Leadership Conference of Women Religious

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Winter 2021

Crises in Puerto Rico: US Policy and the Resilience of the People

Carmen González Arias, CDP

Puerto Rico, like other Caribbean islands, is susceptible to natural disasters caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. What is unique to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is their relationship to the United States. 

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and US policy negatively impacts its economy, politics, and culture. An example of a negative federal statute is the “The Jones Act” of 1920. The law regulates commerce in US waters and between US ports and requires that all goods transported by water be carried on ships, constructed, owned, and crewed by citizens of the United States. It prevents foreign-flagged ships from carrying cargo between the mainland and certain noncontiguous parts of the United States, such as Puerto Rico.

A study done by the University of Puerto Rico found that the Jones Act costs the island more than $500 million annually. No nation can do business with Puerto Rico directly without using US transport. This increases the costs of goods and services and cripples the island’s economy. Some US territories have been partially exempted from the antiquated, protectionist provisions of this law, but not Puerto Rico. (To continue reading download the PDF document below)


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