Puerto Rico became a colony in 1508, 15 years after Cristóbal Colón’s (Columbus) first arrival in America. The island’s colonial status is preserved to this day. The island has a strategic location upon entering the Caribbean and was under Spanish rule for nearly 400 years. It was repeatedly attacked by English, Dutch and French sailors and pirates for being captured by the United States in 1898. According to countryaah, Puerto Rico is a territory of United States located in Central America.
In the first decades of the 16th century, an economy was built in Puerto Rico based on sugar cane production. Acc. a document from the period had the island in 1560 15,000 slaves. Planting operations did not last long, however. As late as the end of the century, leather was the most important product, and thus the changes were repeated a few years earlier in Santo Domingo (see Dominican Republic).
Like the neighboring islands, the indigenous people – the Taino Indians – were exterminated through wars, illnesses and hard work. It was necessary to import African slaves to replace them in agriculture, which supplied most of the supplies for the Spanish conquests to the continent. Puerto Rican culture thus became a mixture of Spanish and African culture.
In addition to the attacks from outside, Spanish domination was constantly threatened by the resistance of the Tainos and slaves. It came, among other things. to slave revolts in 1822, 1826, 1843 and 1848. The independence struggles in Latin America also had consequences in Puerto Rico. In 1812-40 an administrative reform was carried out, and the independence movement that developed was severely defeated by the Spanish forces.
Five years before the abolition of slavery, a group of patriots led by Ramón Emeterio Betances in 1868 led the rebellion. In the city of Lares, they proclaimed Puerto Rico’s independence, and launched armed struggle to liberate the island. The Patriots were defeated, but the “call from Lares” led to the birth of the Puerto Rican nation.
1898 The United States occupies Puerto Rico
In the years that followed, the independence movement continued to grow. In 1897, the Cubans rose to fight against the Spanish colonial power led by José Martí, and this revolt spread to Puerto Rico. US entry into the war accelerated the defeat of Europeans, but for Puerto Rico it simply meant replacing one colonial with another.
The US colony administration on the island first had military and then civilian character. It enforced English as the official language and sought to transform the island into one large sugar plantation and military base. In 1917, the Puerto Ricans were declared North American citizens, even though they had no influence on the island’s government. Resistance to the colonial power continued. In 1922, the Partido Nacionalista (Nationalist Party, PN) was founded. In 1930 and 50 the party carried out independence revolts, but they were brought under control through a violent repression.
PN’s main leader from 1930-65, Pedro Albizu Campos was punished with exile and imprisonment for his anti-colonial activities.
During World War II, Puerto Rico was once again transformed into a military garrison to maintain US control over the Caribbean. The colonial power built 7 military bases on the island.
However, after extensive national and international pressure, the United States was forced in 1947 to accept that Puerto Rico elected its own governor. The election the following year entrusted this office to Luis Muñoz Marín, the leader of the PPD, who wanted to transform the country into a “free associate state” attached to the United States. In 1959, the colonial power allowed the drafting of a new constitution, which was subsequently adopted by a referendum and ratified in the United States Congress two years later. Muñoz Marin’s program had thus been institutionalized.
The island’s status as a free associate state is still in effect. It gives the United States control over the economy and foreign policy, the two countries have common citizenship and currency, and finally there is free movement between the two countries.
With the island’s new status according to the United States, the colonial power was released as so far to report to the UN Decolonization Commission, which felt that the colonial situation was now abolished. However, in September 1978, this position was abandoned by the Commission, and by a resolution of the UN General Assembly in December of that year, the island was characterized as a colony and the island’s right to self-determination was established.
Muñoz Marín made significant efforts for the island’s industrialization. This was achieved through extensive investment from the United States, where the multinational corporations were attracted to tax exemption on the island and exemption from US environmental law. Throughout the 1950’s, the influx of North American foods caused the island’s agriculture to collapse, the farmers to be displaced and today 50% of the food consumed on the island is imported. The exclusion process in agriculture created an extensive young proletariat that was more than adequate as cheap labor in North Americans’ development of the island’s industry. There was no work for everyone, and that led to an extensive emigration towards the United States – especially New York – in the search for work. The 1980 census estimated that 3 million Puerto Ricans lived in the United States.
The widespread social upheaval in the 1960’s led to the struggle for independence again. Still, a 1967 referendum confirmed the island’s continued status as a free associate state. At the election the following year, the PNP candidate was elected. This party advocates the island’s entry into the United States as the 51st state of the Union. In the 1972 election, PPD regained the post of governor with Rafael Hernández Colón. He was succeeded in 1976 by PNP’s Carlos Romero Barceló. He declared that if re-elected for a second term, he would print a referendum on the inclusion of Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the United States. In fact, Barceló was re-elected in 1980, but by such a small margin that the plans for conducting a referendum were shelved despite having the support of then-US President Ronald Reagan.
Puerto Rico has only one representative in the United States Congress, who can only vote in committees, not in the plenary itself. Although they have North American citizenship, Puerto Ricans have the right to vote only in the presidential election, although those living on the mainland have the opportunity to take part in all elections.
At the November 6, 1984 governor election, Rafael Hernández Colón was elected. He promised “4 years of struggle against unemployment and corruption”. At the same time, unlike his predecessor, he wanted to preserve the island’s status as a free associate state.
Colón was re-elected in 1988 with 48.7% of the vote compared to 45.8% for those who went for inclusion in the United States and 5.3% for independence supporters.
In 1989, the UN Decolonization Commission expressed its wish that the people of Puerto Rico could be entitled to sovereignty and self-determination. The Commission resolution emphasizes the distinct Latin American identity and culture of the Puerto Rican people.
In April 1991, Governor Hernández Colón signed a law that made Spanish the official language. A few weeks later, the Puerto Rican people received the prize of the Prince of Asturias given by the Spanish crown “for the defense of the Spanish language being done in this country”.
At the end of 1991, a referendum was held in which various strategies were developed for the island’s development. The governor succeeded in reconciling the moderate nationalists with the supporters of independence. These brought the election campaign together on a yes to self-determination, ending submissions under North American jurisdiction, affirming Puerto Rican identity, and preserving North American citizenship. But the alliance was beaten by 55% of the vote, which supported the PNP’s stance on avoiding a rupture with Washington. Faced with this result, Hernández’s position within his own party weakened because he had allowed the development of more autonomous-friendly sectors. In the end, he resigned as leader of the party.
In January 1993, Pedro Roselló assumed the post of new governor. He was in favor of annexation. But his proposal to make English the only official language – rather than Spanish – triggered widespread popular protests. English was eventually introduced as the official language, but next to the already existing Spanish.
In November, a new referendum was held to determine the country’s political future. 48.4% of the vote was for continued status as a free associate, 46.2% for annexation, while 4.4% for independence.
Some of the independence supporters had agreed to cooperate with Roselló’s “annexation government” – among other things. within areas such as culture. But in May 1995, the governor replaced the director of the Puerto Rico Cultural Institute, Awilda Palau, and the opportunities for collaboration ceased.
In January 1997, Roselló was appointed a second term. US President Bill Clinton took the opportunity to promise he would speed up a motion in the United States Congress to hold a new referendum to determine the island’s political future. In February 1998, the President supported the holding of such a referendum that would allow the Puerto Ricans to decide whether they would be incorporated in the United States, gain independence or maintain the island’s status as a free associate state.
On September 12, 1999, 7 Puerto Rican activists arrived in Puerto Rico after being pardoned by US President Bill Clinton. They had spent 20 years in prison, convicted of bombing attacks in the United States in support of Puerto Rico’s independence. The activists, upon their arrival at San Juan Airport, were welcomed as heroes by a larger crowd waving the flag of Puerto Rico and singing nationalist songs. The activists had been politically active in the United States in the 70’s and 80’s.
In February 2000, several tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans demonstrated against the resumption of US military exercises on the island of Vieques. The island had been used for military purposes for 50 years, but after a civilian accidentally killed during a drill in April 1999, the drills had ceased. Clinton and Governor Rosselló had resumed the exercises until April 2001, but civilians organized by the church camped in the bombing areas of the island, thus interrupting the “war doctor”.
The conflicts surrounding the US military presence at Vieques continued until January 2003, when Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, decided that the last military exercises should be completed. Most of the 8,000 residents of Vieques celebrated the North American military’s march. However, control over the former military areas remains with the federal authorities as the Interior Department takes over control.
Another area of conflict between the Puerto Ricans and the United States authorities was partially resolved in July 2003. A bestial murder in Puerto Rico prompted U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to force the use of the death penalty against the accused perpetrators. Otherwise, Puerto Rico had abolished this penalty form in 1929. The attempt by Washington was strongly condemned in Puerto Rico. The suspected perpetrators were acquitted, but the United States continued efforts to force the country to impose the death penalty.
In the 2004 election year a new party emerged, Partido Catañeses Unidos (United Cataños Party). It covers the Cataño region and consists of several former members of the PNP. The party supported Pedro Roselló’s candidacy for the governor post, and declared himself in favor of the United States annexation of Puerto Rico.
On November 2, 2004, the Puerto Ricans massively participated in the election to elect their governor, their commission in Washington, the 27 senators and 51 representatives constituting the legislative assembly as well as the 78 municipal councils on the island. Slightly more than 2½ million. had registered as voters. The choice was made according to. observers at ease. The result was an almost dead run between Pedro Rosselló of PNP and Aníbal Acevedo of PPD. It took a recount to determine the victor. Acevedo won by a margin of 3,566 votes.
At the end of the month, more than 25,000 Puerto Ricans participated in a “march for dignity” to protest a North American court’s intervention in the voting count.
In a July 2005 referendum, Puerto Ricans voted to replace their two-chamber parliament with a one-chamber parliament.
Independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos died in September in the village of Hormigueros in southeastern Puerto Rico after being shot by FBI agents. Ríos was wanted in the United States for a million robbery. Thousands walked on the streets of San Juan to express their indignation at the killing. The government declared it would conduct an internal investigation into the incidents.
In April 2006, the government announced that it was suspending its activities for a 2-month period. The occasion was a public deficit of DKK 738 million. US $ and opposition in parliament against approving a loan to cover the deficit. The crisis meant that 1,500 schools had to close and 90,000 public servants were not paid. The crisis lasted two weeks before the government and opposition agreed on a settlement that could end the crisis.
In July 2007, the PPD sent a resolution asking for the status of Puerto Rico to be discussed at the UN General Assembly, and for the General Assembly to comment on the island’s right to self-determination. The country’s colonial status has become increasingly outdated and violates the national right of self-determination.
In June 2009, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization again adopted a call for the United States to promote the process of allowing Puerto Rican independence.
In April 2010, the United States Congress decided to allow the Puerto Ricans to conduct a referendum on whether or not to continue the island’s current political status in the United States. If they do not want to change the current relationship, referenda must then be conducted on the same topic every 8 years. If they want changes, a new referendum will be held in which the population gets 4 choices: conversion to actual state of the United States, full independence, independent state associated with the United States, or continuation of the current colony status.
In July 2012, Puerto Rico’s parliament passed amendments to the Criminal Code prohibiting demonstrations that block public buildings or interfere with local administration. The restriction on freedom of demonstration was criticized by national and international human rights organizations.
In 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonialization passed resolutions requiring the United States to speed up a process that “will give Puerto Ricans their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, release all Puerto Rican political prisoners from superpower prisons, clean up and cleanse all the areas of Vieques and Culebra and giving them back to the people of Puerto Rico, investigating US human rights violations on the island and investigating the FBI’s assassination of Independent leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios in 2005 ».
After several years of preparation, on November 6, 2012, a two-string referendum was conducted. The first question in the poll was whether the people wanted to continue their current status under the United States Constitution. The second question posed 3 alternatives: incorporation as a state of the United States, independence, or freely associated affiliation. For the first question, 54% voted against continuing the current “Commonwealth”. The alternatives in question 2 were thus opened to the desired 61.1% inclusion as a state in the United States. In December 2012, therefore, Puerto Rico’s parliament sent a request to the US President and Congress requesting respect for the outcome of the referendum. But in April 2013, the White House announced it would spend $ 2.5 million. US $ to conduct a new referendum on the island’s future status.
Alejandro García Padilla won the governor election in December 2012, taking over the post in January 2013. As one of his first steps, he set Puerto Rico’s National Guard to patrol the sea around the island to curb the flow of “illegal emigrants”. He subsequently raised taxes by 1.1% to reduce the budget deficit from $ 2.1 billion. US $ 800 million This move triggered a huge decline in his popularity. In July 2013, he entered into a trade agreement with Colombia, after which Colombia would import medicines from Puerto Rico and send know-how the other way. Padilla has also been accused of nepotism. 5 of his family members work for the government.
Puerto Rico is in deep economic crisis and has had negative growth every year since 2006. Compared to the states of the United States, Puerto Rico is poorer than Mississippi, the poorest state on the mainland. 41% of Puerto Rico’s population lives below the poverty line. The economy improved slightly in 2012, but returned to recession in 2013.
In June 2017, Puerto Rico conducted its 5 referendum on the future status of the island. 97.2% voted to be admitted as an actual state of the United States, 1.5% voted for independence and 1.3% voted for unchanged status. However, turnout was only 23% and thus historically low. The parties opposed to admission as a state in the United States had called for a boycott of the vote in advance for various reasons.
The debt crisis kept the country in a tight sweater. By August 2017, debt had grown to $ 72 billion. US $, unemployment had grown to 12.4% and the size of the population living below the poverty line was 45%.
In September, the country was hit by two violent hurricanes. First Irma (category 5) and later the same month Maria (category 4). The hurricanes caused enormous devastation and knocked out its electricity supply. 10 Puerto Ricans killed under Irma, $ 1 million people lost power supply and the southeastern islands of Vieques and Culebre were declared a disaster area. Maria was not immediately strong, but still hit the country much harder. 48 were killed and 117 were still missing 3 weeks after the hurricane. Entire neighborhoods in San Juan were devastated. All the households on the island lost power when the electricity supply was turned off completely. Many subsequently had to be evacuated by helicopters as the roads were destroyed. About 80% of the crops were destroyed and the damage was likely to exceed the $ 8 billion. US $ the most expensive hurricane Georges had caused. It was assessed, that it would take 4-6 months to fully re-establish the electricity supply. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was pissed on US President Donald Trump because of the lack of US relief and because Trump had stated that the disaster was Puerto Rico’s own fault. At a press conference 13 days after Hurricane Maria, Cruz said, “We’re dying here. I am unable to understand why the world’s best state is unable to develop the logistics needed to help a small island 150 times 50 kilometers…. People have to drink water from the streams. So, for me, it’s kind of over. I can no longer be politically correct. I’m angry as just the fuck… That’s why I encourage you journalists to send mine mayday out all over the world. We are dying here… And if it does not stop, if we do not bring food and water into the hands of the people, then we will experience something approaching genocide ». Trump was unable to see the problem and instead swindled the mayor. However, he met for a week on a one-day visit to Puerto Rico, throwing kitchen towels at waiting Puerto Ricans on a team.
The hurricane’s consequences in Puerto Rico revealed that there was a great difference between the superpower’s willingness and ability to provide disaster relief in Texas where another hurricane had hit a month earlier and in Puerto Rico. A year later, new records showed that Maria had cost nearly 3,000 people. The hurricane’s loss figures were therefore comparable to the numbers killed on 9/9 2001 – but with completely different consequences. Trump rejected the figure, claiming it was a campaign aimed at him.