A History of Revolution, and Puerto Rico’s call to action! Pt.1

The common wealth of Puerto Rico has acquired a debt of 73 billion dollars in the last few years. Due to this factor, the United States or more specifically South Carolina has elected to create a financial control board which would in essence take hold of Puerto Rico’s economy in order to pay off the debt. This is in essence a terrible idea, but one that does not come without a certain benefit. The government in Puerto Rico has shown that it is simply incapable of ruling the country fairly; perhaps it is time to give someone else a chance at running the place. But, It’s not the first time that a government has abused its power in order to further the agenda of those who are rich and powerful. This could be a nightmare waiting to happen, or perhaps the salvation it needs.

For the sake of giving 2 sides of the argument I am splitting this post into two separate parts. Each part will explain a different piece of the argument of why it could be bad or good. I will take a look at past revolutions of multiple countries in order to analyze the similarities and distinctions between the events that are happening now, circumstances, and motives of the people who revolutionized the world. But, I hope that everyone understands  if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.

The United States has given Puerto Rico the status of a commonwealth country for nearly a century now. In other words Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States, but don’t let anyone call it that since it has negative connotations (and it would hurt their feelings). They have the same citizenship as regular citizens, but have controlled aspects such as trade embargoes in the case of cabotage laws which effectively cripple the economy by preventing ships from foreign countries from trading directly with us (only U.S. manned and owned vessels are allowed to transport goods). To indirectly preventing us from purchasing cheap oil from Venezuela due to its status as a commonwealth. These things make it even more difficult, when you consider that Puerto Rico relies on imports for manufacture of products despite the fact that it has plenty of rich soil that could be use for food export. Sadly, this is just one of the reasons why the country has acquired the exorbitant debt it has. As mentioned earlier the government in Puerto Rico has shown to be inefficient at leading, and managing this land as well. Puerto Rico’s politics have often been marred by the highly unstable public policies which are fluctuating constantly when the countries leading party changes.

The island has various political parties of which two hold the majority of the shares with at least 47% of votes going to both Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) or the Partido Popular Democratico (PPD). There are at least 5 more political parties, but the breakdown is substantially smaller to the point of being nearly insignificant (as explained in a pie chart). In my experience though election results tend to favor the opposite party  simply because people have become angry at the current one. But, here is a list of the results for each election ending with the year 1976.

2012: PPD won with 47.7%

2008: PNP won with 52.8%

2004: PPD won with 48.4%

2000: PPD won with 48.6%

1996: PNP won with 51.1%

1992: PNP won with 49.9%

1988:  PDP won with 48.7%

1984: PDP won with 48.7%

1980: PNP won with 47.2% 1

976: PNP won with 48.3%

There is also a deep cultural belief that political affiliations within Puerto Ricans lie in the family with each member voting for the party that their family typically supports. (I can’t confirm, how true or false this is. But, I can say I witnessed it growing up). So rarely will the political affiliations shift severely, and it is uncommon to witness an overwhelming majority win. This leaves no room for true change, it doesn’t raise the stakes for politicians to truly enact good policies because they know that regardless of what happens their party will eventually return to power (almost like a microcosm of what happens in the continental U.S.). Indeed if anything will destroy Puerto Rico it will be its own government.  Why do I say this? Because Puerto Rico has had good ideas effectively shut down by the people in power.  For example in 2009 a legislator proposed that we reduced the amount of municipalities (78) into larger, but less numerous ones (20 link is in spanish) this bill never made it into law despite the fact that it would have reduced the amount of government spending in salaries for the mayors.

I did not make this chart and I'm merely sharing it from the Wikipedia Article
I did not make this chart and I’m merely sharing it from the Wikipedia Article

If we keep all of these factors in mind, then perhaps it is a good idea for the U.S. government to gain control of the finances in Puerto Rico. Perhaps then we will finally see some change being enacted, and a positive move towards action from Puerto . But, it could be dangerous as well for the government to take over with such hostile tactics. You see Puerto Ricans  are a fighting breed. Their fighting spirits have been lying dormant waiting for an opportunity to rise against once more. But, the end result could go one of two ways. Revolutions of the past such as China’s or Cuba’s have shown that societies tend to overthrow relatively open governments in exchange for more oppressive ones. If Puerto Rico is to avoid these mistakes then it needs to heed my words and learn from history.  For history can be a harsh mistress, and she will repeat a lesson until is it cemented in humanity itself.

Let’s take a look at the Chinese revolution. Indeed, the Chinese Revolution of 1949 headed by Mao Zedong which led to the creation of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese Communist Party. The revolution itself was a massive success, but the politics that came from it while very forward thinking, and egalitarian did not have the overwhelming success that the revolution expected. The revolution itself wanted to destroy everything that China had been before Communism, and in this it did succeed.  However, the rapid implementation of changes to social structures and industrialization did unfortunately bring many negative consequences. Women did gain equal rights, at the cost of family values. Famine is estimated to have killed anywhere from 20-46 million people (keep in mind this was a location that had natural resources for manufacture) due to heavy exportation of food items such as grain. Doctors were trained, but morale was overwhelmingly low due to the practices implemented by the government. Religion was banned and looked as antiquated, churches were destroyed and clergymen killed (the only churches allowed to exist preached communism). The CCP implemented strict propagandist policies, but while literacy rates were radically higher, social re-education was mandatory at least weekly (more if you were disgruntled). There was no trust amongst neighbors because they were encouraged to denounce each other in order to sort out dissenters. Culture died, artist were prevented from free expression, many committed suicide, others conformed to writing/creating communist propaganda. But, despite all of these negative aspects, there were some truly major technological/medicinal advances as well as sectors which continued to perform successfully in terms of economy. In the end it’s hard to determine if this revolution was truly a failure or a success

When Cuba gained independence On December 10, 1898. Cuba saw many social and political changes in structure, however it was still suffering the aftereffect of the war. Many of the industrial and economical sectors of the country were ruled over by the United States. The provisional military government (provided by the U.S.) used its funding for infrastructure development instead of aiding farmers restore their fields in order to provide agricultural stability. This did not appear to be incidental because many American businessmen came in to buy cheap farmlands and properties. It has been speculated that if the government had focused on helping farmers, Cuban economy could have stabilized at a steady rate. These movements in which the American industry was slowly taking over the Islands’ complete economy. A senator from Ohio tried to create the Foraker amendment in order to make these franchises illegal, but did this not prevent the industrialist from taking over business and other resources from the land. For all intents and purposes, the industries which should have belonged to the Cubans after the Spanish allowed independence, now belonged to the Americans.

Cuba still wanted independence though. Americans were clamoring for the annexation of the country, but the Teller Act forbade such actions. While annexationists did exist in the island, the overwhelming majority did not want to go on being a colony. The New York Sun, on April 13 1900, summed it up quite eloquently “The attitude of the people of Cuba toward annexation seems to be this in brief; the wealth and intelligence of the island are generally in favor of it, and the agitators and their tools, the ignorant Negroes, are opposed to it” (It’s nice to see how racist newspapers were back then). This meant that the U.S. had to work around the issue and instead made the Platt Amendment which made the country a pseudo-colony. If the Cubans did not agree to these terms then the U.S. would not leave the Island. This was a dark time in their Cuba’s history if we consider that the Cuban flag would not fly over the island until 1902, when their first president was elected (Tomás Estrada). In 1903 a Permanent Treaty gave the U.S. the rights to uphold peace in the country as well as use of Guantanamo Bay (a very hot-button issue to Cubans).

The Cuban Revolution happened from 1953-1959.  This was another great revolution towards the Communist  movement. It was also the war that gave Fidel Castro power over Cuba. To this day Cuba remains under the control of the Castro family with his brother Raul taking over after his siblings retirement. This was also brought a battle that brought along many changes to the country. Equality was a top priority with social reforms seeking to grant greater rights to minorities (i.e. blacks, women, etc.). Housing, medical facilities, education, and communication saw improvements during this period as well. The government had also reduced crime and unemployment rates by a significant amount. By the end of the decade every child had received some form of education (an incredible achievement when compared to previous statistics). Cuba also had to institute land reformation policies due to the majority of fertile lands being owned by foreign entities with the results actually improving living standards. But, all was not well within Cuba after the revolution. After Castro gained more political favor, he instituted informant committees in every neighborhood to maintain control against revolutionary activities (a hypocritical move if we consider how he came about power) this would keep track of any activity (and I mean any) that could be deemed remotely suspicious. Political assassinations were the norm for a while in the country. Religious freedom was nulled country declared itself officially as atheistic (despite this homosexuals’ were still persecuted). Lands were taken over by the government without any opposition (as they would like us to believe). Despite these last few details, Cuba enjoys a somewhat stable economy, has one of the highest rated literacy rates with 99.8%, some of the best health care in the world (with one doctor per 170 citizen; second only to Italy), and it is free.

The price to pay can often be higher than most expect. At times the cost of independence ironically becomes freedom itself. I have shown some of the good and bad that a revolution can bring when they trade off relatively open governments in favor of military communist ones. If the U.S. does create a financial control board in Puerto Rico it might finally become the push it needs to awaken the fighting spirit of Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico needs to choose between freedom or being baby-sat by a country whose only interest lies in furthering its own agenda. Unlike the States which can have their debt forgiven by the government; Puerto Rico has no such benefit because of its status as a commonwealth. I doubt they will take this sitting down, though apathy rules the land at this moment it will not remain so much longer. You see when a dog is backed into a corner after fleeing for so long it takes the only logical step and fights back. They must not be silenced, they can not  be calmed. Puerto Ricans everywhere must finally band together and fight for they will not be treated as children. They must rise against those who have crippled their potential and strike back with full force. Even when their first fight happened and the U.S. government quelled the movement with lies and propaganda, a spark of fire remained. This small glimmer of hope is waiting for the moment to ignite a forest and set those hearts and souls ablaze with the flames of justice.

This article will be continued with a more positive outlook on revolutions that have overthrown oppressive governments in favor of more liberal ones. The content in this article was written and belongs to the author and respective original writers. If you enjoyed this article please share and like it. We have a fan page on Facebook that is starting to grow and will keep the updates posted.