Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Foraker Act...Established the Grip

It was just over a year and half since the U.S. had invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and the eventual military rule had been installed that on April 2, 1900, then President, William McKinley, signed into law, the Foraker Act. The Foraker Act, sponsored by Joseph Benson Foraker, established a civil government in Puerto Rico. The governor and executive council would be chosen by the President. Of particular interest, all federal laws of the United States were to be in effect on the island.

Quite simply, the Foraker Act did nothing more than establish the grip that the U.S. would maintain on the island for years to come. Forty three years after the Foraker Act was signed, a bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Millard Tydings calling for independence for Puerto Rico. This bill was quickly defeated. Tydings, who had made an earlier introduction of an independence bill in 1936, had been a personal friend of Police Chief Francis Riggs. Riggs had been assassinated early in 1936 in retaliation for the murder of four Nationalist Party members by police. Hence, Tydings introduction of these independence bills were at the time viewed as retaliation.

The 1936 bill included immediate tariffs on products entering the U.S. from the island, lose of all federal assistance and loans and its free access to the U.S. market and a mere 4-year transitory period on the road to independence (if independence was voted upon via a yes or no referendum with independence as the only option). Not long before that, the Philippines had been given a 10 year transitory period to independence. Enough reason to see this as retaliatory, the U.S. could easily wash its hands of the bastard child and leave it crawl out of the economic morass that it had created under colonial rule.

It was quite evident then that, by defeat of the Tydings Bills, the U.S. Congress was disinterested in addressing Puerto Rico’s political status issue, independence or statehood. Hence, a constitution, Luis Muñoz Marin’s* call that Puerto Rico no longer be called a colony and the creation of a commonwealth status. A status which, to this day, is merely a cloak for the colonial dagger that is hidden beneath it.
On April 12, 1900, the U.S. Congress passed the Foraker Act.
*Luis Muñoz Marín, first elected Governor of Puerto Rico.

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