Saturday, March 25, 2006

Puerto Rico: Our 51st State?

HT to Kate at Thom Hartman's blog from above link.
Let me give a quick summary and then delve into one of the links of interest...
It starts out with Kate's inspiration from a link to Puerto Ricans dealt blow in U.S. presidential vote.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against Igartua, saying the United States must amend the Constitution, or Puerto Rico must become a state before its residents can vote for president.

Next a link to When Puerto Ricans vote, they choose commonwealth:
More than five decades ago, Puerto Rico and the United States charted a bold new course by formalizing our mutually beneficial relationship. We called it commonwealth, and in a 1952 referendum, more than 80 percent of our island supported its creation. Since then, commonwealth has served both the island and U.S. mainland well, and has remained the status option of choice in subsequent plebiscites. Yet a recent report issued to the president by a White House task force not only dismissed commonwealth but also raised new questions about our future relationship.

This is to show that the current status is overwhelmingly supported by Puerto Ricans and there is some displeasure with the Presidents Task force recommendations (released on December 2005). As in:
The task force report casts doubt upon and belittles the mutually irrevocable compact between the United States and Puerto Ricans, even with the U.N.'s certification and the courts' repeated decisions to uphold Congress' right to enter into such agreements. The report questions our identity as American citizens by claiming that Puerto Ricans could have our U.S. citizenship revoked at any time, at the will of Congress. And the report ignores five decades of democratic inclusiveness, putting forth an unfair process and effectively tilting the scales in favor of a single status option. The task force advocates a two-tiered referendum designed to stack the deck unfairly in favor of statehood. The task force's actions have further divided Puerto Ricans, rather than uniting us.

It sounds overblown but these are some issues we should look at.

Just as we have become an even more prosperous commonwealth, this process will make us an even more democratic one as well. It will not only provide a fair and inclusive forum to voice our preference among all three options including commonwealth, statehood and independence, but also will allow us to dictate the process for doing so.

The time to resolve Puerto Rico's status is now. Other crucial matters require our attention and energy. For example, our thriving pharmaceutical industry, the bedrock of our economy, faces new pressures from Singapore and Ireland. As we build a Puerto Rican workforce of ''thinkers'' who will research, design and manufacture the important medicines our fellow American citizens need, we must focus our resources on education. In a world with new security concerns, we must protect ourselves from threats and serve as an important beacon in the Caribbean for the U.S. mainland. We should dream lofty dreams, but also must devote the attention needed to accomplish them.

Sounds good to me. They have similar goals of freedoms through democracy as the USA does. Time was also important in the Task force recommendations, with plebicites conducted every 2 years.

Now for some numbers to relate GDP per capita (PPP) CIA world fact book:
USA States: $41,800
Puerto Rico: $18,500
Haiti: $1,600
Dominican Republic: $6,500
Yes Haiti and DR were interesting that on the same island such disparity of income can exist.
Jamaica: $4,300
Barbados: $17,300
Guyana: $3,900
Trinidad & Tobago: $12,700
And least we not forget Cuba:
Cuba: $3,300
It would be interesting to compare how the economies of Cuba/Puerto Rico developed when both were Spanish colonies and then became territories of the USA, but they both choose different paths. And we can see what the results are so far.
And while I can't say for 100% certainty, there does show a correlation between closeness to USA and economic prosperity.
And a few numbers from Latin America:
Venezuela: $6,400
Argentina: $13,600
Brazil: $8,500
Chile: $11,300
So even Venezuelan oil does not help the country that much as compared to close relations with the USA.
An important point to make now is that every country needs to strive to get the most number of citizens above the $13,000 PPP income for the greatest happiness and stability of the country. Democratic Peace and Hapiness.

With a population of around 4 million, it has been stated they would get 6 US representatives and of course the 2 Senators. But they allowed the dillution with Alaska that had only a couple of hundred thousand and Hawaii with around a million. The legislative body would have to decide how the numbers work out. Does ending a filibuster need 60 votes? The 2/3rds fraction works out since this then requires exactly 68 senators instead of the 66 2/3 senators!

As far as the link to Puerto Rico's Decolonization, I will discuss this on the next post.

The next article brought up by Kate was: On Puerto Rico's political future
Paul Leary
. A good article but shows some biasness on the writer.
Before leaving office, President Bill Clinton established a task force to make recommendations on the future political status of Puerto Rico. In a rare gesture of continuity, President George Bush retained it with some modifications of membership and deadlines.

From Thom's thread: But it was Bush I that actually got the ball going in '93. And it was shortly before leaving office that Clinton continued on the process. So the continuity he eludes to is 3 presidents, with Clinton being the laggard.

Some further questions by me:
The citizenship factor for me has made it seem almost inevitable that statehood would be the final step. Once we granted citizenship, how could we(USA), even if it is constitutional, to disavow 4 million people their rights? Once born into this status how can it be revoked? And since any US citizen that has a child overseas can still be claimed to be a US citizen then the question will continue on even if independent nation status is obtained.

Back to the article:
But suppose statehood wins. Will a Republican Congress look kindly on the addition of about six representatives and two senators who are likely to be Democrats? What about the conservative Republican base?
Will they look favorably upon the admission of a state that is Hispanic, Spanish-speaking and poor?

My response: "I have no problem with this, except to say that English must be taught in schools. I would not expect or dictate what is the language spoke but that proficiency in English is required for High School Graduation.

And there are factions in both parties that could be prejudiced against this group. Would the blacks like the fact that they would then become a minority behind the Spanish-speaking group in one passage of a bill? We can discuss the whole civil rights movement and such but just don't count the Republicans as against this until we get more debate going in Congress."
And many in the Spanish community are starting to embrace conservative ideas with the Republicans gaining ground on this demographic group as a whole.

But one suggestion for the Virgin Island problems is that they join with PR to form one state-the more the merrier!

Per capita income for Missippi (poorest in the USA) is $24,379 (2004), which is not exactly on the same scale as I reported on PR but does look to be in the ball park for not being "Poor" as least compared to the vast majority of the world.

Before I give the link to the Presidential Task Force Report, let me show some links related to this:
Executive Order 13209--Amendment to Executive Order 13183, Establishment of the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status. 5/7/2001
Establishment of the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status December 2003

Membership of the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's StatusDecember 5, 2003
Let Puerto Rico Decide
A good site, but a little outdated on the task force report.

And now for the foix gras:
Report By the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status-PDF

Two last links of interest that Kate has brought up:
The Budget: The Big Issue In 2005
The federal budget woes are indeed bad news for Puerto Rico, which has seen an increase of about $500 million annually over the last decade. During the Calderón administration, federal funding rose by some 21 percent. Annual federal funding for the island is currently $14.6 billion.

Meanwhile, federal tax changes could slash Puerto Rico's annual rum rebate revenues by $140 million of the $382 million it currently receives. And a proposal to extend a provision that allows controlled foreign corporations to ship profits back to the United States tax-free could further hamper the island's attractiveness as a destination for industrial investment, just as a federal tax break for island subsidiaries of U.S. firms expires.

Some numbers to contemplate, but not enough to give any analysis of. But it is funny that even with "a constitutional requirement that the commonwealth government runs a balanced budget, successive PDP and NPP administrations have flouted the restriction for years."

And lastly a passage from infoplease that Kate has decided is of interest:
San Juan is one of the world's busiest cruise-ship ports, and Puerto Rico's standard of living continues to be among the highest in the Western hemisphere. Its future political status, however, remains unclear. On March 4, 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that called for binding elections in Puerto Rico to decide the island's permanent political status.

Since the 1940s, the U.S. Navy has used Vieques island as a bombing range. Protests against the exercises grew in recent years, and in a July 2001 referendum, residents of the island voted overwhelmingly to close the base. The navy withdrew from Vieques in May 2003.

For links to bills: The H.R. 4963 & S. 2304
Some interesting facts on Puerto Rico:
Welcome to Puerto Rico
Wiki:Puerto Rico


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4/25/2006 12:50 PM  
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