Much has been said about how the United States drags Puerto Rico and how much this island cost the mainland, yet a closer look into this political relationship in which Puerto Rico stands as a colony, still the last colony of the planet, and the United States reigns supreme over Puerto Rican shores, proves otherwise. In 1898 United States acquired Puerto Rico as part of the Treaty of Paris, putting a halt to the Spaniard New World Empire and to Puerto Rico’s recently started government.
Note on being “American”: A brief parenthesis is necessary to point out the appropriation of the term “American” in referring to people born in the United States. In their imperialistic efforts, the United States has effectively manage to take over this description when, in fact it applies not only to those born in the United States, but those born in Canada, México, Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, San Salvador, Perú, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Dominique, Jamaica, Belize, Guyana, Ecuador, Honduras, Uruguay, Antigua, Grenada, Guatemala, among others, are all American. America encompasses from Alaska to south of Chile, Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). Nevertheless, for the purpose of this article, the term “American” will be used in reference to those born in the United States, with respectful consideration to other countries entitled to the same description.
10 Puerto Rico Pays Too Much For Its Second-Class U.S. Citizenship
Although mainstream media constantly reports how expensive is Puerto Rico to the mainland and how Puerto Ricans in the island are exempt from federal taxes, which is true for the most part, they fail to ignore the tax haven that Puerto Rico represents to U.S. corporations and how the island’s hybrid citizenship status effectively serves the best interests of those looking into making money without paying the U.S. Treasury for incomes earned. U.S. corporations can establish their business in Puerto Rico, be exempt from both federal and state taxes with no need to renounce their citizenship, and the government continues to lure them in with 100% tax exemption deals. Puerto Ricans rank high in production within the pharmaceutical, retail and food industries, yet get paid 75% average of the pay destined to workers in the United States, or “true” United States citizens. The Caribbean Business, a credited source in the island for business news, reported that according to the U.S. Department of Labor (USDL) the manufacturing worker in the U.S. mainland earns an average of $16.14 per hour whereas the cost in Puerto Rico is about $11 per hour, or roughly 68%. Vance Thomas, Secretary of Labor, reported a 13.5% unemployment rate for 2015, double the average rate of any other state in the mainland.
Puerto Rico suffers an inverted embargo. The island cannot directly trade with neighbor islands or South America. Whatever is produced in Puerto Rico has to be sent to the United States and then sent back to the Island. Based on 1917 Jones Act, only United States constructed cargo ships are to dock in the island’s coasts. So if Puerto Rico is to receive merchandise from, say, Britain, British vessels have to unload in Florida and then reload in U.S. built cargo ships that bring the merchandise to the Island. This adds excessive tariffs on products consumed in Puerto Rico. So, on top of value-added taxes, there are hidden charges in the retail cost of any given article caused by the Jones Act alone that enables these ships, mainly Crowley Maritime Corporation. Forbes magazine reported last August that, at 11.5%, “Puerto Rico has America’s Highest Sales Tax”.
Amended Foraker Bill forces Puerto Rico to pay taxes on goods imported from United States, this includes island’s produce and seeds since said produce and seeds are being exported to Florida to be unloaded and reloaded in Crowley’s cargo ships to then be sent back to the island. This information has been verified by several interviews with Puerto Rican employees from stores like WalMart and nationally-owned supermarkets. Local produce is being displaced to favor produce from U.S. or sold at a higher price than national brands.
For every two dollars that the United States government claims to give the island under “granted income”, via disaster aid, food stamps, federal housing and the like, it takes back close to $60 in revenues, income less salaries paid and a secured market which by law, is not authorized to buy from any other place but through United States. This has the net effect of an inverted embargo. While Cuba was, or still is, prevented from establishing business relations with the United States, Puerto Rico is prevented from establishing business relations or trade with any other country in the world but the United States. Since the beginning of the United States colonization there has been an increased level of unemployment. A high unemployment level guarantees people willing to work for the least amount of money. All of this stems from the second class citizenship established by the Jones Act of 1917.
9 Puerto Rico endures one the Worst Educational Systems of the United States, including territories and protectorates
The main purpose of the educational system under Spain regime was to Christianize aborigines. The principal goal of the Spaniard Crown was not to truly educate and bring illustration or science to the natives, slaves and jíbaros forced to work for pennies on the dollar, but to consolidate their kingdom through the paradigm of Christianity and true hegemony. Although this primary goal evolved into an educational system that was later required for children up to nine years of age, their basic propaganda motif did not divert from the one brought by the United States a couple of years after they invaded Puerto Rico in 1898. Puerto Rico, a territory not only distant by sea but by history and centuries of Spanish influence, now encountered a new unforeseen paradox: the “Americanization” of education. The first goal of the newly federal U.S: government was to ensure new generations were brought into the United States culture, which basically meant learning to think and read and write in the English language.
For this they brought American teachers as possible, although they were not able to fill all the vacancies, which forced them to rely on current Puerto Rican teachers that were then instructed to impart their lessons in English rather than Spanish, committing a pedagogical aberration. Puerto Rican students were barely able to read in Spanish, and now all of a sudden they had to deal with an English-speaking teacher which, by the way did not have a clue of the current sociological and economical status of the island. Puerto Rican writer Abelardo Díaz Alfaro portrayed such ridicule in his story “Peyo Mercé enseña inglés” (Peyo Mercé teaches English), to underline the acute cultural breach between Puerto Rico and the United States, and the utter negligence in addressing vital priorities, such as adequate nourishment and clothing in lieu of imperialization. This intent to Americanize Puerto Rico through its public education system was a complete failure.
Although the alphabetization level of the island is reportedly high, by 1920, 61% of the population was deemed illiterate, by 1933, there was a 41.3% of illiteracy. In May 2015, The Boston Globe reported: “Puerto Rico has seen school enrollment drop 42% in the past three decades, and an additional 22% drop is expected over the next five years”. The Puerto Rican Educational Department is unable to give an exact figure of its school deserters. The island’s educational system currently serves less than 200,000 students.
8 Puerto Rican Media Has Been Seized by U.S. Corporations
Puerto Rico radio, television and newspapers do not reflect the Puerto Rican culture but give preference to whiter America. The island currently has only two public radio stations, which barely reflect Puerto Rico’s versatile and rich culture. The only public broadcasting station that reflects part of the Island’s vibrant culture is University of Puerto Rico radio station, located in Río Piedras within said academic institution. TV news now report more violent and gruesome stories from states like Connecticut instead of local events, and give preference to irrelevant news like Nickleodeon is making a comeback with the “RugRats” instead of denouncing the Environmental Protection Agency granting permission to Energy Answers to burn tires in a highly-dense residential area. National comedy has been replaced by foreign, mediocre talents from Mexico and Venezuela. Puerto Rico has only two local TV channels, NBC-owned Channel 2 (WKAQ-TV), and Channel 4 (WAPA-TV) owned by Intermedia Partners, and the Government-owned public television Channel 6 (WIPR-TV). There are 1.2 million Puerto Rican owned Facebook accounts and an estimated of almost 50,000 Netflix users. There is no media reporting on corporate crime. Public opinion directs diverse sectors of the Island to stay in war among them while corporations roam free depleting the island from natural resources and straining even further its fiscal health.
7 Water Resources in the Island Suffer Greatly due to U.S. Intervention
Puerto Rico is currently undergoing one of its longest droughts ever. Puerto Rican aquifers have been indiscriminately benefiting large U.S: corporations, mainly pharmaceuticals, in detriment of public health. The current island’s water system is primitive. Water reservoirs count on rainwater to fill them up. Lack of dredging in the reservoirs provide for less water collection capability. At least the government in the island, contrary to the U.S., does not consider it a crime for individuals to collect rainwater. Water is constantly diverted to benefit the hotels and corporations, whereas the rural and impoverished residential areas barely see a drop of the liquid through their faucets. Puerto Rico suffers higher levels of gastroenteritis than the rest of the states. Sedimentation in aquifers has reached critical levels. The population in the island has not been made aware of the poor water quality. Yet media now reports that gastroenteritis could be better explained with other culprits, distorting vital information to protect public health. A legislation for desalinizing water was rejected on the basis of being too expensive, yet the government hired a company to plant clouds in the sky to make it rain, the investigative process alone for this alternative was estimated at close to $70,000 per month.
6 Puerto Rican Agriculture Cannot Strive Under U.S. Occupation
Since day one, American military occupation was about monopolizing Puerto Rican fertile land. Small land owners have been constantly displaced by multinational growers. U.S. appointed Puerto Rican governor Jesús T. Piñero (1946) was the son of a sugar cane grower, this served American interests in monopolizing the land. Today, Monsanto is privileged with tailor made legislation that has granted 1,500 acres to the mogul through Puerto Rico Land Authority, a violation to the island Constitution, blatantly unreported by the commercial press. Local coffee growers, for example, face a challenge since the island’s agency that oversees consumer’s issues, the Department of Consumer’s Affairs, or DACO for its Spanish acronym, currently forces coffee growers to buy almost 25% of foreign grain. Café Mami, which leads the movement opposing the government’s corporate-pleasing agenda, denounces how brands like Café Yaucono and Café Rico, among many others are falsely advertised as being locally grown when they are not. This is a violation of false advertising which DACO bounds to have as it first mission in its defense towards consumer’s rights. This trend is also seen in the poultry industry and other agricultural segments in Puerto Rico. Commercial press fails to give proper emphasis to these matters, contributing to a “zombification” of public opinion.
5 Puerto Rico-United States Political Relation is Deemed Illegal by the United Nations
The United Nations Puerto Rico Decolonization Committee was created to petition for the United States to finally let go of Puerto Rico or to provide for the island’s self-determination. Some vague political steps have been taken in order to accomplish this. Recent referendums have voiced the island’s alleged decision of becoming a state. Nevertheless, unequivocal racist bias prevents the Caribbean island to make any quantifiable progress in this regard. Ever since the Insular Letters, Puerto Rico as well as Guam and the Philippines is described as an “alien race”, and as such, “unworthy of the benefits of the Constitution”. Statehood for Puerto Rico does not guarantee nor a better health care or an improved school system. If this was true, what explanation could be given for states like New York, Tennessee, Michigan, south California and so many others that have been neglected of their rights under the federal government?
Puerto Rico is the last colony of the planet, a political relation deemed illegal by the United Nations and now the United States holds tight reigns of Puerto Rican media inasmuch the people in the Island do not have access to information that would lead them to make a founded decision. Statehood will amount to ask to being treated better than Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation. Is that progress? Puerto Rico needs to rid of loafer United States federal government. Currently, the island still exports more than its imports. In spite of Crowley and Jones Act, the island still manages to produce on its own and to export its local produce. What would it be if Puerto Ricans were able to trade with no middle man? In 2014, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization called on United States “to expedite the process to allow Puerto Rico the right of self-determination and independence as well as take decisions, in a sovereign manner, to address their economic and social needs”. The resolution included a petition to free Oscar López Rivera, the political prisoner with the longest years held captive for non-criminal charges.
4 United States Threatens to Displace Puerto Ricans and Their Culture
Aided by corporate media, newer Puerto Rican generations are exposed to cultural displacement that creates a further disfunctionality as to where do they belong within Puerto Rican society. Anglicisms overpower Spanish language. Puerto Ricans celebrate the 4th of July as if they have been freed from oppression. Some Puerto Ricans even vouch for Donald Trump as president. Puerto Rican news normally cover more news from the United States than from the Island itself. Puerto Rico is unaware of international movements. Puerto Rican government approved legislation to favor foreign musical groups over Puerto Rican music. The most prominent cultural center in the island, El Ateneo Puertorriqueño, struggles to stay atop presenting plays about Puerto Rican history. El Nuevo Día newspaper features American figures in its horoscope and virtually none of the local men and women that have fought to preserve the island’s culture are emphatically or nationwide honored, to include baseball and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. Youth do not know about Albizu Campos or doña Lola Rodríguez de Tió, libertarian leaders. They also ignore the chronology of their governors, like Roberto Sánchez Vilella. The Puerto Rico national anthem is not sung in their schools. A total culture of buy and go is on the rise. Mathematics are poorly taught, children enter Middle School with poor Math skills.
3 Puerto Rican Healthcare System is the Worst in the Nation
The Puerto Rican Health Department fails to report that prescribed medications is the main cause of death in the island. Not only Puerto Rico is one of Big Pharma’s world’s top producers, it is one of its main clients. Life expectancy in the island has raised considerably, from less than 40 years in 1910 to 78 in 2009, the level of morbidity. The cost of health insurance is an issue. The island currently doesn’t provide adequate health coverage for those financially challenged. And in case, someone could be thinking that the answer is statehood, Puerto Ricans in the United States hold the “unhealthier” title. Healthcare industry accounts for the island’s 20% GDP. It is very ironic that this sector will encounter such financial hardships while the pharmaceutical sector gets higher taxes incentives from the government, as if that could be possible. By 2016, Medicare Advantage, the government’s primary healthcare program, will lose $300 million, or an 11% reduction. Medicare costs about $2.5 billion per year, of which the federal government barely contributes $400 million. Next time they insist on “government handouts to Puerto Rico” consider this fact. Puerto Rico has been self-sufficient for a long time now. But, since the media reports otherwise, it is mighty difficult to transform that mindset.
2 Puerto Rico is Victimized by Financial Vultures like UBS, Condoned by the United States Government
While unemployment is on the rise, or remains at double digits, whereas the government still considers to close more public funds following hedge fund analysts’ recommendations, stock growth and revenues for financial vultures remain untouched in comparison. UBS not only rid the island out of $80 million of monies belonging to the teachers’ retirement accounts in the island, but the government neglected to file suit on a timely basis, preventing those affected to at least get some retribution for this firm illegal actions.
1 The U.S. blockage on the Island’s International Relations Have a net Effect of Embargo
The Puerto Rican has a debt of $72 million that pales in comparison with the more than $18 trillion U.S. debt, which amount to almost $60,000 per person. In Puerto Rico it amounts to less than $16,000 per person. Not to be used as an excused, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. When you have a set economy (Jones Act) in which, according to your laws you state that, not only you are to do business only with me, paying the prices set by me, and not charging me taxes required to pay, say, unforeseen debt or basic infrastructure. When I force you to rules that only benefit me and, after ridding you of your resources, mainly water and human resources, with minimum access to jobs and education, to then turn around and tell you that, on top of all the freebies you gave me in the form of tax-exemptions, land giveaways, cheap produce and hand labor, enjoying the wonders of a Caribbean island with no need to renounce citizenship, an island that is deemed both as unincorporated U.S. territory as well as an international country, we will have to agree, this has been easier than stripping a child away from his candy.
Puerto Ricans are not lazy people as constantly portrayed by the media (they do the same for blacks). Whenever there is a job fair announced in the Island, Puerto Ricans report by flock, and set up tents to even wait overnight to get first in line for job offers. Sadly, oftentimes these job fairs are nothing but pure propaganda and public relations for companies merely offering part-time jobs and even multilevel opportunities. Puerto Ricans do want to work, a chance to prove and better themselves. It is a disservice to history that the media continues with this unfounded propaganda for a political situation that has been created by military occupation.