Statehood for Puerto Rico?

The Hill reports on the upcoming referendum in Puerto Rico on status:

The choices on the ballot: Statehood, Independence, or Status Quo. The status quo is referred to in Spanish as “Estado Associado Libre”, literally translated as “Associated Free State”.

In English we might refer to that wording as some form of autonomy. The name the governor put on the ballot for this calls it a choice on “Decolonization”, and the opposition party cried foul, saying the name spoiled the purpose.

The party of the governor is mostly based on favoring statehood. The main opposition party has been consistent in favoring the current status quo. The Independence Party has been marginal in elections for decades.

They contend that lack of statehood is a causation factor in the bankrupt status. Actually, government bankruptcies are always the fault of the intrinsic flaws of any governing power, but it is true that there are factors inherent in the current status that affect economic conditions there. One thing I was told is that there are certain rules they must abide by in matters of trade.

Another example: The pork barrel horse trading Congressmen do with budgets, where they negotiate who gets what and how much, never cuts Puerto Rico in. This is part of the bigger problem statehood advocates point out, which is that decisions are made at the federal government that Puerto Ricans must obey, but without any voice in the matter. There are U. S. maritime laws that “force Puerto Rico to import and export goods on U. S. ships”, rules that increase the prices of goods imported or exported. Federal Courts established by the U. S. Congress have jurisdiction in many matters affecting the island. When I was there, there were some in the Press that called for independent control over immigration; there were some complaints about a large number of Cubans.

Somebody should tell them that there are LOTS of Americans in the continental States that feel they don’t have a say in the rules Congress imposes on them, despite having apparent representation.

In my opinion, without knowing the details, that Mexico got a better deal with NAFTA than Puerto Rico ever had in many ways.

I met the president of the Independence Party once when I was there in 1971 and 1972, during my first few weeks on the island. As part of our preparation for missionary work in Latin America, we formed teams of two or three and traveled around the island. My group of three just happened to be in the town of Lares during a “Grito de Lares” rally. The schedule this event on the anniversary date of a brief spontaneous uprising for independence from Spain in Lares in 1868.

Ruben Barrios, who told their members in a plebiscite then, to vote for statehood. His reasoning was that the U. S. Congress would refuse statehood to Puerto Ricans, in his mind because of racism, and this would offend Puerto Ricans enough to move them to demand an immediate referendum to vote for independence.

In my mind, Puerto Ricans always voted until more recent times for the status quo as a way to postpone the decision to later, since either statehood or independence would be more permanent. Reinforcing that factor was that the standard of living was better than of most Latin America, something generally attributed to the relationship with the United States and their citizenship. The citizenship guaranteed they could migrate to greener material pastures in the United States. Which they have, and still do, in such great numbers that in the 1970s when I was there, the air fare to New York was much cheaper than the air fare to Miami, Florida.

My preference would be to see them become independent. In fact, I would like to see the creation of fifty new independent states created on the carcass of the D. C. imperial government, in the general movement for localization of government.

All that being said, I must say that I have great pleasant memories from my time there. Puerto Ricans were very generous with us, with their time, their food, their resources, and generally accommodating to us. It was a great place to learn Spanish. Spanish is still their native tongue on the island. They do have an accent that is unique to them, and yes, there are a number of anglicisms in their conversations, but it is still Spanish.

I wish them the best.


%d bloggers like this: