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El Vocero

The Ugly Puerto Rican

By: Luis Dávila Colón

January 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003
El Vocero. All rights reserved. 

Amidst a war against terrorism and on the virtual eve of belligerent action against Saddam Hussein, photographs and videos from Vieques of anti-American hooded demonstrators and slogans are once again being transmitted at a national and international level. Over the past three years, the image that has been projected to the United States is of Puerto Rican’s who detest everything that is American and who discriminate based on nationality against everything that stands for the United States.

The main legacy that Sila Calderón’s Popular Party Government has bequeathed to the political and economic relations with the United States is the image of the "ugly Puerto Rican". Of disloyal, anti-American and ungrateful citizens who live off of (economic) support in a colony that receives $18 billion annually in Federal funds that come from the pockets of the United States taxpayers. Of United States citizens who are ashamed to be called Americans, who discriminate and harass their co-citizens from the "States" and who refuse to assume their constitutional responsibilities and duties. The image projected is not solely limited to the impacting scenes of "hooded demonstrators" throwing stones at soldiers in Camp García. The entire Commonwealth is portrayed as the "stone thrower" in this unprecedented image of "Yankee phobia", rancor and anti-Americanism.

The recent scare felt by the Government when, with a stroke of the pen, a Senator from the State of Colorado, outraged by the discriminatory impact of the beer taxes imposed by Sila’s administration on American beers, signed a project to freeze the $380 million in rum tax returns, is a perfect example of the devastating consequences that this anti-Americanism can have.

Protectionism from beer taxes has protected and favored Cervecería India (local brewery) costing profits, sales and jobs to American breweries in a market that is supposed to be open and equal since it is a common market (one of the pillars of the Commonwealth), existing under the scope of interstate commerce and within a North American zone of free trade.

The hostility and barriers toward American products and companies are not exclusively limited to the beer industry. The disappointment experienced by the Justice Department when its attempt before the Federal Court to stop the purchase of Amigo by the Wal-Mart chain resulted in a legal decree stating that the case involved discriminatory public policy, was unconstitutional and arbitrary. Sila did not accept that ruling, and appealed and ordered a house investigation of the Wal-Mart Warehouse in Vega Alta as a vengeful action. The irony is that every time that a K-mart closes, the Government cries over the loss of jobs.

The craziness of this anti-American policy is the following. Sila’s administration never opposed the acquisition of Puerto Rican Cement by a Mexican company, in spite of the fact that the merger cost hundreds of jobs. The Commonwealth never opposed to Cisneros purchase of Pueblo Supermarkets in the amount of half a billion dollars a dozen years ago. Of course, Sila Calderón was Director of Pueblo and the case dealt with Venezuelan interests that, incidentally, declared Pueblo bankrupt. Nor did they oppose when the Peruvians acquired Suiza Dairy. Nevertheless, this hostility toward what is referred as the "American mega stores" is also detected in the transmittal of permits for expansion at a time when K-mart is bankrupt, Costco has stopped its expansions and JC Penney is letting employees go by the handful. Each American store in Puerto Rico represents the equivalent of a medium sized Development plant, which generates around 250 to 400 jobs.

Walgreen’s also has been on the receiving end of this discrimination policy upon facing a Government who uses the Necessity and Convenience Act- which was declared unconstitutional- as an excuse and thus continues to protect native interests in a free market open to American competition. Similar policies have been followed upon David Noriega’s insistence against "medicine by mail" companies. In the poultry industry, a similar protectionism is taking place in the million-dollar investment of public funds in the bankrupt Empresas Picú (local poultry company), which has been granted a virtual monopoly in the sale of poultry to school cafeterias by the Department of Education, thus discriminating against imported chicken in programs that involve Federal funds. A similar pattern was detected last year when the Government approved legislation prohibiting the use of imported cement for public works, an action that favored the then Ferré —Rangel, Puerto Rican Cement Company, and which led Antilles Cement to file a Federal lawsuit. Please note that in many of these cases, the common denominator behind this protectionism is to protect the local allied companies that maintain and sustain the Popular Democratic Peaty and the colonial regime.

The anti-Americanism existing under Calderón’s administration was clearly seen in the Government’s demagogic stances in the Vieques case. This Government went so far as to deny permission to Roosevelt Roads (military base) to extract water from the Blanco River and ended up losing the case when the Federal Circuit found that sovereign immunity applied. These stances regarding Vieques have been translated to an overall anti-military policy. This has cost us the permanency of the Roosevelt Roads and Buchanan bases and the withdrawal of the Southern Army ("Ejercito Sur") from the base in Sabana Seca. According to the Caribbean Business issue this past October 4, the shutdown of the bases will cost the Puerto Rican economy $1billion annually and will directly affect close to 200 thousand veterans who receive services and benefits, duly earned while serving the nation.

The climate that has been created on the Island under the Calderón Regime has led to question that which previously was understood to be an integral part of the so-called Commonwealth pillars: common defense, common market, and common citizenship. Now, we cannot provide the Armed Forces with high school students’ addresses because it implies that we support militarism. The ROTC is once again under attack at the public university, in spite of the fact that it is located off campus. The Veteran’s Procurator has confessed to be against the navy and is also an ex-soldier who has gone so far as to turn in his medals. In the Office of the Procurator for Women’s Affairs, an institution that receives Federal funds, the American flag was banned. Last week, the Public Works Department had to issue a most unusual notification, which clarified that, the American passport is a valid identification document.

Hostility toward everything that is American is witnessed on a daily basis in public legislative hearings: in the refusal to develop new hotels, in the continuous efforts on behalf of the President of the Senate to eliminate English as an official language; in the policy of criminalizing statehood supporters; in the insistence to liquidate the Cabotage Laws; upon revoking construction permits granted and in detaining and nationalizing projects in which inter-state commerce exists, such as Princesa del Mar, Ocean Walk, Capuchino Forest and Route 66; and in the exodus of hundreds of thousands of professionals who have had to leave or live outside the Commonwealth because of the overall climate of hate, institutional violence and unemployment that this Government has established.

We are suffering the results of this "mess" made by the "ugly Puerto Rican" policies. The damage will be irreparable.

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