Puerto Rico isn’t poorly managed; it’s exploited by other nations

Clara Barros/Staff Writer

Hurricane season starts on June 1st, 2018. It’s been eight months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, but the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, said it clearly a few days ago: the island “isn’t ready” and “remains in desperate need of help.”

We all know that Puerto Rico has been facing a humanitarian crisis ever since the catastrophic September of last year, with extreme scarcity of water, food and shelter.

Right now, 20,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power, according to NBC News, and 500,000 roofs in San Juan still need repair, as per Cruz.

Here at FIU, Puerto Rican students received an out-of-state tuition waiver, being allowed to pay only in-state tuition for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. But back at home, the housing situation hasn’t looked good.

More than one million requests have been placed by Puerto Ricans for recovery assistance from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The federal response? “Uncoordinated, ineffective and, in many cases, even criminal,” in the words of Frankie Miranda, senior vice president for the Hispanic Federation.

FEMA has simply denied many of the requests on the basis that the petitioners can’t offer enough proof of ownership of the houses in question. This reflects not Hurricane Maria, but a history of illegal constructions, underdevelopment, and poverty.

Just as the power grids were old and deficient long before the storm, about 55 percent of the island’s housing infrastructure had been informally built, according to estimates from the Puerto Rico Builders Association.

And that isn’t at all the result of “bad management”, as some claim. It’s actually the result of centuries of colonialism and imperialism in the island.

Spain began its colonization of Puerto Rico over 500 years ago, massacring and enslaving the indigenous populations for gold extraction.

By the end of the 19th century, over 80 percent of the population in Puerto Rico was poor and illiterate. The staggery economy, based on agricultural industry, was constrained by the abusive taxes imposed by Spain.

Meanwhile, the United States’ search for endless profit rendered its home market insufficient: it required new materials and new exploited labor.

Craving to use Puerto Rico as a naval station and to lay hands on its sugar, the US sent its troops to seize Spain’s colonies — all in the name of “democracy” and “freedom.”

Ever since the US took over, it has continued to profit from PR’s fragile economy, and the island remained a puppet in the hands of American imperialism until today.

President Donald Trump made that clear when, right after Maria devastated the country, he tweeted from one of his 17 golf club courses that Puerto Rico owed  “billions of dollars” to “Wall Street and the banks”, which “sadly, must be dealt with.”

Puerto Rico isn’t ready for another hurricane. FIU’s aid to Puerto Rican students will soon end. People will, once again, be left to their own devices.

And it’s because, from past to present, someone is profiting off it.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo by Ricardo Dominguez on Unsplash.

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