The United States is preparing to rule over Puerto Rico through a “Financial Control Board.” U.S. Congressman Jeffrey D. Duncan – Chairman of the House Committee on the Western Hemisphere – is demanding this Financial Control Board right now, immediately, “for the good of the Puerto Rican people.”
Implicit in Duncan’s demand is the unspoken attitude that Puerto Ricans are unfit to manage their own economy, or their own government.
The demand also indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S.
Let’s try to correct that.
The U.S. “liberated” Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898. Later that year, Hurricane San Ciriaco demolished thousands of the island’s farms and almost the entire year’s coffee crop. Of fifty million pounds, only five million were rescued.
Inauguration of Charles H. Allen, first civilian US Governor of Puerto Rico
American hurricane relief was strange. The U.S. government sent no money. Instead, the following year it outlawed all Puerto Rican currency and announced the island’s peso, whose international value was equal to the U.S. dollar, to be worth only sixty American cents. Every Puerto Rican lost 40% of their money overnight.
In 1901, the U.S. passed the Hollander Act, which imposed new taxes on every farmer in Puerto Rico.
With higher taxes, crippled farms, and 40% less cash, the farmers had to seek loans from U.S. banks. But with no usury law restrictions, interest rates were so high that within ten years, the farmers defaulted on their loans and the banks foreclosed on their farms.
The banks aggregated all these farms, and turned a diversified island harvest (coffee, tobacco, sugar, and fruit) into a one-crop, cash-cow economy.
By 1930, all of the island’s sugar farms belonged to 41 syndicates. 80% of these were U.S.-owned and the largest five syndicates – Central Guanica, South Puerto Rico, Fajardo Sugar, Aguirre, and East Puerto Rico Sugar – were entirely U.S.-owned and covered over half the island’s arable land.
Sugar cane railroad…owned by US banking syndicates
With no money, crops, or land, Puerto Ricans sought work in the cities. When the island legislature enacted a minimum-wage law like the one in America, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional. This decision was reached despite AFL-CIO President Samuel Gompers’ testimony that “the salaries paid to Puerto Ricans are now less than 50% what they received from the Spanish.”
To make matters worse, U.S. finished products – from rubber bands to radios – were priced 15% to 20% higher on the island than the mainland, and were often defective. Again, Puerto Rico was powerless to enact any price-fixing legislation.
Today, U.S. federal agencies control Puerto Rico’s cabotage rights, trade relations, maritime laws, immigration, customs, postal system, TV, radio, transportation, Social Security, military, banks, commerce, currency and defense. That’s without the people of Puerto Rico having a vote in U.S. elections.
The U.S. did give Puerto Rico one gift. Over the objection of the Puerto Rican legislature, Puerto Ricans were declared U.S. citizens in 1917, just in time for military conscription into World War I.
For decades, the extent of military control over the island was particularly striking. You could not drive five miles in any direction without running into an Army base, Air Force runway, Navy dock, nuclear site or tracking station. The Pentagon controlled 13% of Puerto Rico’s land and operated five atomic missile bases.
After 62 years of relentless bombing, the island of Vieques resembled a pock-marked asteroid more than an island. From 1984 through 1998, over 1,300 warships and 4,200 aircraft used the island for target practice, and pounded it with 80 million pounds of ordnance. In 1998 alone, 23,000 bombs were dropped on Vieques.
At its height, this was the US military presence in Puerto Rico:
In 2014, the U.S. Congress finally recognized the 65th Infantry Regiment – also known as the Borinqueneers – for service in every U.S. conflict since World War I. In Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, this service meant disproportionately high casualties and deaths, since the Borinqueneers were frequently – and sometimes maliciously – assigned to the front lines. The Borinqueneers received the Congressional Gold Medal for defending America, and for spilling their own blood.
Now in 2015, the U.S. wants more blood. They declare Puerto Rico’s debt to be a “Junk Bond,” they want Puerto Rico to pay $73 billion, and they want the money NOW.
They are preparing a “Financial Control Board” that will treat every Puerto Rican like a five-year old child, incapable of managing their own affairs. But Puerto Ricans are not an infantile race. They have suffered abuses from the US, and made sacrifices for the US, that the US is not even aware of.
Now after 117 years, a new generation of US citizens, and a new generation of US elected officials, is completely unaware of the 117-year history between the US and Puerto Rico.
Then based on a century of ignorance, they want to establish a Financial Control Board, to “fix” the problems of Puerto Rico.
This Financial Control Board will not solve any problems. It will only deepen the problem. The colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the US is rotten to the core, and this relationship must be terminated…as quickly as possible.
Nearly 100 years ago, Don Pedro Albizu Campos expressed his amazement at how “owning a man makes you a scoundrel, yet owning a nation makes you a colonial benefactor.” As always, Don Pedro was right.
The United States is preparing to steal Puerto Rico a second time. They will do it through this “Financial Control Board,” which will sell off and “privatize” pieces of Puerto Rico’s coastline, infrastructure, public utilities, and natural resources.
The island of Puerto Rico will become one huge LBO (leveraged buy out) target: a haven for predatory capitalists and useless celebrities. The Puerto Rican people, of course, will all be evicted to Orlando, Florida.
I wrote an earlier version of this essay in Latino Rebels. Since that time, just four months ago, the economic situation in Puerto Rico has become even worse. A true LEADERSHIP must emerge in Puerto Rico…and quickly.
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I will say this much on the matter. The debt of Puerto Rico the so call trillion dollar is not true. I don’t care who made the math. That astronomical amount is just to take our land from us. No other state in America own that money, so why is Puerto Rico been so small owe that much. Simple one, Puerto Rico is a perfect spot for export and import United state need our port because we close to everything. Now as it was mention united state what is doing is stealing our resources to where Puerto Rico will never be a state but a back yard of America. A land where no native Puerto Rican will be but moving into United state can you all see we been chase away like the American native were chase away by the american army taking their land by force taking away the best land and giving them the bad land. If we learn anything from history read trail of tears. In Puerto Rico that history is repeating itself. Many in the island are scare to fight and lose what ever little they got left. And those that can fight won’t because they sold their soul to United states. I say get rid of all the politician in Puerto Rico and get new ones that study in America and are truly want to help Puerto Rico. I prefer to be part of Spain then to be part of United state. Funny I learn English not in America but by studying hard in my island . . Like a comment before small countries defeated bigger ones. Been small don’t mean with helpless we can fight and revolutionary behavior is a best way to go. I’ll die for my island and fight for her. If anyone call them self boricuas then you fight, protect . If anyone want to lay on their back then no of those deserve to be in Puerto Rico. I’m a Taino warrior like my ancestors before me.
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Excellent article. But lets be clear as to the fact that the debt in the Bonds in cuestion is not owned by the billionares or big Banks, many, many of the buyers of the Bonds are regular investors who have savings in their retirement funds, we are many who are to loose a significant portion of our retirement savings……
As American citizens the push now, by every Puerto Rican, should be, to vigorously push for statehood. History has shown the we earned it. thru, blood, sweat and tears. yet, its people have not benefited because of the greed of the wealthy that control the Island using American politicians to enact the laws that benefited only them. Further complicating the issues are the Islands politicians who have lend themselves to the corruption that has contributed to the Islands past and current problems. Wake up Puerto Rico, and take control of your destiny, you have the power to do so. Clean house by reviewing all the laws that were enacted in the past and challenging their validity. Vote for Statehood and get your fair share of what’s been due you for years.
Dam this is deep..u know over a decade ago when we were Boriqua college mates at B.m.c.c i wrote a essay on Vieques that garnered me an A+ and by doing so i i researchd n receive a ton of info. i always felt a certain way bout commenwealth vs statehood. I love this article. Thanks for more knowledge Jus. One..L
To many Puerto Ricans don’t know this, they think the USA is their savior but their the Devil in disguise ready to devour them.
The good thing about big problems is that ordinarily the solutions are readily apparent and can easily be seen when you define the problem. As previously stated in the above narrative our main problems are obvious; decades of hiring excessive number of people into all levels of government positions as political rewards (compra de votos), revamping the AEE and most other agencies after years of excessive union concessions, making elective positions a for profit venture instead of a service to the country, placing our reliance and main emphasis on the hi-end tourism and gaming industries, and our lack of control over some of the most crucial facets of our economy and standard of living such as the shipping industry, immigration, environmental protection and many others. So the only thing we can do in order to survive is to recognize these problems and limitations and act accordingly. The way out of this mess is to unite behind ANY individual in the upcoming elections, regardless of party affiliation, who would have the intestinal fortitude do the following: one, declare a state of emergency and put on hold all union agreements freezing all payments of benefits and wages to levels which are affordable under the current situation. Two, slash all legislator and senior governmental officials’ wages and benefits, and other perks, in the same manner as with the unions and eliminate all benefits until the emergency is resolved. Third, perform an in-depth analysis of the “real” personnel levels required to do the job at all levels of government and eliminate all excess. Fourth, petition the US government for the authority to engage in non-US flagged ships for its merchant marine needs under the state of emergency decree by the governor as has been done before to protect western pacific states. If their response is negative; do it anyway. This would at least be a start.
Nelson you are the only voice of truth we have! I know there is nothing we can do. Previous governors consigned our souls to get loans. Imagine that bonds are first in line for payment over schools, hospitals and police! Who in their right mind would compromise bond dividends and royalties over education health and security? Corrupted politicians who are only there to fill their pockets. It’s like they sold our souls to the devil! Now there is nothing we can do! We will never be a state since the majority of Americans dislike or hate us. We had a referendum in 2012 and the statehood won with over 51%. We have to dance at the song they play in wall street. Puppets of hedge sharks who don’t have any soul. The future looks grim and the only ones that can help us don’t want to. That is why our future will get worse after 2016’s election. Republicans will win because Democrats will loose. Not the other way around. With little interest or even worse blunt racism the Republican President will do what is necessary to collect the money we owe to a handful of creditors. Who cares about 4 million people when a couple of billionaires are involved?
i believe the u.s should alloe
Nelson I invite you and others to see the postings in my Facebook page El Arte de la guerra. There are ways out of this, as long as you do not think like a brain washed slave., as many PRs do. Yes David defeated Goliath with one stone and Vietnam defeated the Japanese, The French, The US and The Chinese! Let us create a board to rule the unpayable US debt!
El Americano acabo con el Independetismo en Puerto Rico los que queda son pocos y además están segregados, acostumbraron a el Jibaro a vivir de cupones y que se lo den todo y es duro decirlo pero el Boricua esta echo un boca bajo y solo le gusta que le soben la Panza y se lo den todo, si lo que quisiera es que los EU nos diera la Independencia o al menos. Mas Soberanía, y de paso hablo con propiedad pues vivo aquí en Puerto Rico y se como se mueve el caldero.
I know I’m going to get a lot of flak for this but here goes. Who can look at the situation we are in right now and say we are capable of fixing these problems? We (the elected officials over the past twenty-five years) made these problems by ignoring the realities of this island, borrowing more and more money, refusing to maintain and modernize the infrastructure, appointing incompetent people to run the government-owned facilities, and hiring more and more people into the government positions as political rewards. For instance, “we are going to revamp the AEE, streamline it and modernize it, but no one is going to lose their jobs.” Really? This is an example of what I call not recognizing the problems. If this is an example of the how we are going to administrate this island, then I say we are unable to correct the problems that confront us now. We need someone (like Linda Donahue for the AEE) from the outside to come down here and rationally reorganize and modernize the government agencies (AEE, AAA, CRIM for starters), and institute new procedures that will enable this island to go forward with some hope for the future. For starters, we have to take these public corporations out of political control (Most of the major players in the AEE just retired or resigned…fantastic news! Because Donahue suggested just what I am talking about). We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results! We all need to accept responsibility for this island and the part we play…. A Financial Control Board? I say bring it!
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ill be using this information as a resource in my petition if you’d like to sign email me . “email@example.com , ill send u the link to the petition if youre interested in taking the stand with me.
The real truth is, that our ** BEAUTIFUL ISLAND ** is being treated like a spoiled wood ** that anyone can make fire with. The Island , has been abused for a long time, with bad Politician in power that the only thing they care about it to fill their pockets. In their –agenda– there is no space, for thinking about the well being of the population of the island. The Island has been ruled by a corrupted leadership of corrupted individuals in all stages of the government. The sad –truth is that Puerto Rico , can not support itself without the help of the USA. Very sad , for the fact that P.R. belong to the USA put the Island in a real dependent stage if not one of humble submission to the control on the way of living of the whole population.. The economy in Puerto Rico, is a horrendous chaos , cause by the bad management of the corrupted governments. OUR ISLAND IS AGONIZING BY THE STRONG YOKE , THAT IS SUFFOCATING IT, BE BY THE BAD GOVERNMENT OR BY THE INDIFFERENCE OF THE BIG BAD DADDY ( USA ) !.
THEY WILL BE PLAYING WITH FIRE. WE ARE NOT VASSALS, WE ARE CITIZENS AND DEMAND FULL RIGHTS AND EQUALITY WITH THE REST OF THE STATES. IF NOT, WE WILL LEAVE IN DIGNITY. MAY SANER HEADS PREVAIL.
Excellent essay. Agree with it, except that the USA didn’t liberate Puerto Rico from Spain. Agree with Mr. Crespo, Puerto Rico had obtained “Total autonomy” from Spain in 1897, we were in the right track towards an eventual independence. Unfortunately, a few month later, USA declared the War to Spain, the rest is history. our “dreams” for sovereignty vaporized.
The time when Puerto Rico could have become a republic is long gone. Let’s become the 51st State of the United States and get real REPRESENTATION IN CONGRESS! Let’s see: two Senators and 5 or 6 House Representatives fighting for us, this is how you bring home the bacon, or the rice’n-beans. Last time I check: Puertoricans are all U.S. citizens by birth. There is no such thing as a Puertorican citizen. If you doubt me, I want to see your passport. Note: Many people die every day trying to enter illegally in the U.S. We, Boricuas, do not have this problem. All I want front the U.S. is respect and dignity; we have neither under the “Estado Libre Asociado.”
The Hedge Fund factions and corrupt political class like that In Greece will want to Exploit more from these nationThe Nations People must be on their guard!
first and foremost, the United States never liberated Puerto Rico from Spain. Puerto Ricans were winning the war of independence against Spain when the United States blew up their own naval ship called “Main” and blamed Spain for this destruction. While Spain denied these actions, the Unites States had their own motives which was to steal Puerto Rico and Cuba, despite Cuba’s victory over Spain. Be advised that to date, Puerto Rico is still a colony…stolen land and now this clown and this government wants to take over Puerto Rico because according to Mr. Duncan Puerto Rico can’t control its own economy. Who the hell do you think you’re fooling? Let it be know to you Duncan that there’s plenty of educated Puerto Ricans like myself who will not be fooled. We know the truth and we also know you’re agenda. Awake sleeper!
I can’t believe this!! Yes, I can …. the mighty “American” taking all that it can take and leaving ruins behind. Take a look at the Middle East …. they were practicing with PR. They have perfected that “art” and are set to do it again. Shame … on them, but they have none. Only greed … proven time and time again!! Arrghhh …..
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I knew this was going to happen! History repeating itself …. we should be wiser. Yet, who can fight against the might “benefactor” … David and Goliath!!
Que vamos hacer.? Tenemos que hacer algo.no nos podemos quedar con las manos cruzadas.adonde esta los leaderes nuevos. Hay un plan.? es facil hablar y halbar , pero ja es tiempo de hacer actual.diganme que tu vas hacer por nu3stra patria? Yo soy vet de v.m. y si pude ir a peliar una guerra por e.u. como novoy a dar mi vida por mi patria
Lo queda de ella. Dime que puedo hacer.
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