I’ve never been to Puerto Rico. Up until recently, if you asked me to find it on a map, I would have been able to find the general locale (I’ve heard it’s in a big ocean) but would have meandered around a bit before picking it out. Unfortunately, my ignorance goes beyond geography, so today’s post answers some of the questions that I have had; although I assume just about everyone reading is more knowledgeable than I am, I hope I’ll add to the community knowledge in some small way.
What is the geography of and population distribution in Puerto Rico?
How does this look when compared to the actual track of Hurricane Maria?
Why is Puerto Rico a territory and what does that mean?
This article provides an excellent overview, including an unblinking look at the United States’ history of racist, colonial indifference: Puerto Rico’s Complicated History with the United States
Wait a minute; the article above says the people of Puerto Rico voted for statehood, but it doesn’t matter?!
As a result of Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory, the citizens of Puerto Rico do not have any voting representation in the U.S. Federal government. Instead of outright representation through Senators and House Representatives, Puerto Rico has one non-voting Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, Puerto Rico is not represented in the Electoral College, and thus U.S. citizens resident there are unable to vote in U.S. presidential elections. Citizens of Puerto Rico can vote in the Republican and Democratic primary elections.
Although Puerto Rico presently has a certain amount of local autonomy, according to the U.S. Constitution ultimate governance of the island is retained by both the U.S. Congress and President. Thus, results of plebiscites, whether or not authorized by Congress, while they reflect public sentiment, and thus bear some impact, can be ignored by Congress. Ultimately, the results of Puerto Rican plebiscites are opinions… source: Political status of Puerto Rico
And then there’s this article, which discusses the outcome of the June 2017 plebiscite: Puerto Ricans vote in favour of being 51st US state, but doubts remain
Speaking of political parties, what party does San Juan mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, belong to?
Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) or in English, the Popular Democratic Party. Like any political party, it has had an evolving platform.
The PPD political platform calls for a free associated state, autonomous, Puerto Rico that maintains a voluntary relationship with the federal government of United States in areas of mutual benefit, such as national defense, like any other state. Two notable areas of discontent with the current political arrangement are the taxation system and the empowerment of the courts. Currently, custom duties and the authority to enter into treaties with foreign nations remain within the control of the federal government of the United States. In the legal realm, decisions of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court can be overruled by higher courts in the United States. PPD supporters charge that this is unsatisfactory arrangement given that Puerto Ricans are not allowed to exercise their democratic right to vote for the person that appoints those judges – the President of the United States. Puerto Ricans are also not allowed to exercise their democratic right to elect Senatorial representation into the US Senate, the authority within the US of government that is empowered to approving appointees into the federal court system. Furthermore, Puerto Rican court decisions must be made consistent with the laws of the United States and in alignment with the Constitution of the United States.…
…At its 2007 convention, the PPD approved a new philosophy and set of ideals for the party. The new philosophy commits the party to defending a political status for the island that is based in the irrevocable right of the people of Puerto Rico to form a sovereign country. This shift in philosophy caused a stir among party detractors, since the PPD was not known for being that liberal before. Its conservative stance had been represented by its unshakable defense of the commonwealth status quo.
In January 2010, the “governing board” of the party approved a resolution presented by the current party president Héctor Ferrer, among others, rejecting the free association concept to develop the commonwealth status based on the current free association compacts of the United States with the pacific jurisdictions; the resolution indicate that this free associations compacts does not recognize the indissoluble link between the U.S. and Puerto Rico of the United States Citizenship. Other members of the party reject the resolution indicating that is not in agreement with the official position adopted by the party “general assembly” on the 2007 convention. They indicated that the “government board” could not revoke the decisions of the party “general assembly” and just the “general assembly” itself as the party’s top organ could revoke the 2007 decisions.
source: Popular Democratic Party (Puerto Rico)
I don’t understand the financial difficulties of PR, beyond that which comes with a colonial history. Is there an reasonably-balanced explainer that can help?
Of course there is (from 2016): The Puerto Rico Crisis Explained
Well, that was 2016. What has been done since?
PROMESA happened: Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis: What You Need to Know
And FAFAA happened: Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority
It’s a difficult process and not without controvery: Public employees union sues Puerto Rico fiscal board, FAFAA and Treasury
In summary, this is just a cursory overview of the existing political and financial situation faced by Puerto Rico before Maria. It doesn’t address the history or the culture or the people, who are ultimately what matters. But when you hear Someone suggesting that the people don’t work hard enough or are ingrates, remember that our colonial history with Puerto Rico has made the situation immeasurably more difficult. It has created barriers and roadblocks that no state faces. We owe it to the people of Puerto Rico to try to understand that and to combat the ignorance and inhumanity that some mainlanders are expressing.
— CNN (@CNN) October 2, 2017
— Vivala (@HeyVivala) October 2, 2017
— Tim Walz (@RepTimWalz) October 2, 2017
This good boy is in Puerto Rico helping out with the cleanup from Hurricane Maria pic.twitter.com/ekyVkAGEMQ
— Dogs but also Dogs (@DogsButAlsoDogs) September 28, 2017