During the Occupy Movement, many of us became increasingly cognizant of the grave need to get our news from non-corporate, alternative media outlets. RT, Alternet, and many other outlets gained much greater visibility as it became increasingly apparent that Fox News was not the only circus in town. Of these outlets, DemocracyNOW provides a consistent source of information that is populist, non-corporate, and has credibility.
DN’s Juan Gonzalez’ shocking and detailed lecture on the Puerto Rico fiscal crisis, and the long history of unfair colonial policies that led to it, is one of the most thoroughly-researched, professional samples of investigative journalism that I’ve come across in a long, long time. It’s also food for thought. Juan Gonzalez has done an amazing job at patiently explaining the many sources of Puerto Rico’s very old and complex problems.
There are several pieces of trivia that I didn’t know about. For instance, we hear that former Puerto Rico Secretary of State, Kenneth McClintock-Hernandez, has been actually hired as a lobbyist for the vulture funds that are prowling over the dark gray, windy Caribbean skies. McClintock is a Democrat and, up until today, I considered him one of the most respectable members of the political class from the territory. Now, he’s more like a Pirate of the Caribbean.
This is eye-opening, and shows that politicians both on the Commonwealth and the states have historically worked to the detriment of the people of Puerto Rico. The political class (politricksters, to use the Rasta term) works for itself and for moneyed interests, very rarely do they work for the people.
Perhaps less skocking is the revelation that the reason why Puerto Rico was arbitrarily excluded from the right to declare bakruptcy, a right which it initially enjoyed, is because of a Southern lawmaker who had a long history of advancing racist policies: the infamous Strom Thurmond, who for no apparent reason added this exclusion to another, unrelated piece of legislation which passed. The causeless exclusion of Puerto Rico from bankruptcy protections is, therefore, another vestige of old southern racist hatred of people of color which has, for generations, contributed to the widening of the gap between the richest and the poorest American citizens.
Speaking of arbitrary denial of access to the American dream, specifically to Hispanics and in spite of their citizenship status: Gonzalez also mentioned when discussing the Jones Act, that the US Virgin Islands are exempt from the Jones Act, but not Puerto Rico. Congress never produced an explanation for this, but Gonzalez did: he demonstrated, with charts, how profitable Puerto Rico has been for big US corporations, including the shipping industry, and how when the territory had been struggling fiscally, the corporate powers made even greater profits there.
The Jones Act instituted a monopoly of American ships in U.S ports, so that Puerto Rico under the American regime has had no option but to pay higher shipping costs. It’s estimated to have cost the island territory over 75 billion dollars over the last century–a bit over the amount of the Commonwealth’s current debt. Although the islands did not participate in the decision-making process which led to the Jones Act, they can’t avoid the fees imposed because, well, they’re islands and they’re not self-sufficient. They have to to be able to transport needful things weekly in order to meet their needs.
The cabotage laws have been criticized both left and right for different reasons: for the left, because they’re detrimental to the poorest citizens of the country; and by some libertarians, because monopolies such as the one created by the Jones Act in the country’s waters, disallow a free market.
This is JUST the tip of the iceberg. I strongly recommend Gonzalez’ lecture to anyone wanting to gain an in-depth understanding of the Puerto Rico crisis; and if you’d like to understand why it is morally reprehensible for there to be so much money in politics that rather than a democracy we end up with a corporatocracy that impoverishes the people and produces an oligarchy; and why it’s abhorrent for America to continue implementing imperial policies that literally destroy entire societies and nations, even when those societies and nations are entirely loyal, trusting, and at its mercy … even sharing a common defense, common values, a common currency, and a common citizenship, as Puerto Rico does with the United States.