The history of Puerto Rico under the American government, should be a study in despotism, the type of which would make the old Soviet despots blush. I don’t say that lightly, nor am I unaware of the implications.
Throughout the history of Puerto Rico, its s inhabitants have initiated several movements to obtain independence for the island, first from the Spanish Empire and since then, from the United States.
Although Puerto Rico had just begun it’s experiment with self-government granted by the Spanish rulers in 1897, it’s s citizens initially greeted the transfer of governing authority from Spain to the United States in 1898, with much enthusiasm because of the promise of American democracy and expectation of economic development.
However, Puerto Ricans' dream of self-autonomy and economic opportunity, were crushed by ruthless Americans connected to government, big business and banking. By 1934, 80 percent of all the sugar cane farms in Puerto Rico and their underlying land, were owned by a U.S. banking syndicate.
As the first civilian governor of Puerto Rico, Allen used his governorship to acquire an international sugar empire and a controlling interest over the entire Puerto Rican economy, exploiting low-wage labor and later upon his return, unleashing predatory banking practices. Today, the American Sugar Refining Company is known as Domino Sugar.
Puerto Rico began to experience a level of poverty the island had never seen even during Spanish colonial times. Even Spanish was abolished in schools forcing new generations into developing the island’s distinctive Caribbean dialect and accent. Meanwhile, discontent was fermenting in the hearts of the people. Enter Pedro Albizu Campos and the nationalist movement.
Albizu Campos was the son of a mixed-race mother, who was the daughter of slaves and a Spanish-Basque father from a farming and landowning family. In 1912, Albizu Campos was awarded a scholarship to study chemistry and engineering at the University of Vermont.
He served in an African-American military unit during World War I, and eventually received an honorable discharge. He entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 1921, becoming the first Puerto Rican Harvard graduate. Having the highest grade point average in his law class, earned him the right to give the valedictorian speech at his graduation ceremony.
His fluency in six languages brought him job offers with the U.S. government, however, he rejected them and returned to Puerto Rico in 1921, in order to devote himself to the cause of Puerto Rican independence.
A powerful orator, Campos initiated a massive political organizing and education campaign for Puerto Rican self-determination. In 1932, the nationalist campaign, unable to make headway in the American controlled political system of the island, nor able to contend with increasing police repression, was targeted when two Nationalist Party members, assassinated insular police chief, Elisha Francis Riggs in 1936. The subsequent reprisal saw the leadership of the party arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy. Despite court appeals, Albizu Campos and other party leaders, were sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, in 1937. Albizu Campos’s health suffered in prison, and he was released in 1947.
In 1950, with no measurable progress due to the American grip on politics, the nationalists planned and called for armed uprisings in several cities on the island and Campos was convicted and imprisoned again. There is controversy over his medical treatment in prison as Albizu Campos’s health again exponentially deteriorated while he was in prison.
He suffered a stroke in 1956 and evidence exists that he had experienced radiation poisoning while in prison. The U.S. Department of Energy confirmed in 1994 that human radiation experimentation, had indeed been conducted on prisoners without their consent. He was pardoned once more by Governor Muñoz Marin in 1964, and he died the following April.