New Internationalist

Puerto Rico

February 1984

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COUNTRY PROFILE

Puerto Rico

Map of Puerto Rico

Leader: Governor Carlos Romero Barcelo

Economy: GNP is US $3,470 per person per year (1980)

Main exports: are scientific and medical instruments, pharmaceutical products, petroleum and petroleum products.

Rate of inflation: 7.8% (1982) Unemployment: over 20%

People: 3.2 million/town dwellers 50% (1980)

Health: Infant mortality is 18.5 (1978) per 1,000 live births.

Federal food aid is available to the poorest of the population

Pure water is supplied throughout the island.

Culture Religion: Predominantly Catholic. Ethnic groups: People mainly of Spanish descent with some African influence.

Languages: Officially and predominantly Spanish but English is also widely spoken and taught in schools.

Previous colonizing powers: Spain until 1898, then the USA.

Sources: World Business Reports: Puerto Rico, 1983 Arthur Young International, Puerto Rico: Critical choices for the 1980’s, Abecor Country Reports: Puerto Rico 1980, United Nations Statistical Yearbook 1978.

IN Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, among the dilapidated colonial-style buildings and cobbled streets, the United States Government is represented in plush Federal Buildings. From here the island is controlled as a ‘non-incorporated territory which belongs to but is not part of the United States’. Living under US law, Puerto Ricans enjoy unrestricted and duty-free trade with the mainland, common citizenship, currency, postal and other services, fiscal autonomy and freedom from the US federal taxes.

The Puerto Ricans have never had control over their own country. A one-time outpost of Spanish colonialism, the island was invaded by the United States in 1898, eight months after Madrid had guaranteed it home rule. Initially, the US government took a laissez-faire approach to the island’s economy, allowing several big corporations to concentrate on producing sugar. However, when the bottomfell out of the sugar market earlier this century the big corporations withdrew leaving Puerto Rico with nothing. Faced with appalling poverty the

US government moved to implement a programme of economic development known as ‘Operation Bootstrap’. Through tax and other incentives hundreds of light industries were attracted to Puerto Rico. Industrial development turned the island from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest in Latin America. Today, however, the early days of optimism are over. Per capita income is still only half that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the US.

At present, Puerto Ricans have no vote in US federal elections. This could be changed if Puerto Rico was to incorporate into the US as the 51st State. It is the major political issue on the island, the two largest political parties campaigning either for incorporation or for retention of autonomy. A minority, including the several armed nationalist groups, advocate full independence from the US.

Reminders of the US military presence are unavoidable around Puerto Rico. Several military bases are maintained on the island, including a massive naval complex. On the offshore island of the Vieques, resistance among locals to the militarization is strong.

On Puerto Rico imported and indigenous cultures coexist in an uneasy relationship. Dependence on the ‘American way-of-life’ has infiltrated deep. Along wide US-style highways, hamburger joints advertise themselves between the shacks and hovels; on the streets one can as easily be greeted by ‘Hey man, how’s it going?’ as by ‘Go home, gringo’; in homes, American TV is watched on colour sets. Yet Puerto Ricans are still proud of their own jibaro culture and of their Spanish language. It is a conflict that can be heard throughout the island, played out every day on local radio, where native salsa music and modern disco compete in a constant cacophany of rhythm.

Gerry Tissier


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About 60% of the population live below the official poverty line.
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Most of the country’s staple food is imported. Highly dependent on US investment.
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‘Male dominance within the family. About 35% of adult women sterilized.
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[image, unknown] Geared to US politics.
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Now stands at 90%.
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Associations, unions and political parties allowed by Constitution.

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Has risen from 45 years in 1940 to 71 years today.

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  1. #1 Jose M Lopez Sierra 02 Jan 15

    Should criminals be in charge of correcting the wrong they inflicted?

    Puerto Ricans vote in elections every 4 years at an 80% level of participation. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States (US) government for the past 116 years. If the US government has the final say in what happens in Puerto Rico, what is the purpose of these elections? The purpose is to fool the world that Puerto Rico is a democracy.

    The United Nations (UN) declared colonialism a crime against humanity in 1960. The UN has asked the US government 33 times to decolonize Puerto Rico immediately. The US government has refused. It says that Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States is none of the UN’s business. The US says that it is a domestic affair.

    To appear that the US government wants to decolonize Puerto Rico, it promotes the use of plebiscites to determine what Puerto Ricans want. Doesn’t that sounds innocent and democratic? So what’s the problem?

    To begin with, the international community already rendered its verdict and determined that colonialism is illegal. So to have a political status option in a plebiscite that favors maintaining Puerto Rico a colony of the United States is not permitted. To have a political status option of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States is also not permitted under international law. The problem goes back to the beginning of this article. In order to have free elections, the country must be free. So before these elections and plebiscite could be valid, Puerto Rico would have to first be an independent nation.

    What people must realize is that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US because the US government wants it that way. That is why it has used terrorism to keep it that way. That is why it refuses to release the Puerto Rican political prisoner of 33 years Oscar López Rivera. That is also why it is ridiculous to believe that decolonization is a US internal matter in which the UN has no jurisdiction over. If we allow the US government to decolonize Puerto Rico, she will remain a colony of the United States forever!

    José M López Sierra
    www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com

  2. #2 Jose M Lopez Sierra 01 Feb 15

    Should criminals be in charge of correcting the wrong they inflicted?

    Puerto Ricans vote in elections every 4 years at an 80% level of participation. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States (US) government for the past 116 years. If the US government has the final say in what happens in Puerto Rico, what is the purpose of these elections? The purpose is to fool the world that Puerto Rico is a democracy.

    The United Nations (UN) declared colonialism a crime against humanity in 1960. The UN has asked the US government 33 times to decolonize Puerto Rico immediately. The US government has refused. It says that Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States is none of the UN’s business. The US says that it is a domestic affair.

    To appear that the US government wants to decolonize Puerto Rico, it promotes the use of plebiscites to determine what Puerto Ricans want. Doesn’t that sounds innocent and democratic? So what’s the problem?

    To begin with, the international community already rendered its verdict and determined that colonialism is illegal. So to have a political status option in a plebiscite that favors maintaining Puerto Rico a colony of the United States is not permitted. To have a political status option of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States is also not permitted under international law. The problem goes back to the beginning of this article. In order to have free elections, the country must be free. So before these elections and plebiscite could be valid, Puerto Rico would have to first be an independent nation.

    What people must realize is that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US because the US government wants it that way. That is why it has used terrorism to keep it that way. That is why it refuses to release the Puerto Rican political prisoner of 33 years Oscar López Rivera. That is also why it is ridiculous to believe that decolonization is a US internal matter in which the UN has no jurisdiction over. If we allow the US government to decolonize Puerto Rico, she will remain a colony of the United States forever!

    José M López Sierra
    www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com

  3. #3 Jose M Lopez Sierra 26 Apr 15

    The Second Oscar – Mandela March in New York City 2015

    We will be having our 2nd Oscar – Mandela Protest March on Monday, June 22, 2015. We will start marching peacefully at 9 AM from Hunter College on East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, to East 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue. We will then go East (turning left) to end up at the Ralph Bunche Park on First Avenue (across from the United Nations).

    We will be at the park until 5 PM. We will be giving out flyers and talking to people about who Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is. We will also be educating the public about Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the government of the United States (US).

    Most people don’t know that every year, usually on the Monday after Fathers’ Day, the United Nations holds its hearing about the decolonization of Puerto Rico. The petitioners will usually join our protest after this meeting.

    The UN determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity. Since then, the UN has issued 33 resolutions asking for the US government to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. The US government has ignored these resolutions. What kind of democracy is that?

    The US government tries to keep these hearings a secret. What we are trying to do is to get them out of the closet. The UN is in its 3rd decade trying to make the world colony-free. Please help us!

    Most people also don’t know that the United States government takes out 14 times more money than what it invests in Puerto Rico. But, that is what colonies are for!

    This savage exploitation impedes Puerto Rico’s ability to provide opportunities for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. That is why there are now more Puerto Ricans living away from Puerto Rico than in their homeland.

    Oscar López Rivera has been incarcerated for 34 years for his struggle to decolonize Puerto Rico. Since colonialism is an international crime, international law gives Oscar the right to use whatever means necessary to decolonize his homeland. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years for doing the same thing as Oscar. This is why we say, Oscar López Rivera is our Nelson Mandela!

    United Partners for Puerto Rico Decolonization invites the public to be part of the tsunami of people that will be necessary to make the US government comply with the UN resolutions. These annual protests in Puerto Rico and at the UN are absolutely necessary, because, those who maintain colonies, don’t believe in justice for all!

    José M López Sierra
    www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com
    787-429-1981

  4. #4 Jose Lopez 30 Dec 15

    To the town square with Oscar our national hero
    With this slogan, we will meet in all of the 78 town squares in Puerto Rico and the diaspora on the 29th of each month protesting for the liberation of Oscar López Rivera, and for the decolonization of Puerto Rico. Click on the following link to watch a video by the inventor of this campaign, Edwin Chungo Molina, about it: https://youtu.be/Azp6EV6b2L0
    United Partners for Puerto Rico Decolonization will be at the Bayamón Town Square from 2 to 4 PM. We invite everyone to join us with your shirts, flags, signs and flyers to inform the public about, who is Oscar and why he is in prison for the last 34 years?
    It is important that the public understands that our Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera has the international right to do whatever is necessary to decolonize his homeland. It is the United States government that is committing a crime by maintaining Puerto Rico as its colony for the last 117 years!
    We invite you also to 3 more peaceful protests that are scheduled permanently throughout the year.
    • On the Abolition of Slavery Day, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, from 6 to 8, we will have our 3rd Oscar – Mandela March in Puerto Rico 2016. We will march from the Capitol to the United States Court House in Old San Juan.

    • On the day before the United Nations (UN) hearing on Puerto Rico decolonization, we will have the 3rd Puerto Rico Independence March 2016. This march is organized by the Independence Dialogue Table, and we will march over the 2 Hermanos Bridge going into the Condado. We will give more information as soon as it is available.

    • On the very day of the UN hearing about Puerto Rico decolonization, usually on the Monday after Fathers’ Day, we will have our 3rd Oscar – Mandela March in New York City 2016. We will march at 9 AM from Hunter College to the UN. We will stay in front of the UN all day to inform the public about Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States.
    These annual permanent protests are necessary, because those who have Oscar in jail for his struggle to decolonize his homeland don’t believe in JUSTICE FOR ALL! www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com

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