This past weekend I visited Old San Juan and one of the places I visited was El Morro Fort. Since the Spaniards came over, this place has been a target for exploitation. Curious enough I bumped into an invading species, the Iguana.
Humans brought Iguanas from Central America as pets. Since then they have been exploiting the Island and multiplying. They have no natural predators here on the Island we can consider them difficult plague to control.
Amazing how my encounter with an Iguana in El Morro for me is a Symbol of the past and present of Puerto Rico.
405 years of Spanish Exploitation
Puerto Rico’s gold and other resources were depleted fairly quickly. It’s strategic placement made it the perfect territory to keep as a colony.
For approximately 405 years the Spanish kept us as a colony while fighting off invaders and keeping control of the Island.
Puerto Rico as a War Trophy
During the Spanish-American War, our Island became a War Trophy and was handed over to the United States. The story of our second phase of Colonization began until the present date.
Making Puerto Ricans U.S. Citizens so they could go to War for the U.S.
One thing the U.S. did well was put up a smoke screen where it made Puerto Ricans believe they had a full democracy.
On March 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act. This law gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. This provided civil rights to the individual and created some political structure. With this clause, the United States Congress had the power to stop any action taken by the legislature in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. maintained control over fiscal and economic matters and exercised the authority over mail services, immigration, defense and other basic governmental matters. But most importantly, this created an inventory of cannon fodder of our men being sent to fight during the 1st world war.
Some of these “benefits” might seem attractive to most Puerto Ricans because they probably don’t realize how beneficial this has been to the U.S. and its Corporations. As locals, we have been fed the bread crumbs to keep us entertained while they deplete our resources.
After 116 years of Colonial Exploitation.
We still can’t vote for a presidential candidate in the general election. But, we can go to war and be under the direction of the Commander In Chief.
Finally Transparency in Puerto Rico’s Current Political Status
But I believe there is a new phase for Puerto Rico as a colony. We are finally clear that we have no authority in being able to fix the issues we have locally; issues created by the wealthy from the island and the U.S.
The problem is the wealthy become richer and the poorer will they pay for the debt that these wealthy individuals created.
The subject hits close to home since I have friends who have lost their retirement funds and most of their investments. Some are business owners and they have liquidated all their assets and move outside the Island or get a job at minimum wage. Folks that worked hard to lose everything because a few greedy individuals want to become richer.
Money Flow Puerto Rico & United States?
One of the most read blog posts on my blog is one I wrote on the Money flow between Puerto Rico and United States.
35 Billion Going out to U.S. Corporations
More than 35 Billion leaves the Island as a profit to U.S. Corporations that pay little or no taxes in Puerto Rico.
The following video explains a bit more about the issue with hedge funds. It also states that U.S. Corporations take out of Puerto Rico around 35 billion dollars.
Vulture Hedge Funds
In all this economic chaos, we had vulture hedge funds seeing an opportunity to exploit this issue. So far it seems they will come out with a big win when already the working class has been defeated. This will also hinder any opportunity for Puerto Rico to start on a path for recovery.
Last year Reuters shared how UBS drove reluctant brokers to sell high-risk Puerto Rico funds.
In these recording in Spanish, you can hear brokers pushed to sell bond funds with risky debt.
Buying Puerto Rico’s Debt at a Discount
The video by the PPT states how these vulture hedge funds have used local brokers to Purchase Puerto Rico’s Debt. The debt bought at a Fraction of the Original Price.
Knowing it was unpayable, they still moved ahead. Know they are asking for dollars on the few cents they invested. A very unusual return for the type of bonds they bought which are also known as junk bonds.
Public Relations Terrorism against Puerto Rico
These hedge funds and bond holders have been spending millions in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico; it’s a way to show their political muscle to get what they wanted.
The Public Relations terror tactics even mention that the debt will be covered by U.S. Taxpayers. But in reality, Puerto Rico’s government has been asking to restructure the debt not have it paid by anyone outside the island.
No Chance to Restructure or Bankruptcy
Politicians who control the future of Puerto Rico, but were not elected by Puerto Rico residents, made the decision for us. An Oversight Board is part of the deal that congress has chosen for the Island. The board which will be appointed by politicians influenced by Wall Street will decide the fate of Puerto Rico’s economy.
Why is the Puerto Rico Oversight Board an issue?
The Oversight Board will overrule any decision made by local politicians to protect U.S. citizens in Crisis. That pretty much brings us back to when Spain had a monarch ruling over the Island and they decided how to use our resources.
One of my ancestors was imprisoned as a political prisoner in the late 1800’s. The heavy taxation and exploitation from Spain led a group of men to start “la Boicotizadora”. One of those men was Epifanio Pressas (my Third Great Grandfather). They all got together and boycotted Spanish companies and for a short time where imprisoned. They were release week’s after and the movement helped with Spain loosing power here on the Island.
I wonder how many have thought of boycotting those who have hurt the Island. If these men boycotted Spain in the late 1800’s it should be much easier for us to boycott companies that hurt the local economy and are seeking to continue exploiting.
What is the Puerto Rico Oversight Board?
I will write a follow-up post on what I believe the Puerto Rico Oversight Board will do for the island. In summary, it turns out to be a collection agency that takes the power from our elected officials and gives it to these Wall Street Appointed members.
As a veteran I served 8 years in the U.S. military because I believe in democracy. Sadly for most of my life. I have lived in a Colony which only gets to vote for their local officials which report to the higher ones which are imposed on us.
Politics asíde, I believe that democracy should exist everywhere. Supposedly the U.S. also believes in the same until their Wall Street friends are in trouble.
Then it’s ok to remove the power from elected officials to serve those who are impoverishing the Island.
We have Allies and Hope
As I keep in touch with Puerto Ricans outside of the Island, I know there are many groups willing to step up for their brothers and sisters still on the Island.
The best example is our own Lin-Manuel Miranda who has been very vocal on the subject. He is one of our top allies on the subject. Years ago, I saw him on stage at a Calle 13 Oficial concert rapping. Then in 2010, I went to see his Broadway play, In the Heights.
Here is an interview he did with Jorge Ramos explaining how he can help create awareness.
Here is comedian John Oliver and Lin-Manuel Miranda explaining what many of us are living here on the Island. Please take 20 minutes and watch the complete video. This might be the best way to understand what we are going through.
The Patriots Are Waiting to Stand Up for The Island
Like Lin-Manuel, there are many unsung heroes waiting to stand up for our Island.
There are groups who are willing to do the same thing that my friend Ramon Morales and the organization of the Young Lord did in the 60’s; fight for the rights of Puerto Ricans and other minorities in New York.
These Puerto Ricans and those who love our Island will step to the plate and stand for our small island.
So why are Vulture Hedge Funds Destroying the Puerto Rico economy?
Because we have allowed the exploitation for too long.
I hope this is enough of a wake up call.
I count on you to educate yourself and see how you can help. I would love to see comments below on how we can all make this situation better.
Fear will not keep us away from finding justice for the almost 4 Million U.S. citizens on the Island Colony of Puerto Rico.