America’s Last Fortress: Puerto Rico’s Sovereignty, China’s Caribbean Belt and Road, and America’s National Security
America’s Last Fortress looks at the position of Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory of the United States. Mr. Odishelidze speculates that China has become increasingly interested in gaining a toe hold on the island due to its focus on the One Belt One Road infrastructure policy. This long-term investment strategy is meant to give China an unbroken trade route around the world so that it can move its goods and services without interference from other national powers. He also suggests that Puerto Ricans have been leaning more towards the idea of sovereignty than statehood during the last decade due to a complex set of issues. However, as he points out, in 2016 the United States Supreme Court ruled that Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory and as such all authority rests with the U.S. Congress. Therefore, making any attempts to clarify, adjust or change the territory’s fraught with its own set of difficulties.
Furthermore, over the years, any attempts at changes to the island’s status have been marred by local political and economic interests, large corporations enjoying significant tax benefits, local interests not inclined to give up current benefits, and concerns on the mainland about possible changes within the U.S. Congress if new seats are added. All of which has led to a somewhat sad state of affairs. One which Odishelidze argues should be addressed as much for the rights of self-determination of the population as for the national interests of the United States.
By examining the island’s past and providing accounts of his own involvement in 1998 to help create a framework for a referendum on statehood, he has provided a fascinating look not only into the issues facing this island but also into the complex nature of the political process that didn’t turn out the way he expected or anticipated. All of which goes some way into explaining the difficult road ahead. While also pointing out the hypocrisy of our government owning what is essentially a colony in the first place.
Before reading this, I have to admit that I hadn’t given the status of Puerto Rico much thought. But thanks to this book, it is something that I am now more aware of and will be following more closely in the future. Hopefully, it will interest others as well. And while I might have liked a little more evidence of China’s actual investments on the island, I do understand Mr. Odishelidze’s concerns in regards to national security. I also appreciated the congressional letters and documents he included in the appendix, which were both interesting and informative. Overall, this was something I’m glad I had the chance to read.
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