The U.S. Continues To Neglect Puerto Rico And We Need To Take Responsibility
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The U.S. Continues To Neglect Puerto Rico And We Need To Take Responsibility

Looking back at the history of America and Puerto Rico's relationship, it is no surprise that the island is facing adversity from the United States government in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The U.S. Continues To Neglect Puerto Rico And We Need To Take Responsibility
via Rebecca Murillo

The United States has made it their congressional past time to constantly screw over the American citizens who reside on the island of Puerto Rico. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a recording-breaking natural disaster which has left millions of individuals stranded with no electricity, food, or medical aid, the U.S. Government has decided to abuse its power to continuously destroy the lives of American citizens. On Thursday, October 12th, the President of the United States threatened to pull out all federal relief from Puerto Rico over Twitter with the claim that they “cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders… in P.R. forever.” Besides his blatantly racist treatment of the Hispanic victims affected by this disaster in comparison to those in Texas or Florida, the POTUS has backed up this statement by complaining that the efforts in recovering the American territory have “thrown our budget a little out of whack.” This, following the atrocious display of insensitivity during his visit to a chapel in Guaynabo, is enough to anger any human being at the violation of human life that will occur in denying this country aid during this humanitarian crisis. Time and time again, the United States has proved throughout history a tendency for turning their backs on the well-being of Puerto Ricans and the state of their country.

During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Puerto Rico was registered as a Spanish territory. American troops infiltrated the island to overthrow the Spanish government and saw the island as an opportunity to develop sugar markets for profit. At the time, a majority of Puerto Ricans were peasants in the working class and desperate to sever their ties with Spain. American General Nelson Miles promised the people the U.S. would “protect the life, liberty, and happiness of Puerto Ricans, and their property,” prompting the islanders to begin boycotting Spanish businesses in an effort to help. Yet, when all was said and done, Spain handed the territory to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris and, ignoring the “new, democratically-elected local parliament of Puerto Rico,” the U.S. took the country as their own.

Then in 1901, an argument was made that all Spanish ceded territories “were full of ‘alien races’ who couldn’t understand ‘Anglo-Saxon principles.’” Therefore, the constitution did not apply to Puerto Ricans and any plans towards statehood were abandoned.

The coffee economy was entirely displaced by the U.S. implemented sugar industry and the financial strain caused most of the population to slip into poverty. Puerto Ricans, because of their unincorporated territory status, did not have legal papers such as passports and were not counted as citizens of the United States until 1917 under the Jones-Shafroth act. The purpose for their citizenship, however, was solely for the U.S. government to deploy them as troops in tropical climates surrounding the Panama Canal since white people were seen as unsuited to fight off tropical diseases.

To this very day, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections, nor can they elect voting senators or representatives to the U.S. Congress. Yet, as one of the five U.S. territories which include American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, citizens continue to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and other federal taxes. Just this year, Puerto Rico held referendums to enter statehood making it the country’s fifth attempt to do so. But, no matter the outcome of the vote, the decision is entirely left up to Congress which, again, has no Puerto Rican representation.

Economically, the country has been in recession since 2007 which has led to a number of tax breaks and excessive amounts of accumulated credit as the country has been left to drown in a public debt of $70 billion. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria it has been predicted that the country has been set back decades in development and finances. Moving forward, there are talks of forgiving the country of its debt in order to ensure the financial safety to rebuild the homes and lives of the people. Yet, the President of the United States shared his feelings on the looming financial crisis as he chalked it all up to "a total lack of accountability" on Puerto Rico’s part.

It has been nearly a month since Hurricane Maria has made landfall on the island, and approximately 7,500 military troops have made it to the sight. For the sake of comparison, the magnitude-7 earthquake which shook Haiti back in 2010 rounded out 22,000 troops in a matter of weeks.

Puerto Rican officials have taken to pleading for anyone with a sense of humanity in the United States to continue to send aid, like Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló who responded saying Puerto Ricans are “seeking the support ‘any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation.’” Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan who was recently in the spotlight for her unapologetic confrontation with the POTUS, called the “Hater in Chief” out on his oblivion to “understanding the contributions, the sacrifices and the commitment to democratic values that Puerto Ricans have shown over decades."

Celebrities are taking a stand as entertainers like Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Pitbull, Luis Fonsi, Chayanne, Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stephen Colbert and Nick Kroll continue to do their part in raising money for their fellow Americans struggling on their destroyed island.

All this to say that Puerto Rico has been and continues to be neglected during this catastrophic time of need. The same way the U.S. government protects and aids victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma is the same treatment that should be expected in Puerto Rico. If the POTUS spent half of the amount of time he spends swearing that America will be made great again on actually doing his sworn duty to protect the American people, more people would be receiving the dire attention they need. In this situation of life or death, it is so dangerous and racist to ignore an entire population of people based on their ethnicity and race. If FEMA and all federal aid is truly pulled from the effort to restore the island of Puerto Rico, it is up to us, the American public, to ensure that we stand united with or brothers and sisters.

Because, as we’ve seen from the track record, we cannot fully rely on the U.S. government to do the job right.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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