Monday, October 17, 2016


The Puerto Rico Monitor is taking a break until November 8, 2016.

We will return then with PR election results.

Thank you.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Puerto Rico Monitor Endorses Rafael Bernabe For Governor

Puerto Rico has long been under the stranglehold of two large, corrupt political
parties, which are both in large part directly responsible for the social and econo-
mic dire straits that Puerto Rico finds itself in. The Puerto Rico Indepedence Par-
ty can no longer be seen as a viable alternative to these two parties...we need par-
ties and candidates who do not make the relationship between Puerto Rico and the
US Federal government their main reason for being. Independent "man (or woman)
on a white horse" candidates can't and won't tackle the real issues affecting middle
and working class Puerto Ricans. This is why the Puerto Rico Monitor endorses the
Working People's Party candidate Rafael Bernabe for Governor of Puerto Rico in
the 2016 election.

Dr. Bernabe's priority is to make Puerto Rico a place that works primarily for the
people who keep it running, not millionaires, industrialists, so-called investors or
corrupt machine politicians. He is the only candidate advocating for much needed
ideas like single-payer health care, a taxation system that demands fair contributi-
ons from our upper classes and economic reforms that will promote local business
over big-box-style retail and capital flight. He is also a friend of the LGBT comm-
unity and an advocate of preserving our valuable natural resources. Mr. Bernabe is
also in favor of an electoral system based on proportional representation, which
would open up our democracy to greater and more meaningful representation.

It is time to walk away from the corrupt party hacks, the hustlers, thieves and liars,
and cast a vote for the Puerto Rico that the majority sorely needs. Bernabe is not be-
holden to political party machines, donors or corporations. Regardless of your views
on Puerto Rico's political status, we encourage you take that first step by voting for
Rafael Bernabe on November 8th.

For more information, visit:

-The Editor

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lawyer Guilty of Concealing Fugitive

U.S. Attorney's Office

San Juan

Press Release

Attorney Found Guilty Of Concealing A Fugitive From Arrest, Obstruction 
Of Justice And Tampering With Judicial Proceedings

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico– Today, after a 20-day trial and two hours of deli-
berations before U.S. District Court Senior Judge Daniel R. Domínguez, sta-
te criminal defense attorney Lemuel Velilla-Reyes was found guilty of one
count of concealing a fugitive from arrest, and two counts of mail fraud, one
count of endeavoring to obstruct, influence and impede the due administrati-
on of justice, and one count of tampering with official proceedings, announc-
ed U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vé-
lez. The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Public Corruption Squad.

Velilla-Reyes was indicted on September 16, 2014, for harboring and conc-
ealing from detection a person for whose arrest a warrant had been issued
under the provisions of a law of the United States on a charge of felony. He
was later indicted, along with Wilfredo Rodríguez-Rodríguez on July 9, 2015,
on charges of mail fraud, endeavoring to obstruct, influence and impede the
due administration of justice, and tampering with official proceedings.

The facts proven at trial showed that on July 14, 2011, Velilla-Reyes repre-
sented federal fugitive Wilfredo Rodríguez- Rodríguez, aka “Fredo”, aka
“Cape”, aka “Capellán”, under the false name of “Felix Otero-Torres” on lo-
cal drug and weapon charges in state court. At that time, Wilfredo Rodrígu-
ez-Rodríguez had an outstanding arrest warrant since July 14, 2010, in fede-
ral case U.S. v. José Colón-de Jesus, et. al. Crim. No. 10-251 (JAF), where
he was listed as the fifth individual in the 110-defendant indictment for par-
ticipating as a leader in a drug trafficking conspiracy to distribute controlled
substances at the Virgilio Dávila, Las Gardenias, Brisas de Bayamón, and
Falin Torrech housing projects, and other areas within the Bayamón Muni-
cipality. Velilla-Reyes was the attorney for many of the members of the drug
trafficking organization which Rodríguez-Rodríguez was a part of, and had
legally represented him in a prior criminal state case in 2006.

In the early morning hours of July 14, 2011, Police of Puerto Rico officers
arrested Rodríguez-Rodríguez in Toa Baja while they were executing state
arrest warrants. Upon his arrest, he provided the false name of Felix Otero-
Torres, and did not provide or have on his person any identification docu-

Attorney Velilla-Reyes arrived at the police station to provide legal repres-
entation for Rodríguez-Rodríguez under the false name he had provided. Ve-
lilla-Reyes stood by while the charges against his client where filed under the
 false name. He then appeared in court during the probable cause proceedings
and falsely represented to the court that his client Felix Otero-Torres could not
recall his social security number or his full address. Velilla-Reyes requested
that bail be set without electronic monitoring and told the court he would con-
tinue to represent his client throughout all the proceedings. He also vouched
for his client’s fulfillment of pre-trial release conditions and his appearance in
court. Rodríguez-Rodríguez, who was affirmatively identified during the days
that followed, did not show up at the police station for booking and did not re-
turn to any court proceeding. Velilla-Reyes continued as the attorney of record,
but failed to appear in any of the subsequent court hearings. As a consequence
of the above actions, the bond was ordered confiscated and the bond company
had to pay $24,000.

“Our efforts to eradicate corruption in Puerto Rico’s judicial system will incl-
ude investigations and prosecutions such as this one. The actions committed
by this attorney and his effort to conceal a federal fugitive from arrest through
illegal conduct, undermined the public’s trust in the judicial system, which is
a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. A-
ttorney for the District of Puerto Rico.

“As the evidence in this case demonstrated, this defendant abused his status as
a trusted officer of the court to corrupt the judicial system, and in doing so, en-
dangered the public by setting a fugitive free,” said Douglas Leff, Special Ag-
ent in Charge of the FBI. “The FBI thanks its partners at the US Attorney's Of-
fice for their diligence in obtaining this conviction.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenifer Y. Hernández, Senior Litigation Counsel José
Ruiz Santiago and Victor O. Acevedo-Hernández were in charge of the prose-
cution of the case. The sentencing was scheduled for February 9, 2017; and the
defendant faces a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Puerto Rico News Digest For October 11, 2016


In a 2016 gubernatorial election poll conducted by the El Nuevo Día newspa-
per, New Progressive Party candidate Ricardo Rosselló has come out with a
solid 12% lead over Popular Democratic Party candidate David Bernier, with
40% for Rosselló versus 28% for Bernier. Independent candidate Alexandra
Lúgaro has obtained an unprecedented 13% in the poll, while fellow unaffili-
ated candidate Manuel Cidre reached 9%. They are followed by Puerto Rico
Independence Party standard bearer María de Lourdes Santiago with 3% and
Working People's Party nominee Rafael Bernabe with 1%. Five percent of re-
spondents stated that they are still undecided, while 1% said they will not be
voting. The poll was conducted between October 2 and 6 and surveyed a sam-
ple of 1,000 voters.


From The San Juan Daily Star:

"After three days of deliberation, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against
four defendants accused of participating in a government corruption scheme led
by former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) fundraiser Anaudi Hernández Pérez.
Sally López Martínez, former director of the Labor Development Administration,
Ivonne Falcón Nieves, former vice president of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Se-
wer Authority, Marielis Falcón Nieves, Ivonne’s sister, and Glenn Omar Rivera Pi-
zarro, a former aide in the Administrative Office of the island House of Represen-
tatives, were found guilty by a jury of six men and six women. The four were fou-
nd guilty of conspiracy to commit electronic fraud, fraud of honest service, bribery
and extortion, among other charges..."


From Caribbean Business:

"Carolina’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM) will be conducting a
full-scale emergency exercise (FSE) Thursday, Oct. 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fed-
eral Aviation Administration regulations require U.S. airports to conduct these ev-
ery three years...A release explains that the emergency exercise is to verify opera-
tions to develop effective responses by personnel through the simulation of a pass-
enger aircraft crash, specifically a Boeing 737, sponsored by United Airlines, whi-
le landing at LMM, allowing the airport to practice its emergency response proce-
dures, along with business continuity plans to restore functionality..."


From Bloomberg:

"Hedge funds holding Puerto Rico’s general-obligation bonds are asking a court to
stop the commonwealth from directing sales-tax revenue to repay other debt backed
by that money because it violates the island’s constitution. It is the first legal action
for the U.S. territory that pits general-obligation bondholders against investors of sa-
les-tax debt. Puerto Rico’s constitution states its general obligations must be repaid
before other expenses. A portion of the island’s sales-tax revenue is dedicated to re-
paying bonds, called Cofinas by their Spanish acronym..."

Monday, October 10, 2016

Five Individuals Arrested for Bank Fraud

U.S. Attorney's Office

San Juan

Press Release

SAN JUAN, P.R. – On October 5, 2016, a Federal grand jury returned a nine-
teen count indictment against five individuals for conspiracy to commit bank 
fraud, bank fraud, unlawful transfer, possession, and use of means of identifi-
cation during and in relation to an enumerated felony, and access device fraud,
announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the Dis-
trict of Puerto Rico. The investigation was led by the United States Secret Ser-

The indictment alleges that from on or about May, 2012, through on or about 
March, 2015, Frankie Ortiz-Jaime, Wilfredo Reyes-Hiche, Cesar Quiles-Perez,
 Linda Rivera-Ortiz and Javier Torres-Garay knowingly and willfully combin-
ed, conspired and agreed with each other, to execute a scheme and artifice to 
defraud and to obtain money from Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, First Bank,
and Oriental Bank which are federally insured financial institutions and to ob-
tain monies and funds owned by and under the custody and control of the fin-
ancial institutions.

As part of the conspiracy the defendants conspired to engage in deceptive con-
duct designed to fraudulently obtain monies and credit from federally insured 
financial institutions for the purchase of goods and the distribution of monies 
to the members of the conspiracy. The indictment alleges that the defendants 
would contact Telebanco Popular to request loans using the name and perso-
nal identification information of a recruit and proceed to provide false employ-
ment and income information. The recruits, aided and abetted by the other me-
mbers of the conspiracy, would submit false documentation regarding employ-
ment and income in order to obtain loans, lines of credit, and credit cards from
the financial institutions.

According to the indictment, the defendants would receive electronic transfers 
or official checks for the loan proceeds and divide the proceeds with other me-
mbers of the conspiracy. In some instances, loan proceeds and credit cards we-
re used to purchase vehicles, such as a BMW, a Raptor and Polaris. They wo-
uld also utilize the credit cards to obtain cash and make other retail purchases.

The indictment includes a forfeiture allegation of any property, constituting, 
or derived from, proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly, as a result of the 
violations such as U.S. Currency totaling $285, 270, and three vehicles.

“Sophisticated financial crimes such as this one cause painful long lasting 
loss to law abiding businesses thereby affecting our fragile economy. Prev-
ention and prosecution of crimes of this nature will remain a top priority for 
the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” said United States Attorney, Rosa Emilia Rodr-

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth A. Erbe. The 
case was investigated by the United States Secret Service.

 If convicted on charges of bank fraud, the defendants face a sentence of up 
to thirty (30) years of imprisonment. Criminal indictments are only charges 
and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and
until proven guilty.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Puerto Rico News Digest For October 7, 2016


From The San Juan Daily Star:

"Working People’s Party candidate for governor Rafael Bernabe said Wednesday
that an analysis by the consulting company Estudios Técnicos for the government
conducted in May 2016 “confi rmed that policies of reduction of public spending
would only deepen the economic crisis.” “This study confirms what we have said
for quite some time: policies of the reduction of public spending that tries to justify
the theories of ‘governmental gigantism’ only deepens the economic crisis,”  Berna-
be said. “They are unjust and counterproductive policies.” Bernabe warned that  “all
this demonstrates that the attack on public employees, be it by the reduction of work
shifts or by layoffs, affects the economy and also, therefore, private sector workers...”


As reported by El Nuevo Dia, an 18-year-old man identified as Christ Ojeda Rodrí-
guez was murdered overnight near a restaurant in the San Juan sector of  Puerto Nu-
evo. The killing happened at around 1:55 on Friday, at the intersection of Américo
Miranda and San Patricio Avenues. Police arrived after being alerted by a 911 call,
and found the victim's body with a gunshot wound to the chest. No motive or susp-
ects have been revealed so far as police investigate.


From News Is My Business:

"Puerto Rico’s medical tourism recently nabbed the international spotlight, winn-
ing the 2016 Global Accreditation Destination of the Year Award from Medical To-
urism Association (MTA) at the 9th World Medical Tourism Congress held in Wa-
shington DC last week. “We’re honored with this recognition from one of the most
important organizations in the medical tourism industry worldwide as the destinati-
on with the highest number of health care providers that have been certified under
the rigorous standards of quality and service MTA requires,” said Francisco G. Bo-
net, executive director of the Puerto Rico Medical Tourism Corporation..."


From ESPN:

"Two women's college basketball tournaments in Puerto Rico have been moved be-
cause of concerns about the Zika outbreak. The San Juan Shootout held during Tha-
nksgiving weekend will be played in Daytona, Florida. The Puerto Rico Classic will
move to Las Vegas on Dec. 19-21. "This is not an easy decision for us in light of our
decades of relationships with our Puerto Rican partners," Sport Tours president Lee
Frederick, whose company runs the events, said in a statement. "However, we under-
stand it is what the universities want at this time. The strength of our relationships in
Daytona Beach and Las Vegas has allowed us to make the changes smoothly. We look
forward to returning to San Juan in 2017 and beyond..."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Reflections on The Spanish-American War of 1898


by Brad K. Berner

Originally published Sept. 29, 2015

As fleeting images of Spanish ships exploding amidst the pall of battle 
thrilled American vaudeville audiences in the fall of 1898, it mattered
little that the ships were paper models pulled by wires across a shallow
pocket of water while the producer’s wife, coughing on her first cigare-
tte, provided the smoke of battle. “The Battle of Santiago,” a short film
produced by James S. Blackton and Albert E. Smith for $1.98, was a
smash hit, just like its topic – the Spanish-American War.

In the fall of 1898, there were good reasons for this war’s popularity; for,
without losing a single major engagement, the United States had defea-
ted Spain in a short and inexpensive war. In fact, the U.S., in less than
four months of war, had sustained only 379 combat deaths in achieving its
stated objective – the liberation of Cuba from Spanish tyranny. Furthermore,
Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico had been conquered, and Hawaii
finally annexed – all for an initial cost of around $250 million. But this self-
styled humanitarian crusade to liberate Cuba was more than just another
late 19th century imperialist war for empire. For the United States, it was
a mass media war of empire, historically conditioned by race, which thrust
her into the 20th century world arena. 

A Mass Media War

Upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American War at the end of April 1898,
vaudeville entrepreneurs, who had recently begun to insert short newsreels in-
to their shows, were confronted with an insatiable public demand which could
not be met. So, not wanting to miss the chance of profiting from America’s pa-
triotic war frenzy, they faked what could not be filmed directly, and spurious
films, such as “The Battle of Santiago,” flooded vaudeville. Veracity mattered
little as audiences flocked to vicariously participate in the war. And while the
cinematic venue of vaudeville would soon be replaced by the nickelodeon
and the movie theater, the American symbiosis of war and movies had begun.

Although the Spanish-American War was America’s first filmed war, most Am-
ericans, not having access to vaudeville’s films, eagerly read about it in Ameri-
ca’s most pervasive medium – the newspaper. And read they did, for America
of the 1890’s was a nation of newspaper readers. Recent developments such as
the linotype machine, which speeded up the printing process, and news services
such as the Associated Press, which provided fast and timely national distri-
bution, routinely supplied a mass audience which regularly consumed over 14,
000 weeklies and 1,900 dailies. Consequently, both the technology and audien-
ce existed for breaking stories to quickly become national concerns.

It was a technological certainty that soon after the outbreak of the Cuban
revolt against Spain in 1895 atrocity stories began to fill newspaper colu-
mns throughout the United States. As the war intensified and Spain was ini-
tially unable to effectively counter an insurgent hit-and-run strategy that
attacked the island’s economic infrastructure, an inhumane policy of recon-
centrating the civilian population into an 1890’s version of “strategic ham-
lets” was implemented. Conveniently ignoring the wholesale destruction cau-
sed by the insurgents, the sensationalist American press, epitomized by Wi-
lliam Randolph Hearst’s Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s World, led an increa-
sing chorus of newspaper invective against Spain. If the truth weren’t suffi-
cient, then Hearst’s and Pulitzer’s Yellow Journalism, named after the Ye-
llow Kid, a World cartoon character, would routinely fabricate battles, he-
roes, quotations and villains. 
Even though most American papers did not blindly mimic the Journal or the
World, their key location in New York City gave them an inordinate influence
in poisoning the waters of public opinion through their papers and their news
services. No clearer examples of this exist than their respective hypocritical
and fallacious coverage of the De Lôme Letter and the Maine explosion. Fac-
ts, or lack thereof, were not allowed to get in the way of a profitable story,
and the story whi-ch sold was that of Spain’s guilt. Despite their critics,
their brand of journalism reached millions of people. 

However, the influence of the yellow journals should not be overly empha-
sized; for, when Hearst later claimed the Spanish-American War to be the
Journal’s War, he was only doing what he did best – using hyperbole and
untruth to sell his paper. Contrary to Hearst’s claim, Yellow Journalism did
not cause the war. It merely sold its message to an American public eager for

In the late 1890’s Americans were living in a quickly changing society cha-
llenged by rapid industrialization and urbanization. Set against the back-
drop of the 1893 depression, trusts were fundamentally changing the way
America did business; the frontier was gone; and a vibrant populist move-
ment and free silver agitation defied the political establishment. With res-
pect to foreign affairs, the resulting upsurge in humanitarianism and aggre-
ssion became ideologically packaged in a new, expansive Manifest Destiny
with a humanitarian duty; moreover, both major political parties proved wi-
lling accomplices in fulfilling this duty, since rising domestic concerns co-
uld be expeditiously deflected into an outlet for foreign aggression – the li-
beration of Cuba. Not surprisingly, media criticism of this mission was sli-
ght and ineffective since the messenger, the correspondent and his newspa-
per, believed in their mission.

As true believers, many correspondents actively participated in the war
effort. A few, such as Richard Harding Davis and Stephen Crane, took part
in combat. Others served as spies and provided intelligence information to
the very same military authorities who, with good reason, often attempted to
censor their reporting, since classified information frequently showed up on
the front page. However, for numerous reporters, as for many newspapers
and films, distinctions between fact and falsehood, classified and unclassi-
fied, and correspondent and soldier meant little, since it was ‘their’ war, and
their mission was patriotic, popular, and profitable.

Yet, as profits soared, with newspapers quadrupling their sales, patriotism
acquired its 20th century symbols, with the coming of age of Uncle Sam and
the “Star Spangled Banner.” However, the war’s almost universal popularity
proved to be ephemeral as the humanitarian crusade to liberate Cuba unfol-
ded into the conquest of an overseas empire.         

A War of Empire

Upon hearing the news of Commodore George Dewey’s overwhelming victo-
ry at the naval battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, William McKinley, Pre-
sidentof the United States, confessing that he did not know where the Philipp-
ineIslands were within 2,000 miles, went to a globe to see where the newly
won lands were located, or so the story goes; yet, whether factually true or
not, the story accurately points out the unexpected gains of the war. Nevert-
heless, it did not take McKinley long to decide as he, within days, ordered an
American expeditionary force to the Philippines. Victory had developed its
own dynamic, or as William James so succinctly put it: “Once the excitement
of action gets loose, the taxes levied, the victories achieved...the old human
instincts will get into play with all their old strength, and the ambition
and sense of mastery which our nation has will set up new demands.” 

Like many wars, it was a war of skill – a combined Navy/Marine operation
seized and held Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, suffering minimal casualties – and
of bungling – Spain’s initial coded request for peace was delayed for four days
due to a lost cipher key. It was a war of heroism – outnumbered 10 to 1, Spa-
nish forces at the battle of El Caney held off American forces for ten hours
before succumbing, and of cowardice – the 71st New York panicked in the
face of enemy fire before San Juan Hill. But unlike many wars, it was a war
which neither of the leaders wanted nor believed would happen.

Almost from the beginning of the Cuban revolt, U.S. domestic pressure, us-
ually expressed through a plethora of congressional resolutions, effectively
demanded some sort of U.S. governmental involvement. In response, beginn-
ing with Secretary of State Richard Olney’s Note of April 4, 1896), continu-
ing on through the McKinley Administration’s instructions to its ambassador
to Spain and its final ultimatums of March 26-28, 1898, the U.S. government
offered its good offices as a mediator to bring about a negotiated solution.
However, such a solution was impossible. The insurgents would settle for no-
thing less than independence, while the Spanish government, which viewed
theCuban revolt as an internal problem caused and exacerbated by rebel su-
pporters in the United States, consistently refused U.S. offers of mediation
while demanding that the U.S. enforce its own laws to shut down Cuban in-
surgent operations in the U.S.

Unbeknownst to the American public, most members of Congress, and the
McKinley administration, there were legitimate internal reasons for Spain’s
diplomatic position. For Spain at the beginning of 1898 was a country which
had seen two decades of peace at home through a process of manipulated elec-
tions in which power peacefully alternated between the Conservatives, under
the leadership of Antonio Cánovas, and the Libe-rals, under Práxedes Mateo
Sagasta. Peace had been secured, and the monarchy under the custodianship
of Maria Cristina, the Queen Regent, remained in power. However, all was not
well for the current Sagasta government. Serious revolts in the Philippines
and Cuba had not only been costly in terms of lives, but they had brought the
country to the verge of bankruptcy; moreover, as social tensions grew, the
government felt threatened by Carlists who supported a different claimant to
the throne, Catalan and Basque regionalist movements, and radical republi-

Fully cognizant that a war with the U.S. meant inevitable defeat, Sagasta
was confronted by influential elements of the press and the military that
trumpeted Spanish valor and demanded that his government stand up to the
Yankees. Not surprisingly, his government, convinced that a diplomatic so-
lution was possible, gingerly walked through the political minefield of ever-
increasing U.S. demands for greater concessions on Cuba. Various strategies
were tried and failed. The Queen Regent appealed directly to her cousin Queen
Victoria of England for help; ineffective appeals were made to the Great Po-
wers; the Vatican briefly offered to mediate; and reforms, which included
Cuban autonomy and a proclamation of a suspension of hostilities in Cuba,
were promulgated. Nevertheless, by mid-April 1898, there was no room left
on the home front for political maneuver, for Sagasta could not agree to the
ultimate American demand – Cuban independence. Such a concession, he be-
lieved, would have brought down not only his government but quite probably
the monarchy.

While domestic politics constrained Sagasta’s ability to meet the ultimate
American demand, in the United States they forced McKinley into war. For
in the wake of the public and congressional outcry following the release of the
official U.S. report on the Maine disaster, McKinley not only sent a final ul-
timatum of Cuban independence to Spain but ignored Spain’s latest concess-
ions when he delivered his ‘War Message’ to Congress on April 11th. A mis-
nomer, McKinley’s message did not call for war, but its upshot was war as
McKinley, fearing a split in his own party, turned the issue over to a bellicose
Congress, which soon passed a resolution demanding Cuban independence and
Spain’s immediate evacuation of Cuba. Within days, shooting began and both
countries officially declared war.

Tragically, two governments which had not wanted war had been forced into
war by domestic politics, and as the religious establishments of both countries
gave their respective blessings, these governments at war had very different
aims. For Spain, it was a foregone defeat necessary to save the government
and Spanish honor; for the United States, it was a fight for victory.

Americans victories were not long in coming. On May 1st an American squa-
dron under the command of Commodore George Dewey annihilated the Spa-
nish squadron at Manila Bay. Soon, U.S. expeditionary forces were on their
way to the Philippines, and on August 13th the city of Manila was taken. Me-
anwhile, soon after Guantánamo Bay, Cuba was taken and secured by U.S.
Marines in mid-June, the Fifth Corps, under the command of Major General
William Shafter, landed in southern Cuba, fought bloody battles at El Caney
and San Juan Hill on July 1st, and, after an American fleet had destroyed Ad-
miral Pascual Cervera’s escaping squadron on July 3rd, forced the capitula-
tion of Santiago on July 17th. The American juggernaut rolled on as Ameri-
can troops under the command of Major General Nelson Miles landed in Pu-
erto Rico on July 25th, only being stopped as they overran the island by the
proclamation of an Armistice Protocol on August 12th. With the signing of
the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, a victorious U.S. acquired Cuba,
Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Sagasta’s defeated government had
managed to survive.

Throughout it all, while the world’s powers declared their neutrality and did
little due to the war’s rapidity and their own rivalries, William McKinley,
the reluctant warrior, directed the war effort through an elaborate telephone
and telegraph network established in the War Room on the second floor of
the White House. Plagued by incompetent and feuding advisors, McKinley,
acting as his own Secretary of State and making the major military decisions,
had become the first modern American Commander-in-Chief. As such, he
had to decide what to do with the newly won American empire. 

A War of Race 

When asked for his opinion on what to do with the post-war American empire,
Major General William R. Shafter, an obese and laconic man who had comm-
anded the American army in Cuba, voiced his views in no uncertain terms.
With respect to the Cubans, he stated: “Why, these people are no more fit for
self-government than gunpowder is for hell!” Later, after the outbreak of war
between Filipino nationalists and American occupation forces, he announced:
“My plan would be to disarm the natives...even if we have to kill half of them
to do it.” In an age of imperialist wars, many people agreed; for, the Spanish-
American War, like its contemporary imperialist wars for empire in Asia and
Africa, was, at its core, a racist war.

Racism was not a monopoly of the victor. Many Spaniards had effectively
used racial fears to justify Spain’s war against a Cuban insurgency which itself
had been subject to its contagion when leading insurgent politicians unsuccess-
fully attempted to remove black officers from command. Inevitably, when the
shooting stopped, many Spanish and Americans soldiers openly fraternized, for
they found common ground on one salient issue – race. Pedro López de Castillo,
a Spanish infantryman at Santiago, Cuba, openly stated this in his farewell
letter to the American forces on August 21, 1898. After embracing the Ameri-
can soldiers as valiant brothers in arms, he went on to describe the Cubans as
“the descendants of the Congos and Guineas mingled with the blood of unscru-
pulous Spaniards and of traitors and adventurers – these people are not able to
exercise or enjoy their liberty, for they will find it a burden to comply with
the laws of civilized humanity.” Many of the victors agreed and attempts were
made to draw the color line in Cuba. Significantly, López de Castillo had
neglected to mention in his letter that many of the victorious American troops
were black, and that these troops had been at the forefront of battle, earning
not a few Congressional Medals of Honor and numerous certificates of merit.
Such patriotic and valiant conduct resulted from their profound sense of duty
to their country. 

While a few African-Americans could be found either whole-heartedly suppor-
ting the war or virulently condemning it from the beginning, most, viewing it
through the historical lens of American racism, reacted with cautious optimism.
Faced with increasing segregation on the home front while serving in a segrega-
ted army on the war front, many agreed with the analysis of the editor of the
Wisconsin Weekly Advocate when he pointed out that opposition would surely
 not lessen their burden while support would at least put them “on the safe side.”
Yet, repeated protestations of loyalty and heroism in combat could not erase
the question of race, prompting even soldiers such as George W. Prioleau, the
chaplain of the 9th U.S. Cavalry (colored) to ask: “Is America any better than
Spain?” For most African-Americans the answer quickly became no as the U.S.
moved, in the aftermath of the war, to control the Philippines – an imperial
venture which moved even Booker T. Washington, a supporter of the war, into
opposition.  Just as the Philippine issue crystallized African-American opposi-
tion to the war’s results, it also produced a soul-searching debate within the
Senate as it vociferously debated the ratification of the Treaty of Paris. Once
again race was key for many. Imperialists and anti-imperialists alike used the
issue to argue for and against the treaty. Nevertheless, on February 8, 1899,
by a vote of 57-27, the Senate ratified the treaty just days after the Filipino
-American War had begun.

The issue of future empire had been decided based in part on an ugly aspect
of America’s past – race. For, in the opinions of those who believed that
Cubans, Filipinos, and Puerto Ricans were incapable of governing themselves,
in the opinions of those missionaries who felt called to bring Anglo-Saxon
Christianity to the heathens, and in the opinions of many in the McKinley admi-
nistration, it was America’s duty to take up the ‘White Man’s Burden.’ Not un-
expectedly, American soldiers, engaged in what would become a bloody three-
year war with Filipino nationalists, began to call the Filipino insurgents ‘niggers.’
The historical present – the establishment of empire – was pregnant with the
historical past.


Seventeen years later during World War I, James Blackton was once again ur-
ging Americans on to war in his film “The Battle Cry of Peace,” and most Am-
ericans remembered only the myths of a quaint little war: the Rough Riders’
gallant charge up San Juan Hill, and McKinley’s divine inspiration in deciding
to keep the Philippines. Yet, historical amnesia to the contrary, America had
crossed a historical watershed. Mass media had become technologically capa-
ble of mobilizing public opinion in an instant, and an American symbiosis of
movies and war had begun. McKinley had become the first modern American
Commander-in-Chief, and archaic weapons of war, such as the ram and the dy-
namite cruiser, disappeared to be replaced by John Holland’s submarine boat.

A fractured military command structure would soon be unified, and soldiers
such as John J. Pershing, the future commander of the American Expeditionary
Force during WWI, had received his baptism of fire along with numerous future
marine commandants, admirals and generals. Moreover, Theodore Roosevelt
would becatapulted into the Presidency, and America began her direct involve-
ment in the affairs of 20th century Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

Decades after the war, Carl Sandburg, who had briefly been a soldier in the
American army when it invaded Puerto Rico during the war, wrote of the war,
“It was a small war edging toward immense consequences.” Tragically, impor-
tant lessons emerging from such immense consequences were forgotten: Gene-
ral Nelson A. Miles’ admonitions against direct frontal assaults went unheeded
 in the ‘no man’s land’of World War I, America’s experience in its first south-
east Asian war in the Philippines vanished in the miasma of anti-communism
in Vietnam, and that wars, like the Spanish-American War, often develop their
own unforeseen dynamic. For Clio, the Muse of History, can be a fascinating
and instructive servant of the knowledgeable and a tragic and vindictive mis-
tress of the ignorant.


Brad K. Berner is Moscow-based writer and author of The Spanish-
American  War: A Documentary History with Commentaries (Far-
leigh Dickinson University Press, 2014). The preceding article served
as the introduction to that book.