I’m getting wind of rumors about Puerto Rico that seem to be part of a propaganda campaign to explain away why the territory is not getting the help it needs from the US government to recover from Hurricane Maria.
Another possible intent of the propaganda is to enact even more restrictive voter ID laws; even as the “president” dissolved the voter fraud commission, he started tweeting about voter IDs.
His Twitter fans are very enthusiastic, one person calling for both an ID and a birth certificate to be shown when voting. The thing is that it’s very unlikely that white people will be asked to show both of these, while people of color will.
INVENTED RUMOR: Puerto Ricans who have left the island since Hurricane Maria, not just for fun but for survival, will allow “illegal Mexicans” to reproduce their IDs so the “illegals” can vote too.
UNTRUE RUMOR: Puerto Ricans don’t pay into Social Security or Medicare, but they can get Social Security and Medicare. The implication is that we mainland taxpayers are funding the shiftless Puerto Ricans. In fact, Puerto Ricans do pay into Social Security and Medicare.
MISLEADING RUMOR: Puerto Ricans don’t pay taxes to the US so don’t deserve aid. While it’s true that Puerto Ricans don’t pay a personal income tax, they do pay taxes in Puerto Rico that are shared out to the federal government. According to VOX, Puerto Rico paid $3.6 billion in taxes in 2016.
What I thought was the most vicious rumor turns out to be true; well, the facts are true, but the way it was sad to me was vicious. There is a very high incidence of squatting on abandoned or government land. Lorraine Woellert of Politico tells the story at https://www.politico.com/staff/lorraine-woellert
Let’s get this straight: The US “won” Puerto Rico under the Treaty of Paris of 1898 along with Cuba, the Philippines and Guam, after the Spanish-American War. Spain had owned the island since good old Christopher Columbus “discovered” it in 1493. The French, Dutch, and English all tried to take it away. US Forces invaded during the Spanish-American War and managed to wrest it away from Spain.
At no time did the indigenous Taino and Carib Indian population have a say in any of this, much less the offspring of Africans who were enslaved and brought to Puerto Rico by Spain.
Puerto Rico became a US Commonwealth in 1952. Puerto Ricans are US citizens but have no voting rights in Congress and can only vote in Presidential primaries but not Presidential elections as they don’t qualify for Electoral College votes.
Yet over the years American companies have enriched themselves by locating in Puerto Rico and paying low wages and enjoying tax laws that benefit them. A venture called “Operation Bootstrap,” patronizingly designed (or said to) help pull Puerto Ricans out of poverty in fact caused more poverty and dislocation.
The harm that these rumors and half-truths will do if left unchecked will cause incalculable harm. Puerto Rico has been at a disadvantage for hundreds of years. As the modern-day commonwealth tries to recover from a storm as destructive as Maria need all the help they can get, from the US government and from fellow US citizens.
Please, if anyone brings these subjects up in front of you, shut them down.