditions.