Russia’s Take on Puerto Rico Independence

During the Cold War, the United States and Russia used Puerto Rico and Cuba to demonstrate the value of their opposing economic and political systems. “When the cold war was going on they were like showcases for the world to see which system actually works,” Harry Franqui-Rivera of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College told The Guardian.

The Cold War is over, but Russia continues to meddle in U.S. politics, largely by working to intensify conflicts in the United States. Campaigns included efforts to persuade African-American voters to boycott the 2016 presidential election, calls for supporters of Bernie Sanders to vote for Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, and promotion of separatist movements in California and Texas.

With Puerto Rico back in political headlines, could Russia be looking for another divisive issue to exploit?

While many Americans continue to be confused about the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, the problems inherent in that relationship are recognized by other nations as a contradiction to America’s claim to be a beacon of liberty and democracy. Negotiations expert William Ury learned this during negotiations with Chechnya and Russia.

Russia has provided support to Puerto Rico’s tiny independence movement over the years, inviting activist Ramon Nenadich to an anti-globalization conference in Moscow and joining him at UN Special Committee on Decolonization meetings to argue in favor of independence for the Island.

Russian bait

Now the Russian Times, a Russian government-funded news outlet, has published an article titled, “AOC is right: Puerto Rico is a US colony and should be independent.”  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has not actually made any statement directly supporting independence for Puerto Rico, and the article doesn’t actually say that she has. Instead, it zips through lots of random facts and factoids about Puerto Rico before concluding, “There is no denying that after 120 years of US rule, Puerto Rico is in bad shape. So why not do the right thing and grant the island full independence?”

This is the closest thing in the article to an actual argument in favor of independence.

Another example is “Would Poverty-Stricken Puerto Rico Be Better Off as an Independent State?” from RealNews, which has been accused of being a Russian propaganda outlet. The headline suggests that the article will support independence for Puerto Rico, but in fact it is an interview of an economics professor. The professor seems quite ambivalent about independence and repeatedly says that there is little support for this status option. The article also discusses Venezuela and Greece.

Since many social media users may share articles without reading them, articles like these can spread quickly in social media based only on their headlines.

Are they part of a new campaign, designed for social media?

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