Once upon a time, I’m told; Puerto Rico was a place where everyone worked, everyone respected and crime was an occasional occurrence. I was a child in the early 1970’s living on Ramey AirForce Base. Each time we ‘went off base’ we were welcomed and respected. People said hello and were polite.
Sure, politicians have always been corrupt, but the people were good. Not anymore. Puerto Rico has become an island of two distinct cultures; one good and one evil. I discussed this in an ‘Open Letter‘ on my blog at the Pan Am Post. One culture is Puerto Rican and the other is a culture of crime, corruption and entitlement. The second culture is killing the first and must be eradicated in order to save the island.
This weekend provided yet another example of just how far down Puerto Rico has gone. 4 members of the same family gunned down in their home and a fifth shot. A dog hung from a tree. All this while the legislature passed another tax on a Sunday night to keep it hidden after having decided to drive up the cost of groceries by banning free plastic bags and they are now working on a gas tax. Great way to make things better.
So what happened? Commonwealth happened, welfare happened and the drug war happened.
The commonwealth status is a status based on entitlement, in other words, it is based on other peoples’ money. In fairness, it wasn’t always that way. It was begun as a stepping point up, to the next status level: independence or statehood. It was never meant to be permanent. The commonwealth however began to evolve, especially after the introduction of welfare and the ever increasing amounts of federal funds transferred to the island.
So some of the people (and their lapdog politicians) began to get used to this idea of an endless money stream without the burden of its cost. That is to say, no one had to pay federal taxes to ‘earn’ that money. In addition, the U.S. gave Puerto Rico special tax incentives for businesses to invest and make huge profits on the island, without having to pay taxes on much of that money too.
Then began a competition for which politician or political party could promises the most. No one cared about how much it cost because no one really had to pay for it. When that free money was not enough, politicians began promising more and borrowing money to filling the gap. No worries there since that money wouldn’t come due for decades.
Guess what? Decades passed and now that money is coming due.
Whole generations of families one after the other grew up in free housing, with free food and schools and free medical services. Of coarse it wasn’t free, someone else was paying for it, but that someone else lived in Kansas or Kentucky or California or even in lowly Mississippi. A friend told me in 7th grade, ‘why work so hard to achieve anything; the government pays for everything!’
Then the drug war happened. Cocaine, crack, heroine and crystal meth. Gangs cropped up as Puerto Rico became a primary transshipment point for drugs going to the U.S. The cops got in on the action and some politicians too. The law became a joke. Enforcing the law, impossible. One corruption case after another, almost exclusively tried by the Federal Government; reinforced the idea that the Commonwealth had no teeth or courage to face down corruption.
When I asked a senior politician about this some years ago he replied, ‘you don’t eat your own.’ Right.
In order to win votes, compromises were made and those who stole water and electricity were seen as victims instead of thieves. ‘Rights’ were defended and then expanded to mean anything, anyone wanted. Violent and disruptive protests were tolerated and even encouraged by politicians. Why would anyone be surprised at the chaos that has resulted from this?
It isn’t to say that Puerto Rico is the only place in the U.S. that has an entitlement and corruption problem, that would be untrue. However, the commonwealth has it the worst. The highest murder rate, the highest crime rate, the highest per-capita debt ratio of any American jurisdiction.
While the leaders of the pro-commonwealth party were working on keeping office, they also worked on how to keep Puerto Rico from becoming a state. They sowed discord with America on purpose within their own party system. However, they were never able to get enough support to slide the island into independence. Their ‘secret plan‘ now seems to be to destroy the islands economy so much, that the U.S. has no choice but forcing a change towards independence.
In all societies, especially free ones; the people hold the greatest power, but political forces and ideologies can drive the population towards a goal. The commonwealth party and a defunct political status have led the island’s 3.6 million people to the disaster they live every day.