STEVE HERNANDEZ

 

Photo Credit: Google image search screenshot


Puerto Rico was given to the United States in 1898 by Spain as a part of the Treaty of Paris stemming from the end of the Spanish-American War. It remained until US Military rule until 1900 when the Foraker Act was passed and a US appointed government was set in place.

In 1914, the US appointed government voted for Puerto Rico’s independence. The U.S. Congress rejected this vote, deeming it unconstitutional and in violation of the Foraker Act. 1917 rolls around and the U.S. pushes the Jones-Shafroth Act onto the island. The Puerto Rican House of Delegates unanimously votes against this act, which makes all Puerto Ricans born on or after April 25, 1898 United States citizens. This is seen as a ploy to draft Puerto Ricans into the military to fight in the upcoming First World War. It doesn’t matter.

In 1920 the Merchant Marine Act is put into play. Section 27 of it damns the island. Only American ships (built, crewed, and owned) can carry goods and passengers to the island. Anything foreign is wildly taxed and tariffed. Foreign shipments need to be rerouted and shipped to the States and loaded onto American ships to land on the island. This causes the cost of goods to go up, thanks to additional transport time and fuel. The costs of goods are at least double their value to this day because of it.

Any time a true independence movement comes out of the island, the United States is extremely quick to stop it. In 1937 there was the Ponce Massacre, when a march for independence lead by Albizu Pedro Campos was stopped through violence. 19 people were killed, 200 seriously wounded. It was found that most injured people were shot in their backs as they tried to flee. This led to Law 53 of 1948: it became illegal to own a Puerto Rican flag, speak or write of independence, or meet in any political way not in tune with the government. This was punishable with 10 years in prison, a fine of $10,000, or both. More recently in 2005, the FBI assassinated Filiberto Ojeda Rios in his home. He was the leader of the Boricua Popular Army, a group that strived for independence.

Running from 1936 until 1970 were eugenics testing and sterilizations. Sterilizations were provided for free while other methods of contraception saw rising prices. In 1952, Puerto Rico officially became a commonwealth of the United States. This gave Congress even more power over everything happening on the island.

Most people know about Vieques, which famously housed the Naval Training Range. Atomic weapons testing happened as well as experiments with sonic booms. The cancer rate around Vieques is 27% higher than anywhere else on the island. Thanks to the sonic boom testing most fishermen and civilians suffer from vibroacoustic disease, which thickens the tissues of the heart causing all manner of problems.

179 schools were closed across the island this year in an effort to combat the island’s debt.  Before Maria hit, the island had upwards of 70 billion dollars of debt, a 45% poverty rate, and a 12% employment rate. The cost of living on the island is 13% higher than over 300 US cities, yet the average income of a person is of half that of Mississippi, the poorest state. The United States uses this debt to control the island while continuing to profit from it.

After Maria, the island is still without access to clean water, food, and power. Small towns are being ignored in favor of tourist destinations. Reports are starting to come in that armed mercenaries bearing no insignia or tags are controlling distribution of water and goods across the island. The United States have left people to either flee or die.