Puerto Rico After Bootstrap

May 28, 1971

Report Outline
Rising Economic and Social Problems
Background of Puerto Rican Politics
Puerto Rico and the Decade Ahead
Special Focus

Rising Economic and Social Problems

Buffeted by a recession on the U.S. mainland and troubled by a flareup of the old debate over status, Puerto Rico is heading for a period of economic and political stress. The rapid economic growth that the island has enjoyed for the past two decades seems to be tapering off. Tourism is declining and agriculture is in a long-term slump. Unemployment is officially recorded at 11 per cent, nearly twice the mainland rate, but reliable sources say it is probably closer to 30 per cent.

Politically, there is a growing polarization between supporters of independence and statehood. The political center, long dominated by the Popular Democratic Party, is weak and divided, trying to pull itself together before the 1972 elections. Amid political unrest, the metropolitan San Juan area has been plagued by fire-bombings of American-owned businesses and by other disturbances for more than a year. Three persons were killed and more than 60 injured in March when rioting broke out on the Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico.

Whether the political and economic deterioration is temporary, as spokesmen of the Puerto Rican government insist, or long-lasting as some others think, the situation has not gone unnoticed in Washington. On May 4, Rep. Herman Badillo (D N.Y.) told Congress that Puerto Rico needed more federal assistance in its present economic difficulties. “Puerto Rico is standing at a dangerous precipice,” said Badillo, a Puerto Rican who migrated to New York and won election to the House from his Bronx district, becoming the first native islander to gain a voting seat in Congress. “The current recession in the United States is felt as a depression in Puerto Rico …migration to New York City and other parts of the country has increased again,” Badillo said.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Puerto Rico
Oct. 23, 1998  Puerto Rico's Status
Feb. 08, 1991  Puerto Rico: The Struggle Over Status
May 28, 1971  Puerto Rico After Bootstrap
Jun. 26, 1963  Puerto Rico and the Union
Oct. 30, 1942  Problems of Puerto Rico
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean