How Puerto Rico Became An American Colony

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Puerto Rico became a United States colony by an act of war. Spain yielded the sovereignty of Puerto Rico to the United States by means of the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, as a result of its defeat in the Hispano-American War. From that moment to this day, the United States is the owner of Puerto Rico sovereignty, being officially a non-incorporated territory. Today, Puerto Ricans continue to live under the consequences of a XIX century imperial war. The abominable colonial circumstance created by the Treaty of Paris still lingers on. The Puerto Rican sovereignty was passed over to the winner without consulting the affected party.

Long before the North American invasion of Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898, the United States was very clear about the destiny it would grant Puerto Rico –its conversion into a North American military base and a Sugar Cane Island. The strategy to complete the colonial plan was masterfully accomplished.

After the invasion, the first objective of the occupation forces was to diminish the small Puerto Rican bourgeoisie to weaken any independence sentiment. As soon as the “war prize” was secured, the United States devaluated the Puerto Rican peso, prohibited credit, and imposed the US customs system. These imperial coercion measures truncated the development of a Puerto Rican productive economy and condemned the Island to a colonial economy. As a consequence of these initial measures, the Puerto Rican bourgeoisie saw their capital reduced by half and they lost their European traditional markets.

As expected, these American measures broke Puerto Rico and its bourgeoisie, which sold their land at low prices to US companies, completing the American imperial colonial project for the Island. Amazingly, this American colonial achievement was made despite the fact that United States never occupied Puerto Rico militarily. The Spanish military power on the Island was strongly entrenched and tropical diseases would have decimated the American invading troops.

Here are only ten examples that demonstrate the disloyal and discriminatory nature of the colonial relation between Puerto Rico and the United States:

  1. To maintain the most expensive and inefficient merchant navy of the world, the United States forces by law that all maritime trade between Puerto Rico and the United States uses US flag merchant ships. Taking into consideration that more than 90% of goods imported to the Island come from the United States, Puerto Ricans fund the US merchant navy jobs at a very high price to consumers and the economy.

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  1. Puerto Rico’s rum is a very competitive agro-industrial product. The United States imposed a tax to all imports of rum made in Puerto Rico to protect its national liquor industry. This is a good example of US protectionism and trade disloyalty with the Puerto Ricans. Consequently, Puerto Rico lost its sugar cane industry and the Puerto Rican rum industry is now struggling to survive.
  2. Puerto Ricans pay the same contribution to the US Social Security and Medicare that any North American living in the United States, but tragically receives less benefits.
  3. US phytosanitary laws restrict the Puerto Rican agricultural products export to the United States. On the contrary, US agricultural products can enter into the Puerto Rican market without restriction. The argument in favor of the discrimination is to avoid any type of Puerto Rican contamination into US agriculture, while the United States could contaminate freely the Puerto Rican agriculture. This disloyal and discriminatory US trade policy lacks any reciprocity and undermines the development of the agricultural sector in Puerto Rico.
  4. The United States Interstate Commerce Clause prohibits Puerto Rico from protecting its production of goods. This is another disloyal practice of the United Sates that prevents the development of a productive economy in the Caribbean nation. It is clear that the United States interest is only to maintain the consumption of US made and distributed goods in Puerto Rico and not the creation of Puerto Rican jobs and self-sufficiency. As an example, if Puerto Ricans could restrict the import of chicken from the United States, Puerto Rico would have full employment in its mountain regions.
  5. International commercial flights cannot arrive to Puerto Rico after midnight until 6:00 a.m., since US Immigration & Customs is closed. How can Puerto Rico develop its tourism with such limitations? Is it possible to see a comparable situation at Miami International Airport?
  6. The fact that Puerto Rico does not control its immigration is another colonial limitation. Puerto Ricans cannot decide who enters its own territory. The United States tourist visa policies are restrictive and costly; an obstacle to the Puerto Rican tourism development.
  7. In none of the Free Trade Agreements signed by the United Sates, the Puerto Rican interest was defended or promoted. Naturally, these agreements did not consider any of the Puerto Rican productive sectors, only North Americans ones.
  8. The United States has never paid a single dollar to Puerto Rico for the use of its land for US military bases. Probably, if we estimate all the decades of past rent and expropriation debts for lands used by US military bases, it would be much more money than all of the current Puerto Rican debt together.
  9. In 2016, the United States imposed the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico to govern the Island. This non-democratic elected political body takes all the important fiscal, economic, social and political decisions in Puerto Rico. It is the best example of colonialism and how much anti-democratic the relation between Puerto Rico and the United States is.

Facing a disloyal, discriminatory, anti-democratic and colonial relationship, Puerto Ricans and North Americans must put an end to this shameful situation. We must build a new non-colonial and sovereign relation that could bring Puerto Rico opportunities to develop a prosperous and democratic Caribbean and Latin American Nation. ¡Let’s do it now!

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