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Ka Punahou

The Student News Site of Punahou School

Ka Punahou

The Student News Site of Punahou School

Ka Punahou

Libre Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico is being hunted down by power-hungry eagles with shiny, sharp beaks and smooth feathers: American Democrats. Along with the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico is being pushed to become a state even though they are in an extreme crisis they are being used as a pawn in American politics. The colony must become independent, free from colonial influence, so that it can recover from a catastrophic outcome to colonial imperialism.

Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. It was ceded to the U.S. in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. Since Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship in 1917, more than 100,000 have been recruited and drafted into American wars. In 1952, the territory was made a “commonwealth” and given a constitution and the right to elect a governor. However they are still managed by a colonial regime and have crucially imposed limitations on them. For instance, the U.S. Congress can annex or grant independence to Puerto Rico at any time. The Puerto Rican (“commonwealth”) Legislature can pass its own laws, but the U.S. Congress has the power to veto them. Puerto Ricans have limited access to social security programs, budgeting from the U.S. treasury, and they can’t vote in U.S. presidential elections. They pay U.S. taxes; federal, import, export, social security, and others. Yet they get no representation in Congress – but get taxed as a U.S. citizen living in the states. The U.S. is in charge of every aspect of Puerto Rico’s determinants like currency, defense, citizenship, international commerce, and other federal jurisdictions.

Puerto Rico is in an extreme social and economic crisis. The first four decades of U.S. rule were absolute exploitation. In the early 1990’s the Puerto Rican economy was flourishing due to U.S. corporations moving their business to the island in hopes of avoiding taxes. However, Clinton phased out these tax breaks in 1996, and after the repeal was in full effect in 2006, Puerto Rico’s economy began an extreme decline. These corporations fled from Puerto Rico causing a rapid plummet in its economy. Many attempted to fill the gap that the corporations left by selling bonds for Wall Street, but that just put Puerto Rico into more debt. From the year 2000 to 2015, Puerto Rico’s debt increased from 63.2% (of GNP) to 100.2%. The colony has some of the world’s highest rates of drug addiction, alcoholism, family disparity, and crime.

In June of 2016, President Obama implemented the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) which established a Fiscal Control Board (FCB). This was an austerity measure intended to maintain economic control and political influence over the territory. FCB members are nominated by the White House and have strong ties to Wall Street. The FCB guarantees the power of the colonial regime; it has not made Puerto Rico’s situation any better. It privatized electricity, telecommunication, healthcare, and education. This just feeds the dependence of Puerto Ricans on the United States. As a result, the masses in Puerto Rico desperately desire negotiation of policy and statehood with the US.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria shook the island, it was one of the deadliest natural disasters that the U.S. has seen in 100 years. This resulted in $90 billion in damage, of which only $40 billion was provided by Congress. This has resulted in taking money from pensions, infrastructure, and public education. President Trump, when given the opportunity, unsurprisingly failed to provide Puerto Rico with the funds it needed and still needs for reconstruction.

Around 5 million Puerto Ricans live in the United States, compared to 3 million that live in Puerto Rico. That is due to Puerto Ricans seeking a better and more sustainable life, looking for new opportunities, and escaping poverty (which they don’t necessarily succeed in doing).

Since the rise of the colonial regime, self-interested and corrupt local politicians have enraged the masses of Puerto Ricans. These officials are the facilitators and followers of the U.S. colonial hierarchy. In charge of keeping order and managing the colonial regime, the officials say they are progressive but live in extreme luxury and wealth. They’re a fundamental reason why the working class can’t support itself. This results in massive corruption in the “commonwealth” government, corruption that has been rediscovered again and again.

Puerto Rico has two main political parties. The New Progressive Party (PNP) is funded and supported by the Democratic establishment in the U.S., while the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) seems to share the stance of the Republican establishment in the conversation surrounding Puerto Rico. However, both the PNP and PDP tend to block revolts and criticism of the colonial regime. 

The Democratic party, and those alike push for Puerto Rico statehood based on “equality” and “democracy”, but that’s not the real motivation. If Puerto Rico becomes a state alongside Washington D.C., there will be four more seats added to the U.S. Senate, with all of them very likely to favor Democrats (as Puerto Rico will become a “blue” state). The Democrats are willing to socially and economically exploit Puerto Rico and even strip them from their unique culture in exchange for political power and advancement. The pursuit of statehood has colonial roots. It was used by both parties in during the slave debate era, states were added so that one party could advance their power over another. They backed up their actions by claiming it was to “enforce democracy” but the real reason was so they could advance their ideals.

There have been six referendum votes on what the status of Puerto Rico should be. All of these votes are non-binding and have no actual power. All referendums, except the most recent in 2020, have given the options of annexation, status quo (“commonwealth”), and independence. There have been many flaws in analyzing these referendum results and determining their legitimacy. The 2020 referendum sought to alleviate that. Nevertheless, the question that was on the ballot in 2020 for Puerto Ricans oversimplified a very complex conversation by providing a simple question (should Puerto Rico become a state?) with basic answer choices; Yes or No. Around 52% of the voters favored statehood for Puerto Rico, but the turnout percentage was 52% so the referendum, once again, is illegitimate.

Puerto Rico’s extreme crisis has sparked calls for radical change when it comes to acting against the colonial regime. Nonetheless, the solution to the crisis won’t come out of agreement or policy with the United States. The referendums and democratic desires of the masses run counter to the objectives of colonial America. Many say that having Puerto Rico become a sovereign nation will lead to worse problems, I disagree. This current social and economic crisis occurred while they were under the American flag, so how could induction into the U.S. be to Puerto Ricans advantage. The oppressed cannot achieve liberation through the aid of their oppressor.

The left movement in the U.S. must show its support for Puerto Ricans and fight against the oppressor. We must demand to cancel debt and support mobilizations in the diaspora (a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors lived). Let’s implement a government for the working class.

All local officials must resign and step down, the FCB ought to be thrown out. That will allow the workers and masses of Puerto Rico to stand up for themselves and resolve the problem themselves. They can and should do so without the influence of the U.S. regime and Wall Street. Form a democratically elected assembly (according to districts) where constituents can mobilize people (including worker unions, students, the women’s movement, and political and social organizations). This will allow them to make decisions democratically on solutions for how to rebuild Puerto Rico and plot routes to liberation. Arrange a conference where they can plot out how to manage their economic aid and support victims of Hurricane Maria. Fight for the nationalization of privatized companies under the management of their workers. They must nationalize banking and foreign trade under workers’ control. These solutions, if executed properly, will ultimately put an end to Puerto Rico’s debt.

This all being said, the colonial impacts on Puerto Rico will still exist. We are talking about one of the oldest colonies in the world that has never before been an independent country. Post-independence will not be entirely free; we will still face things like the colonial mentality which will maintain ethnic and cultural inferiority along with racial oppression towards darker skinned individuals.

I am a part of the Puerto Rican diaspora. I am of Puerto Rican descent yet I acknowledge the privilege I have in this conversation being fair-skinned; part white. Puerto Ricans and must have a conversation together on the liberation of Puerto Rico. We have the right to protect ourselves and advance our natural resources, nationality, our culture, and our language.

As a mixed-race boy born and raised in Hawai’i I have seen firsthand how statehood and colonial regimes exploit indigenous culture and the working class for their benefit; neo-colonialism.Puerto Rico must become an independent country and work toward self-determination. These “democratic” referendums are just a disguise for the United States’ exploitation and colonial imperialism. Puerto Ricans will never get to legitimately and democratically decide if they’re consistently under the influence and control of the U.S. regime. They have the right to choose their independence without being shackled by the eagles. Resolutions should be of Puerto Rico’s making and what is overall best for them as a nation. We must take radical action for real change and liberate our nation so we can liberate ourselves. Libre Puerto Rico.

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