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Jones Act is Strangling Puerto Rico

Free Puerto Rico, America’s Colony (New York Times)

The US shipping industry is putting a multi-million dollar squeeze on Puerto Rico (Business Insider)

Puerto Rico has been a US territory since 1898 when it was acquired from Spain. In 1920 the United States imposed the Merchant Marine Act (also known as Jones Act) which required any import (foreign food, goods, etc.) to enter the island in an American vessel. While foreign may directly enter the island, they must pay many import taxes which end up increasing the price of the goods by at least 100%. It is extremely rare for foreign vessels to come to the island to trade. Forcing the island to bring its goods through US companies has put a major strain in the local economy. Kind of like a monopoly, locals don't have a choice but to pay the prices for the goods brought in. The cost of living in the island is extremely high but the annual income for these United States citizens are below average. The island now is at the worst of times and more than 400,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island because they cannot afford to live there anymore. While I don't agree with the author that Puerto Rico's independence is the solution to the problem, I believe the island should be able to get aid from the United States to restructure its debt. It is time for the United States to step up and re-evaluate the Jones Act to help Puerto Rico come out of the worst economic depression in its history.
Crowley is one of the American shipping companies that imports and exports goods to/from Puerto Rico.

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Comments

  • Patricia,

    I completely agree with your opinion. While I am an advocate for globalization, it seems to be that domestic affairs are becoming an afterthought when it comes to the U.S. and its placement in the global scheme. Even though Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, one would think that the U.S. government would prioritize appropriately. We have massive poverty within the U.S. and Puerto Rico, yet we seem to aid foreign issues as if we have no problems to address within our own country. Now don't misunderstand, I am all for helping those in distress, however if we do not help ourselves first, we will not be able to lend effective aid in the future. One can not help others if they can not help themselves. In todays economy, the U.S. and Puerto Rico should come first before any foreign aid. It sounds selfish, but right now, we just do not have the resources to be the worlds protector. Maybe in the future we will, but the U.S. and its affairs are in need of a major overhaul.

  • Certainly a quite interesting review of how the Jones Act raises transportation costs between  American ports including American territories ports.  The US Virgin Islands were exempted in 1992, resulting in major decrease in shipment costs. While there have been attempts to repeal this act, such initiatives have failed at Congress, sheltering the US shipping industry from international competition. 

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