Save Puerto Rico by Calling Out Modernday Colonialism

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On September 20th, 2017 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as the sun rose. Enormous devastation followed in its path. Aid efforts were immediately sent across the ocean. The island’s previously weak power grid had been destroyed, streets were flooded beyond use, and the people of Puerto Rico were in crisis. Fresh drinking water and food were not accessible. Many were left without homes, and those with homes lacked power. As the death toll rose, President Trump threw paper towels into a small crowd and exclaimed what a great job the U.S. is doing to help the island.


The island of Puerto Rico has been struggling economically for many years now. President Trump claims, that there are “billions of dollars....owed to Wall Street” by the island. However, the federal aid to build their economy has been lacking. This is due to Puerto Rico’s status, but the restrictions from the Jones Act aren’t helping either.


Puerto Rico was originally a colony of Spain around 1989. While fighting against Spain in the Spanish-American war, it developed ties with the United States. The U.S. promised the island freedom and independance after the war. Unfortunately that wasn’t the most beneficial thing to the U.S., so that’s not what happened. For years afterwards, Puerto Rico was called an American colony and our economy was boosted by their sugar and coffee rich soil. Sometime between then and now, mainstream society decided that colonialism was unjust and immoral.


Now, the United States labels Puerto Rico as a commonwealth. This means that they are given U.S. military protection, some federal aid, the right to vote in some elections, and partial citizenship for their citizens. However, all of this does not amount to what the U.S receives in return, for the U.S. has power over Puerto Rico’s ship ports.


The Jones Act, created in 1920 for war protection purposes, does not allow any ships other than those that are U.S. owned and operated to deliver goods to the island. This means everything entering the island must first go through the U.S., which quickly hikes up the price on all of the goods. The Jones Act cost Puerto Rico $537 million every year. This is what keeps poverty levels high on the island, and after Maria, this is what is preventing a quicker recovery.


With the Jones Act in place, and their status too invaluable to do something about it, Puerto Rico is stuck. Their economy is continuing to plummet, spreading poverty into the lives of every Puerto Rican. The island understands that something must be done, however, there seems to be no right answer.


A few weeks before Maria hit, Puerto Rico voted for statehood. Unfortunately, this means nothing unless Congress decides to do something about it. Yet, on the other hand, it is not hard to understand why the U.S. doesn’t want to add a poverty stricken island with a broken economy to the rest of the 50 states. But something must change. If not statehood for Puerto Rico, then the Jones Act must go. They cannot be expected to rebuild their economy, or support their citizens with huge amounts of unavoidable debt and inflated prices.


We are asking Congress to either follow through with Puerto Rican statehood, or dismiss the Jones Act.


Puerto Ricans should be given the freedom they need to survive, or be allowed to escape the grips of colonialism.

 



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