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Puerto Rico Suffering non-statehood under America

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Demonstration for Puerto Rico outside White House. (Reuters}

Puerto Rico is a territory controlled by the United States without enjoying the riches that the government has access to. While officially called the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island has never been incorporated into the United States since its annexation, effectively remaining a modern day colony.

The citizens of Puerto Rico have no say in the US government and are not allowed to vote. On the other hand, they are subject to US federal laws which they have no role in determining. The nation has long struggled with poverty as well. In 2019, over 43% of Puerto Rico's 3.2 million people, and 57% of all children live in poverty. And that was before the COVID pandemic struck.

 

Begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying, If anybody out there is listening to us, We are dying.

Wanda Vázquez Garced, Former Governor, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico became a US territory in 1898 when it was annexed from Spain after the Spanish American War. Since then it has been a victim of the US iron hand without enjoying much support from Washington, even in its struggle to deal with the repercussions of natural disasters, such as earthquakes or hurricanes.

These disasters impoverish the nation further but the issue is not of much importance to American politicians since Puerto Ricans have no say in electing them.

In the year 2020 alone there were three significant earthquakes, and each one had many powerful aftershocks causing much death and destruction.

How can the US response to natural disasters in Puerto Rico be assessed, has Washington kept its promises and fulfilled its responsibilities?

Just to give a little bit of background, a sequence of seismic events occurred in the local southern area in Puerto Rico within a relatively short period of time between December 2019 and throughout the entire 2020. There is still some seismic activity in that area as we speak.

The response by Washington DC was not as surprising, neglect extreme berating (response) to the people requesting emergency assistance. And on top of that, local elected officials from the ruling parties, from the two ruling parties, use earthquakes to play electoral games.

Worse, even worsening the impacts of the earthquakes in the community and also delaying the assistance from Washington DC.

Let's remember that the US has a responsibility with Puerto Rico. So it is it is a responsibility to act accurately, promptly, in those issues of the assistance is impacting elder women and children in Puerto Rico.

Yanira Arias, No More Promises Coalition, Puerto Rico

The colonial status of Puerto Rico amounts to incessant discrimination against the Caribbean island which is presently under American rule.

Just recently, the US Supreme Court blocked the federal programme to offer benefits to low income elderly, blind and disabled people who are residents of Puerto Rico.

Basically the US Congress has the authority not to provide the people of Puerto Rico with any assistance.

The US Congress exercises unrestricted and unilateral power over Puerto Rico. Also the residents of Puerto Rico have a resident Commissioner. This is a person that represents them instead of Congress but this person can only join sessions to discuss bills, but this person cannot vote.

The people of Puerto Rico are subject to, without their consent, to thousands of federal laws that they have not role in drafting [sic.]. Federal Legislation supersedes and can negate laws enacted by local elected legislature.

Puerto Rico cannot sign international treaties and has no legal representation in international organizations. One example is that recently the US Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in a decision to exclude Puerto Ricans from what's known as Supplemental Security Income.

Yanira Arias, No More Promises Coalition, Puerto Rico

A ruling, authorized by Justice Brett Kavanaugh who had been appointed by former US President, Donald Trump, and confirmed by his allies in Congress at the time, his argument was that such programmes would impose extra financial burdens on Washington.

 

Why Puerto Rico is in a state of poverty and what is is the root cause?

The people of Puerto Rico have US citizenship only to the extent that they are recognized as people living in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

They do not have the ability to vote for (the) President of the United States. They get citizenship that was given to them in 1898 when they became basically, well not basically, officially a colony of the United States they were given citizenship so that they could be drafted, so that they could be conscripted into the US military.

So they're a colonized people, in a colonized nation. They do not have full citizenship, they do not have a recognized state they're a colonised people.

Teri Mattson, CODEPINK, Latin America

Some entities in Puerto Rico are demanding total independence from the United States, while others argue that at least it has to be given a statehood status. On the one hand, Puerto Rico is a US territory, and on the other, it does not have voting representation in Congress and its people cannot rely on legislative bodies to recognize their rights.

Well, should they become a state? That is fully up to them. It's their country, and it is up to them to decide what they want for themselves.

How I see it on the mainland, I fully do support, and not just in words, but work with people to help them achieve independence. In my opinion, they have a history of fighting for independence and I support that.

Once they choose to become an independent nation, they can engage with the United States, and the rest of the world, as a sovereign nation. This will be what, you know, won't be equal as far as economic or military or any of that [sic]. But as far as the equality that is best diplomatically, in the UN, in the international court, because well, with the exception of the United States and the international court.

They can, you know, be an equally sovereign nation in facing the United States, and not just think like the states but every other nation as well. So with independence they would have full sovereignty.

Teri Mattson, CODEPINK, Latin America

Despite being US citizens, Puerto Ricans are openly treated worse by the government than the rest of the US population. The cruelty of the US government towards Puerto Rico has no end in sight and continues today under the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden. The island nation has indeed been suffering the policies of leaders in Washington, whether liberal or conservative.

 

What rights does Puerto Rico have as a US territory? Is it treated by Washington as other US states are?

No, it's not. And so again, I just want to share with your audience I'm not speaking as a Puerto Rican citizen and not speaking as a mainland US citizen [sic.].

The Puerto Rican people are US citizens, but not full citizens. They do not vote for President of the United States [sic.]. They can be conscripted into US the military.

They are now, as we said earlier, are now going to be at risk of losing Social Security benefits that they have paid into. So there are colonized people. They are not full US citizens; they do not have the full rights.

Teri Mattson, CODEPINK, Latin America

If it's not going to be liberated from the US government's rule, Puerto Rico is at least identified as a logical candidate for statehood; however, efforts to establish a nation state with voting rights have so far been entirely shut down.

The United States claims to be a free democracy, but the people of the Caribbean island have no role in deciding their own future.

While politicians in the US, as well local politicians from the new progressive party in the popular Democratic Party, have for years used the status, the colonial status, to hold political and economic power for themselves, increasing the wealth of corrupt donors, who are exploiting Puerto Rico's natural resources, by violating labor rights of Puerto Rican workers, paying less than minimum wage without benefits, blocking access to a dignified future for children and the youth by privatizing institutions, including the University of Puerto Rico.

Yanira Arias, No More Promises Coalition, Puerto Rico

The status of Puerto Rico is clear and present evidence of just how the so called democracy that the US is so fond of promoting elsewhere in the world actually works. In reality, US politicians treat the people there as subhuman, raping and ravaging their riches, while giving no rights to the people themselves.

Should Puerto Rico become a US state or an independent country entirely? And what are the pros and cons of these ideas?

The people of Puerto Rico deserves dignity and respect and make their own decisions that will never come from statehood or free association; Puerto Rico must fight for independence.

The US has spread the myth that fighting for independence and sovereignty are synonyms of poverty, insecurity, lack of essential services and death. But in reality, we don't need to go deep in an assessment to know that under the current US colonial status, Puerto Ricans are negatively impacted, so there are no pros about becoming a state.

It is demonstrated that the US continue to harm and impact the lives and the dignity of Puerto Ricans, in Puerto Rico, the people of Puerto Rico must fight for independence.

Yanira Arias, No More Promises Coalition, Puerto Rico

 

Being deprived of self determination has had a huge impact on the people of Puerto Rico. Living under an outdated and unjust political status for over 100 years has made the people raise their voices and demand the right to self determination.

It's up to the Puerto Rican people what they want, whether they want to stay, you know, as colonies status [sic.] with partial citizenship, or you know, fight for independence and there's a very strong independence group on Puerto Rico, and I support that.

I think that for them to achieve full independence is really the only way they can engage in a fair and more equal relationship with the United States: Full independence.

Teri Mattson, CODEPINK, Latin America

There may be diverse opinions about independence or statehood in Puerto Rico yet in both cases the people's voice and demands are silenced and rebuffed by the powerful politicians and their enablers in Washington, without consequences.

Despite such actions, the US claims to be the leader of the free world and a proponent of what it calls democracy.

But how is Puerto Rico's status being used as a means of oppression by powerful US politicians?

Granting loans that should never be granted, it's not a sovereign nation so it cannot have sovereign debt. There are, with the trade agreements, they can send ships directly from the United States into Puerto Rico ... there's a whole lot of additional expense and the manufacturing that's been brought onto the island. All, you know, a lot of US national corporations, franchises,.

They've had their culture eroded, They've had their economy eroded, They've had their autonomy eroded, they are in the true historical sense of the term a colony. They have been colonised for economic reasons, economic reasons, human and natural resource exploitation.

Teri Mattson, CODEPINK, Latin America

In order to discover exactly what the people themselves want, there must be a referendum in the island nation for them to determine their own path to their future. Yet any prospects of such measures are brutally stifled by the immensely powerful US government, thus the poverty stricken nation becomes increasingly more vulnerable and the people are the ones paying the price.

They are, in the true historical sense of the term, a colony; they have been colonised for economic reasons, human and natural resource exploitation, they are a colony at this point. The status of the Commonwealth that thy have, it's the pretty word that's used in the United States that Commonwealth is just a cosmetic problem.

Teri Mattson, CODEPINK, Latin America

 

The decreasing quality of life exacerbates all other issues almost on a daily basis; however, the power hungry leaders of America just do not care.

The voices of Puerto Ricans are silenced as the island faces never ending obstacles in tackling poverty and the right to self determination.

But what is best for the people of Puerto Rico? What should they do to achieve their rights in relation to the US government?

The organization I am part of, the No More Promises Collective, truly believes that the only way to defend  the people's rights is organizing ourselves, understanding the root causes of the issues that we're facing, and take to the streets to them mostly, and express our demands and ideas for a more dignified life.

The people must fight for its independence, which is the only way to secure a dignified future for our children and youth. And it is fighting for a more hopeful today.

From all different fronts of the struggle in the country, the call to action is to join forces, from those defending natural resources in the island, to those advocating for fair labor rights. All movement voices should be welcomed, to respond to what's happening.

And for everyone who is watching this and is not in the island, we invite you to understand the real root causes of the issues in Puerto Rico and to those who would like to join in solidarity for the independence of Puerto Rico, we welcome you.

Yanira Arias, No More Promises Coalition, Puerto Rico

What is going on in Puerto Rico is close to a mystery amid a media blackout. Not much real news is allowed to come out of the island as it is marginalized by the US mainstream media, yet the nation has long history and has been inhabited by a succession of indigenous people beginning 2000 to 4000 years ago.

 

 


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