Puerto Rico: Isla de destrucción

I’m probably more attuned to what’s happening in Puerto Rico at any given time than average non-Puerto Rican Americans because my son and my accursed ex-wife live there.

When I learned that a Category 5 hurricane was going to hit the island, I knew it would be a disaster. I lived there when a Category 1 hit in 1996. Essential services were out for a week. I ran out of water and had no way to get more. I only had a few dollars and nowhere to spend them. I couldn’t understand the radio, and I had no idea where to go to find relief. I had no car. I remember running outside in the rain with everything I had that could hold water. I had to drink from my hastily emptied and none-too-clean garbage can, and I’ve never been so grateful for it before or since.

I suspected that the response to Hurricane Maria would be more restrained than those of Harvey and Irma. The reason I suspected that is because resources were and continue to be stretched pretty thinly due to the two hurricanes that had already hit the mainland.

It never occurred to me that the current administration would choose to ignore the problem until the media began to bring it to the attention of mainland Americans. It took four days after the strike for the media to really begin to concentrate on Puerto Rico because, apparently, the goings-on of the NFL are more important than the misery of 3.4 million American citizens.

It’s pretty clear that if Puerto Ricans wore red hats, had pink skin, and voted in federal elections, the response would have been different. But, unfortunately for Puerto Rico, it’s not a red state. It’s not even a blue state. It’s a no state. It has no political clout whatsoever. Its citizens are disenfranchised. That disenfranchisement is clearly a license to ignore Puerto Rico’s many problems.

Puerto Rico is American territory, and it has been for over a hundred years. There is no excuse for its fragile, third-world infrastructure. If the United States were the Trump family, then Puerto Rico would be Tiffany.

We on the mainland have a responsibility to rebuild Puerto Rico. That rebuilding is an ideal time to bring its infrastructure up to at least minimal mainland standards. After that’s done, we need to do something. We need to either let them into the Union or cut them loose so they can decide their own fate. As it stands now, Puerto Rico is totally fiscally dependent on the American government. It’s in default on its debt. It doesn’t have the authority to restructure that crushing debt, and it is not in a position to borrow more.

Americans have never been comfortable with dependency. We’ve always reserved the right to be a self-determining people, and nothing illustrates that more than the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Puerto Rico deserves the same opportunity that enfranchized American citizens have always had.

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