As featured in Edition 37, available here.
By LAURE RENAULT
Naomi Klein delivers a vivid picture of the situation in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria throughout her book “The Battle for Paradise”. She describes the awful conditions Puerto Ricans have had to face before linking it back to the overall policies enforced on the country. Her analysis connects various problems experienced by inhabitants to the failures of corporate globalisation, neoliberalism, and more generally, capitalism.
While this book offers a good basis to delve into the politics of Puerto Rico and to start unravelling the unbalanced relationship between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico, the book falls short in her failure to account for the territory’s history. She diminishes the importance of its colonial past by barely mentioning it in just one chapter and completely overlooks deeper issues related to its legal situation. Klein also completely disregards the role of its colonial past in the structuring of racial violence and erases the agency at play in handling natural events and their consequences, completely negating the responsibility of the developed countries by omitting the disproportionate effects of environmental degradation on low-income populations and indigenous communities. Even in the solutions she pushes forward such as the development of solar energy, she fails to acknowledge the exploitative relations that have left Puerto Rico as a laboratory for new technologies in its recent history.
In conclusion, while the concepts developed are pertinent for the study of our current global economy, Klein misses the mark while applying it to this particular case by negating the differences of Puerto Rico due to its past and specific political status.