The Tragedy of Puerto Rico
30 September 2017
The tragedy of Puerto Rico is that it assumed – incorrectly – that it would be protected and prosperous as an American colony because America is so rich and powerful, and that from there it could eventually become the 51st American state, thus gaining voting representation in the American Congress, which determines how the benefits of American wealth and power are distributed.
What Puerto Rico failed to realize is that both individuals and nations that are rich and powerful did not become that way by being generous and inclusive.
Puerto Rico assumed there were only three modes of existence it might experience:
(1) a protected, prosperous, US state (like Florida)
(protected by US military power, prosperous by being a domestic participant in the US economy, and having a state’s voice in the crafting of national policy and legislation affecting it);
(2) a protected, prosperous, US colony
(a protected and prosperous captive of the United States, being reliant on American benevolence but without any political power to shape the nature and magnitude of that benevolence);
(3) an unprotected, poor, independent nation (like Cuba).
Option 1, statehood, is blocked by the apartheid mentality of the white supremacy anti-Latino bigotry that is the primal glue bonding the majoritarian clan controlling the American republic. The Republicans are not likely to vote for the addition, from a new state of Puerto Rico, of five more Democrats in the House and two in the Senate.
Option 2, a colony, is the status quo for Puerto Rico because that status most suits the colonizer.
Option 3, independence, entails the hazards of self-protection against all threats, whether natural, military or economic.
In this view, US statehood is a distant hope and perhaps only an illusion; but being a US colony is preferable to independence because a US colony is assumed to have much greater security and comfort than a likely poor, independent Caribbean island nation, like Cuba, Jamaica or Haiti.
However, as a result of the bankruptcy of the colonial government of Puerto Rico ($73B in May 2017), and its massive devastation from Hurricane Maria (in September 2017), both of which the Trump Administration has shown a singular hostility and indifference to help with, Puerto Rico has awakened to its actual mode of existence: an unprotected, poor and destroyed colony; essentially a disinherited dependent, a captive castoff.
If Puerto Rico were an independent nation instead of a colony, even with its current dual crisis of bankruptcy and hurricane devastation, it would have the freedom to direct its own efforts for humanitarian, physical and economic recovery, and of seeking international help, which efforts are now restricted by US law (e.g., Jones Act) and control-oriented obstructionism by the Trump Administration.
From the perspective of Puerto Rico’s present situation, being another Cuba can no longer be seen as a worse fate.
The current tragedy of Puerto Rico is accelerating (as transport becomes more available) the already high rate of emigration from the island and its failed economy, to the US mainland (a net emigration of 64,000 in 2014, 84,000 left and 20,000 returned, for a population loss on the island of 1.8%).
Perhaps the current tragedy of Puerto Rico will reinvigorate the independence movement among the island residents who do not wish to use their American citizenship as a free pass for escaping. If so, they would join the ferment for gaining control over their national fate, shared today by Catalonia, Kurdistan, and Palestine.
The Tragedy of Puerto Rico
1 October 2017