Perhaps you enjoyed reading my most recent post about John Oliver and the Puerto Rico Dept Crisis… As much as I love Oliver, it was one of those moments where you still feel the sting of colonialism. When even the more liberal wings of the media, the so called “fake” news that appeal to the younger generation… Even they… are promoting a colonial rule over the territories of Puerto Rico.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has been crying out for Puerto Rico for weeks, trying to compel as many eye balls as humanly possible to the island “100 Miles Across”, but what he knows, what we all know, is that CONGRESS WILL NOT ACT.
Let’s be real here, this is an election year… and the front runner of the Republican Party is Donald Trump. His disregard, disrespect, and blatant racist comments about the inhabitants of the Southern American Continent, blacks, women, the disabled, you name it, are what have propelled him to his front runner position. What does this tell you about the American psyche at this point in time?
Are we living in a post-racial America?
Racial push back movements like #BlackLivesMatter have been sweeping the nation over the last few years and now we have Donald Trump doubling down on hate politics, stiring up racial tensions. Bernie Sanders has been the underground counter force running a campaign of love and mutual understanding, but you can guess how much media time he’s been getting… Then you have Hillary… She’s just sitting there and watching us burn to the ground while her way into the White House is handed to her on the backs of the democratic “Anything but Trump” voters.
Amidst this turmoil, here is Puerto Rico. A “Common Weath” tearritory of the USA that many Americans don’t know, don’t understand, and is in the middle of an unprecedented economic, health, and soon to be political crisis. The territory is waiting for congress to show its face.
Political crisis you ask?
The Governor of Puerto Rico knows well what is coming, we all know what is coming. Puerto Rico cannot pay back it’s creditors. Puerto Rico WILL NOT pay back it’s creditors if that means leaving people without basic human services. Puerto Rico has done everything, EVERYTHING it can currently do to remedy the crisis, it is now time for the USA to act. But how can it? Election year, racial tensions, divided congress, and Puerto Rico has no voting rights. Puerto Ricans on the island literally have ZERO REPRESENTATION in the only governmental entity that can act on its behalf. No Senator or Representative is going to put out their neck for Puerto Rico in election year. Not one. Bills being drafted by those who care enough to put them forth will NEVER come to pass. NEVER. Why? Because there are no votes to win, no points to gain, nothing.
Puerto Ricans are literally waiting on a MIRACLE for some compassion to sweep through the Congress and magically address the issue.
And if by some act of god they did address the issue, what is the media putting forth? HR4900. The local government and Puerto Rico is STRONGLY against such a measure because it would be a literal manifestation of the island’s colonial reality. A reminder of the sham that is our elected government. A reminder of lie that is the “Common Wealth” of Puerto Rico.
USA, your colony is showing.
The Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla of Puerto Rico took this moment to remind us of the bond Puerto Ricans have made in blood with the United States of America when its local population was made citizens and then promptly summoned to serve in American wars. What unites the USA and PR is a common citizenship and a belief in democracy. A belief of a government by the people, for the people…
Lets be clear, the local Puerto Rican government has made many mistakes, many horrible financial decisions, and irreparable damage to the local economy and governmental system. But let us not forget what that system was built on, COLONIAL RULE.
The only governmental system that has been in place on the island the ONLY form of government this land has ever known, aside form the pre-Colombian days, was that of a COLONIAL RULER over the island. A system built on racism, on slavery, on CORRUPTION. Governmental systems were put in place by the Spaniards to divide the land, collect its gold, enslave the local population, and harvest its land for sugar and coffee. This is the system that was taken over by the USA.
A system designed to squeeze the people below and bring riches to those at the top.
With a background like that, is it ANY SURPRISE that when Puerto Rico was given “Common Wealth” status and started creating its “autonomous” government that this “new” system would be riddled with corruption?
Is it any surprise that it WASN’T to be a government by the people, FOR the people and that it’s loyalty to the all mighty dollar would be written into its very constitution?
Is it any surprise that instead of incorporating Puerto Rico into the USA as a state, the decision was made to put a band-aid over the colonial status, call it a “common wealth”?
Any surprise at all that Puerto Rico would continue to be a territory used as an experimental bomb range for pharmaceuticals companies and the military?
Are we truly surprised that the new rulers were to be corporate interests and investors of new and previously established powers on the island?
Is it truly so impossible to conceive that politicians on the island would serve as mere puppets of these new powers? Truly?
Is it ANY surprise that there was literally ZERO support for Independence and island autonomy when the Nationalist movement on the island was SQUASHED into oblivion BEFORE we even HAD a constitution?
Is it any surprise that Independence, self government and autonomy are foreign concepts on the island when the remaining supporters of the Nationalist movement were jailed, labeled communist and terrorist, followed, fired and/or thrown in jail?
And we are now expected to shake it all off and take responsibility for our country and its political choices? When our patriots, our leaders, our true supporters were murdered, persecuted and tortured with radiation?
We’re expected to take control and responsibility of a government that was NEVER ours to begin with?
Despite his ACTIVE and CONTINUED ROLE in this atrocious mess, I commend Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla for not sugar coating the reality that is today’s status quo and why Puerto Rico CAN NOT and WILL NOT pay it’s creditors before attending to the basic services and needs of its people.
This is Puerto Rico’s last card on the table. Refusing to pay.
500 years of colonialism is here to collect it’s dept…
Why is Puerto Rico’s present situation so ugly? Well look at where it’s coming from.
This isn’t about destroying the system, this isn’t about independence. This is about acknowledging the realities of Puerto Rico’s complicated colonial history that is STILL at play today. This is about realizing that these problems have 500 years in the making. It’s about understanding our past so that we can better understand the present.
Thanks for reading.
From someone tired of waiting, tired of political corruption, tired of second class citizenship, tired of the lies, tired of this bull crap, tired of colonialism, tired dysfunctional governments, just tired…
If you have anything to do with Puerto Rico it is quite conceivable that you were crying tears of horror, frustration and possibly joy when you saw John Oliver’s incredible 20 minute segment on the Dept Crisis in Puerto Rico. He takes a very complicated issue and manages to summarize the complete and out right catastrophe that is the island’s $70 billion in public dept in a cohesive comic relief.
Puerto Rico’s government has done it ALL, and I mean ALL. Mass governmental lay offs, school closures, pricing hikes in every single public service, heightened sales taxes to 11.5%, and the people are getting SQUEEZED left and right!
Economic crisis is quickly turning into a HEALTH CRISIS because as people are leaving the island, so are the DOCTORS. John says the statistic is one per day, and it’s easy to see WHY!
He brings up the Zika Virus as some sort of super scary horror story, guess what? Zika is coming in on top of dealing with Chinkungunya the last few years. Oh and don’t forget Dengue! Puerto Rico is currently a mosquito DEATH TRAP.
Health authorities estimate that Puerto Rico, which has over 500 confirmed cases of Zika so far, could have hundreds of thousands of infected people. Currently there are over 40 pregnant women in the country who are infected, and that number is expected to rise. No babies have been born with microcephaly so far, but the connection was recently declared definitive. The territory also has a major mosquito problem. More than 80% of adults in Puerto Rico have been infected with dengue, and about a quarter of adults became infected with chikungunya in less than a year.
But you know, we have BIGGER PROBLEMS than mosquitos killing us, because the ACTUAL problem is that our hospitals are running on FUMES. Oliver managed to bring attention to all the tax exemptions happening on the island for business but, unfortunately, IT DOESN’T STOP THERE. There are also exemptions to crucial hospital funding that only apply to Puerto Rico.
The cruel reality is that Puerto Ricans on the island are treated as second class citizens. Their hospitals are getting HALF the funding that their main land brothers and sisters are getting while paying THE SAME amount in tax contributions. And because the local constitution government is committed to paying CREDITORS before it pays out it’s public services, DOCTORS ARE NOT GETTING PAYED for accepting government funded insurance. OF COURSE THEY ARE LEAVING THE ISLAND they are literally working FOR FREE and PRAYING a check comes in the mail!
About 60 percent of people living in Puerto Rico receive Medicare or Medicaid, though the territory receives less than half the federal healthcare dollars of any state.
Without more funding to help sustain the programs, the letter warns it will become even harder for people to receive healthcare in Puerto Rico.
So where does John Oliver go HORRIBLY WRONG in his segment?
He brings up THIS BILL by Republican Wisconsin House Representative Sean Duffy as the “Solution” to the crisis and temporary “relief” to the island.
Let me share the top 3 problems of this 122 page bill, HR4900.
1 It creates a Presidential Appointed Boards of 7 individuals who will be running the entire country and it’s fiscal budget. Completely bypassing the ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT and instead essentially substituting it with a 7 person non-elected board appointed by a president Puerto Ricans DID NOT elect, and PUT IN ACTION by a congress with no Puerto Rican voting representative. We are talking about 3.5 million American Citizens under Government Appointed Federal Rule. But no, Puerto Rico isn’t a “colony”.
Text of Bill
“The President shall appoint the individual members of the Oversight Board, of which two individuals should be selected from a list of individuals submitted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives; two should be selected from a list submitted by the Majority Leader of the Senate; one should be selected from a list submitted by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives; and one should be selected from a list submitted by the Minority Leader of the Senate. Of the two individuals to be selected from a list of individuals submitted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one shall maintain a primary residence in the territory or have a primary place of business in the territory.”
Oh good! Look at that, at least SOMEONE will have a BUSINESS on the island. Sufficient local representation there.
2 This Committee conveniently will be allowed to ACCEPT ANY KIND OF “GIFT“.
Text of Bill
The Oversight Board may accept, use, and dispose of gifts, bequests, or devises of services or property, both real and personal, for the purpose of aiding or facilitating the work of the Oversight Board. Gifts, bequests, or devises of money and proceeds from sales of other property received as gifts, bequests, or devises shall be deposited in such account as the Oversight Board may establish and shall be available for disbursement upon order of the Chair, consistent with the Oversight Board’s bylaws, or rules and procedures. All gifts, bequests or devises and the identities of the donors shall be publicly disclosed by the Oversight Board within 30 days of receipt.”
Well… AT LEAST there’s public disclosure… Nice… No worries, there will be no bribery, none.
3 It REDUCES the current $7.25 minimum wage to $4.25. THANK YOU FOR THAT! It’s not like we need a living wage during a severe financial strain…
Text of Bill
“Governor of Puerto Rico, subject to the approval of the Financial Oversight and Management Board established pursuant to section 101 of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, may designate a time period not to exceed five years during which employers in Puerto Rico may pay employees who are initially employed after the date of enactment of such Act a wage which is not less than $4.25 an hour.”
5 years… Did you read that part too? 5 YEARS!
To summarize… This bill is absolute GARBAGE!
WTF JOHN OLIVER?!
What on EARTH happened to your disgust for COLONIAL RULE?! Did anyone on the show even BOTHER to research OTHER possible current bills on the floor? Because I sure did!
Democrat Senior Senator Robert “Bob” Mendez is working his butt off writing bills with the actual local population’s well being in mind.
BILLS such as THIS ONE S2675 that advocate for reasonable RELIEF for the island’s HEALTH CRISIS. This bill would actually bring in the NECESSARY healthcare funding that Puerto Rican citizens have been so far negated on the island.
Or perhaps John Oliver could have promoted THIS BILL S2676. It sets up a similar government board, but this time… wait for it… The BOARD HAS ACTUAL ELECTED OFFICIALS INCLUDING THOSE OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT! Shocking stuff… I know!
This board would consist of: 9 members: 2 members shall be appointed by the President,
2 members shall be appointed by the Governor of Puerto Rico,
1 member shall be appointed by the chief justice of Puerto Rico,
and 4 members shall be appointed by the legislature of Puerto Rico.
Additionally no less than 6 members must be RESIDENTS of Puerto Rico.
Also, none of this “gift” accepting bull crap!
Text of Bill
“Each member of the Board shall serve without compensation.”
Government officials working for their pay… INSANE!
My point is this.
There ARE other options being put forth, why on EARTH would John Oliver give HR4900 ANY sort of attention as a possible solution for Puerto Rico’s crisis when there are 2 OTHER active bills that don’t immediately turn to colonial rule to fix the issue! We are better than this! John Oliver, YOU are better than this!
What a shame it is that Senator Robert “Bob” Mendez’s bills are being ignored (these bills have COSPONSORS FROM SEVERAL STATES by the way!) and instead we’re looking at House Representative Sean Duffy’s ridiculous colonial rule over Puerto Rico and it’s AMERICAN CITIZENS.
Now, my commentary aside… THANK YOU, JOHN OLIVER!
Thank you for taking up the issue of Puerto Rico to the main media. Your voice helps bring attention to a crisis that is in danger of being swept under the rug. The 3.5 million American Citizens on the Island are begging for mercy from the colonial rule that arrived to our shores 500 years ago with Columbus. 100 years ago the USA took the rains and continued to treat the island as a territory and tax heaven instead of the home of 3.5 million individuals who are currently at the mercy of a congress they did not elect, and a president they did not have the privilege to vote for.
But in the name of Democracy and all the Ideals we hold dear as Americans, HR4900 cannot come to pass! I urge anyone who who holds this island in their heart to instead give Senator Bob the support he needs to get our island out of this crisis without being stripped of it’s dignity.
And as for Lin-Manuel Miranda… No words… How about an encore! Just brilliant!
Ever since I stumbled onto this article (warning, it’s in Spanish) about a young Puertorican mother and her organic farming I was obsessed with Daniella and the idea of the “Nuevos Jibaros” (new jibaros). Young people heading back to the mountains to tame the land, grow food, and just get away from city life. It’s definitely something I often daydream of, and when I read that article and saw Daniella with her toddler on her back… I knew I had to meet her and see her farm; Siembra Tres Vidas.
So I promptly found her on Facebook and sent her a message. She didn’t reply.
I wasn’t surprised, with the article being passed around in the social media networks, I figured she might have an influx of people contacting her for one reason or another. So I just left it at that…
But finally it came to be that I found myself in the homeland once again and I happened to remember her and the message I had sent… So I decided to try one more time. To my great pleasure Daniella promptly replied telling me she was actually having an event the coming weekend and recruiting volunteers and that I was welcome to come.
Well I was thrilled! And excited! And despite having probably never visited Aibonito for much of anything, or not knowing anything else about Daniella and her farm, or not knowing if I would be of any use to her and the work she needed done, I figured… what the heck, I want to go!
So as I mentioned my plans to everyone around me, giving ample warning that I had no idea what I was doing visiting this stranger “en el campo“, everyone got equally intrigued and I rounded up a few of my friends and we all drove up to Aibonito to play in the dirt.
And play in the dirt we did!
It was a gorgeous day.
Little Lue frolicking in the fields…
My friends and I working the earth. Mostly pulling weeds around crops and putting down fresh mulch. Babywearing for the win.
My mom and dad were the official baby sitters.
End of the day. Clouds started to roll in around 3pm and we could see the rain gathering in the mountain side ahead of us. The sound of the oncoming rain was glorious, but we knew we had to pack it up and head back. We’re holding some of the “babies” we were given as thanks for the work.
I’m not really sure what it was that I wanted to see… A farm? A hip young mom? Organic produce? Scope out Aibonito for my realty daydreams?
All I know is that I crave to be around the things that I want for myself. I want to see people growing food on our island, I want to see people creating a community that is based on positive energy, I want to see people loving living in Puerto Rico, people who see the rich soil and nutrient filled lands and want to make use of it, I want to see it in person, not just read about it. Not just look at photos. Not just imagine that such people are out there somehwere. I want to live it.
So that’s why I wanted to go, I guess. I needed to see it for myself.
Daniella and her husband.
A huge thank you to Daniella for opening up her lovely farm to those curious to see it. It was wonderful to participate in something so delightfully fulfilling. And I hope we can meet again soon before I have to make my way back to… Germany.