Understanding Puerto Rico: Crippled by US Policy, Devastated by Maria, Humiliated by Trump

Two articles are referenced to outline how US policy over many years has consigned PR to 2nd class status, crippled it economically, destroyed its infrastructure…all before Maria. Now in unimaginable ruin, it is humiliated by a President who needs to go.

I have only a few minutes to get this out to you this morning, as Roxanne and I must get over to Day 2 of an inspiring Red Nation Conference. I am not sure it is irony, but there is some sort of confluence of reality in racing off to a conference focused on indigenous liberation from colonization while rushing to finish a post describing the devastation wreaked upon Puerto Rico, a victim of 100 years of US colonization. I apologize if there are a few typos today, but there was no time for even one pass through for typos. Nonetheless, this post is of great importance and the two articles cited are very worth your review. At the end of this post is a video featuring the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

We will report on the Red Nation conference in more detail next week and Jennifer Marley has agreed to be on my radio show to lay out in more detail the Red Nation organization and its manifesto.  But today I want to turn your attention to yet another national embarrassment and to do so I utilize two reports, one from CNN  and one from Politico. Please make time for this post, as it references and links to two extraordinary articles that clearly delineate the results of 100 years of US colonization of Puerto Rico and now our complete disregard for their needs in this moment when their land lies in rubble. In future issues, we will connect some dots that connect the US history of colonization of our indigenous population here in America and our economic enslavement of much of the world. Capitalism and colonization, a legacy which much face squarely if we are ever to address the damage we have done and create a just, sustainable world.

The CNN report describes how Donald Trump used 12 hours on Saturday to tweet 18 times about Puerto Rico, describing the 5 million Americans living in Puerto Rico as “them,” disparaging the courageous Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital as showing “poor leadership” and describing the Puerto Ricans as “lazy” and wanting the US to do everything for them. First, Puerto Rico IS the US and second when your island is in utter rubble, when you have no water, no food, no electricity, no oil, virtually every cell tower down, roads full of poles, trees, homes, and debris and your country does virtually nothing for you for a full week, what exactly were the Puerto Ricans to do except search for lost relatives. The CNN article ends with this quote:

“For the 43 previous presidents, their ultimate goal was to find ways to remind people in the country of our common humanity, to take the high road, to appeal to our better angels. Many of them missed that mark — often badly — but it was always their North Star.
It is not for Trump. Not close. For Trump, the lone goal is winning at all costs. If that means attacking the mayor of San Juan even as Puerto Rico faces a historic recovery challenge, so be it. If it means blaming Puerto Rico’s debt and infrastructure issues even as people are desperately searching for their loved ones, well, that’s just how it goes. If it means trying to build the media up as a scapegoat to cover up a slower-than-ideal response to Maria’s aftermath? Consider it done!  18 tweets. 11 hours. Full of blame, anger and victimhood. Totally devoid of hope, inspiration or unity.”  Click here for the CNN Report.
The Politico report is the indispensable back story and the best summary of how US policy for over a century first invaded and colonized the island in 1898, consigning it to second class status with no representation in Congress to raise its voice. In 1920 the Jones Act forced all goods and services going to and leaving Puerto Rico to go through the US, crippling Puerto Rico’s economy for 100 years and ultimately leaving its economy in ruins. Our response was to pass legislation forbidding Puerto Rico from using bankruptcy to extricate itself from a mountain of debt–a debt created by US policy and the Jones Act. So, unlike Detroit, who was allowed to negotiate its way out of debt, Puerto Rico is governed by a seven member, corporate focused, Fiscal Control Board, a concept designed by the Koch brothers to protect Wall St. investments and enslave Puerto Rico, a bill which was passed by Democrats and signed by Barack Obama.
Let’s be clear this is colonization pure and simple: Puerto Ricans serve in the military, pay taxes exactly like residents of the 50 states, but have no representation in Congress, can’t vote for President, and with the Fiscal Control Board, now have no voice in their governance. They pay into the Medicare system just as we do but their doctors are only allowed to be reimbursed at a fraction the rate of doctors in the 50 US states. Are medical services somehow cheaper in Puerto Rico?  I guess not as over 3000 Puerto Rican doctors have left Puerto Rico in just the last five years and their hospitals operate with aging equipment, old power generators and now often without power or air conditioning in sweltering heat.  This summary only provides a glimpse of the picture conveyed in this extraordinary Politico report. I can’t remember any article I have read recently that more clearly laid out the root causes of injustice and its very human impact as the report moves back and forth from highly human, up close descriptions of the devastation today and the US colonial policies that have made Puerto Rico so vulnerable. If the two articles presented in this post don’t infuriate you, check your pulse. Click here to read the full report.
I have no action for you on this except to remember this post because between exposing Trump in his most naked arrogance and underscoring how US policy has been colonizing and exploiting Puerto Rico for 100 years, it also lays the groundwork for future posts that will tackle head on US policy, its roots in racism, capitalism, colonization and exploitation.
The irony of rushing to a Red Nation conference focused on liberation from colonization is not lost on me.
In solidarity,
Paul and Roxanne
Click here for a video featuring the Mayor of San Juan.  You be the judge of whether she is showing poor leadership as asserted by our esteemed leader. Lord.

Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use and Wildlife, Election, Political Reform & National Politics

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  1. Paul, Ben Lujan is a member of the Energy & Commerce Health Sub Committee where HR3530 (the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, IHFA) is assigned. Please write asking members to call/write Lujan asking him to co-sponsor HR 3530. Thanks! Marge Johnson

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