At the Margins


There are potential solutions for Puerto Rico’s recovery, but this island does have the potential to become a true “shithole.”

Granted, it is probably not presidential language to use the term “shithole,” but I for one accurately described Honduras as a “shithole” a month ago.

While this is a subjective term, it may accurately describe a national system – economic, political, social – that denigrates the human condition, that is predatory, parasitic, and base. In such nations, the authorities are merely “rats with badges” to use the Spanish expression.

In such nations, elites have squandered natural resources and done everything in their power to reinforce neo-colonial exploitation, often with backing by Washington, London, or Paris.

I lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for two years in the 1980s. A shithole among shitholes. Smoldering piles of trash, some with human bodies in the heap. People forced to bathe in gutters. A hot day in the main slum was like an illustration of Dante’s Inferno.

The life expectancy was about 38 years for men, due to extreme poverty and extreme violence. Fortunately, Haitians had the wherewithal to overthrow Baby Doc, but what came afterwards was not much better. I have not been back in years but assume some progress has been made.

Meantime, Puerto Rico cannot adequately recover from the hurricane. In part, its entirely economic profile has been weakened by its debt profile. Puerto Rico became a target of financial parasitism about a decade ago. Ideally, it should become an independent country but that seems unlikely. A colonial mentality prevails.

Within the present context, one solution is to encourage Florida-based retirement companies, along with baby-boomer retirees, to move to Puerto Rico. There could be matching funds for new construction, stimulating the arrival of workers, and looser regulations on zoning. There could be tax exemptions for US citizens willing to live their six months a year or more – whatever it takes.

Otherwise, with so many people bailing on the island (first they were bailing water, and now they are just bailing) the place will witness population collapse.

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