I've read many articles about the current crisis on Puerto Rico. Most I've read were written by Puerto Ricans on the island or in the U.S. or Americans in the U.S. I have yet to see one by an American living on Puerto Rico reporting on Ricky Leaks. And before you get your panties in a bunch over me making a distinction between Puerto Ricans and Americans, allow me be the one to inform you the only people repeatedly referring to Puerto Ricans as Americans are liberal Americans—most of them White, cisgendered female. I have lived here 11 years and have never once heard a Boricua claim to be American or refer to other Puerto Ricans as American.
Indeed Puerto Ricans—whether diaspora or living on the island—are American citizens, and yet Puerto Ricans don't identify as such. Ethnically and culturally Puerto Ricans refer to themselves as either Puerto Rican or Boricua—a Taino word Puerto Ricans adopted to refer to themselves.
So here I am, an American living on Puerto Rico offering her two cents about what's going on here.
So, What is Ricky Leaks and Why the "Sudden" Eruption?
Amid the latest episode of President Trump tearing his ass (inviting US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to go back where she came from—she was born in Somalia), unless you've been living under a rock, you know Puerto Rico is dealing with a major crisis. Dubbed "Rickygate" and "Ricky Leaks," most on the island are calling for Governor Ricardo "Ricky" Rosselló Nevares's resignation over some leaked transcripts of a chat, as CNN phrases it, between him and members of his inner circle. The hashtag #RickyRenuncia is trending, which means "Ricky resign."
Along with calling former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito a puta, which has multiple meanings, among them a whore, Governor Ricky also told a federal board created to oversee the island's finances to go fuck themselves. And when we say federal, we are referring to members of U.S. congress—so kind of like telling us they're hiring an even more corrupt group to oversee us. This isn't to imply Governor Ricky isn't corrupt. He is, without a doubt. However the U.S. really has no business overseeing the corruption of others—but that's another rant for another day.
(If you want to see the Ricky Leaks transcript, here they are.)
I doubt many Puerto Ricans are angry that Governor Ricky told members of the federal oversight committee charged with overseeing his movements to go fuck themselves. Puerto Rico is a colony of the U.S. and I think it's fair to say after 121 years of being ruled by the U.S., Puerto Ricans are sick and tired of the constant oversight.
The problem started when two of Governor Ricky's former aids were indicted for corruption. And keep in mind this wasn't an aha moment for us on the island. Governor Ricky is indeed corrupt, but show me a governor of Puerto Rico all the way back to Commanding General Nelson A. Miles (not a Puerto Rican, by the way), who's the first governor under U.S. rule (1898) who wasn't corrupt and I'll laugh in your face.
So when Julia Keleher and Angela Avila-Marrero were indicted, nobody was shocked ... angry but not shocked. It's been alleged that the two have "done something" with $15.5 million of federal money. It appears to have vanished into thin air.
But back to Governor Ricky and the Ricky Leaks. Although members of Governor Ricky's administration are dropping like flies, which includes the president of the House of Representatives, Carlos "Johnny" Mendez, Secretary of State, Luis G. Rivera Marín and the island's CFO, Christian Sobrino, despite petitions and several days of protests, Governor Ricky refuses to resign. Oh I neglected to mention that the Lieutenant governor, Luis Rivera Marín has also resigned.
And this isn't something that's a sudden issue.
Since 1898, when the U.S. stole the island from Spain and took over colonization of the island (whose proximity in relation to other islands in the Caribbean begs to be exploited), the U.S. has enforced a succession of what can only be described as fucked up edicts. Here are some highlights:
- The Jones Act of 1917 that granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans for the sole reason of allowing the young men to be sent off to die on the battlefields of World War I
- The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which made it impossible for Puerto Rico to carry out free and open trade with any nation besides the United States
- The bank foreclosure conspiracies of the early 20th century that drove local farmers off the land and allowed the sugar syndicates to sweep in and control everything
- Dr. Cornelius Rhoads’ (1931) extermination plan, in which he purposely infected Puerto Rican patients at San Juan’s Presbyterian Hospital with cancer cells
- Ley (Law) 53, the so-called “Gag Law” of 1948 that made it illegal for Puerto Ricans to protest our ongoing repression and exercise our First Amendment rights
- Law 23 forbade owning or displaying a Puerto Rican flag. The penalty, if caught there was a $10,000 fine (imagine this is in 1948 dollars) and 10 years in prison.
- The October 30, 1950 simultaneous uprisings in Utuado, Jayuya, San Juan, Mayagüez, Arecibo and Naranjito that brought in the National Guard, P-47 Thunderbolt bomber planes, and resulted in many in the nationalist party dead, with many more arrested.
- Governor Emmet Montgomery Reily’s 1921 English-language enforcement edict, which tried to prevent Puerto Ricans from learning or speaking the Spanish language
- The Rio Piedras Massacre of 1935
- The Ponce Massacre of 1937
- The 1941 seizure of the island of Vieques, which was used as a bombing range by the U.S. military for 60 years
- The 1978 Cerro Maravilla police ambush, massacre and FBI-led cover-up
- The 30-year torture, persecution and unjust imprisonment of legendary labor organizer and political leader Pedro Albizu Campos
- Operation Bootstrap, the forced industrialization campaign instituted in the 1950s
- The 40-year (1930-1970) eugenics / depopulation campaign that resulted in the sterilization of up to one-third of Puerto Rican women of childbearing age
At this point you might be wondering why I'm bringing up acts by the U.S. against Puerto Rico as a reason for Puerto Rico's governors and their administrations' systematic corruption. The answer is simple: how do these occur without the Puerto Rico government being complicit? How much money went into the pockets of previous governors for the U.S. to be successful fucking over the island? As it relates to present-day, although I didn't want to believe it, it's been alleged Governor Ricky and his wife "stored" electrical poles and other materials needed to restore power on the island following Maria.
Why? Because if they can't be found, they can't be used and Governor Ricky could ask for more, plus more aid money. I'm personally disgusted by how the U.S. has treated us in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Don't believe for a second Trump is telling the truth:
The number is somewhere closer to $42 billion. Governor Ricky asked for $139 billion.
Why I'm Proud of Puerto Rico for Protesting the Ricky Leaks
Many Americans and Puerto Rican diaspora living in the states are quick to point to Puerto Rico's systematic corruption as a justification for withholding funds set aside for the island.
While it's clear some of the money sent to the colony of Puerto Rico ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians (in the U.S. and Puerto Rico), to withhold future funds—in particular disaster relief funds—penalizes the people of the island, none of whom are corrupt.
That Puerto Ricans are willing to risk getting pepper sprayed, tear gassed, beaten up and bloodied by riot police to fight against the systematic and historical tyranny inflicted on them by the U.S., while whatever sitting governor is not only complicit but playing a huge role, I have googobs respect for them. I have said I'm not a fan of destroying private property, but I absolutely get why Boricua are sick and fucking tired of being exploited by both governments. I get why many have taken to the streets.
A word about protesting: people don't generally protest when a) things are going well and b) when they have something to lose. For these reasons I am so proud of the Boricua for protesting!
The Future of Puerto Rico in Light of Ricky Leaks
Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898 when they stole it from Spain. Prior to that Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain for 400 years—making Puerto Rico the oldest colony in the world. Why is Puerto Rico still a colony despite six plebiscites over the last 66 years calling for both independence and statehood?
The U.S. isn't done using Puerto Rico for what it can get out of the island. First it was sugar cane, where U.S.-owned companies worked Boricua sun up to sun down for pennies a day to work the fields. My neighbor Lino Ocasio (now 92 years old) was one such worker. He was forced to leave school at 10 to work in the fields. He said he often worked without eating all day. Now it's "economic development" (i.e. American business people coming to the island to invest, exploit and reap fortunes, doing nothing for the people of the island). The last major one left the island $74 billion in debt (which was recently restructured).
Governor Ricky and any future governors may desire statehood, it ain't gonna happen as long as there's an ounce of blood left to squeeze from the island. While those of you in the U.S. debate whether Puerto Rico should or shouldn't become a state, given the egregious acts committed by the U.S. government with a complicit and cooperating Puerto Rico government, no wonder so many on the island are still calling for independence.
The future of Puerto Rico is the same as it is now. Nothing will change. Governor Ricky won't resign. He'll get his pension and security detail for life (I imagine he'll need both since he's being asked to step down from the one and only job he's ever had) and the U.S. and Puerto Rico governments will continue fucking over the people here.
Believe me, I wish Puerto Rico were independent. I'd renounce my American citizenship in a second. If you know me, you know I make no secret about how I feel about the U.S. government and its frequent interference of governments around the world.
So while I'm not on the front lines fighting the tyranny, I support you: #RickyRenuncia and while we're at, #TrumpResign