Sunday, April 09, 2006

Puerto Rico's Decolonization/Our 51st State part Two.

According to Rubén Berríos Martínez President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party "The Time is Now". Let me explore his article from the above link.
QUIETA, NON MOVERE, was the motto of the statesman Robert Walpole, who for most of the eighteenth century inspired Britain's policy toward its American colonies. The U.S. Congress for more than four decades has followed a similar don't-rock-the-boat territorial policy regarding Puerto Rico, one of the few remaining colonies in the world even after the U.N. General Assembly in 1988 declared the 1990's the "international Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism." Yet if the trends of the last half-century continue, a change in political status seems inevitable for the 3.8 million inhabitants of the Caribbean commonwealth, a U.S. possession since the Spanish-American War of 1898. If the United States remains in a state of Walpolian inertia, it may soon face a challenge to the very nature of American federalism and to its relationship with Latin America.

A nice summary showing his points of view including Colonialism on Puerto Rico. If Puerto Ricans really wanted independence, I feel, it would happen in a nanosecond. A few suicide bombers would end our relationship fast and cut them off forever. And later he again tries to say it will be bad for the US is we allow statehood to PR. The USA is big and can handle this in stride. We have willingly/unwillingly allowed 10-12 million illegal aliens to enter our country. Don't you think that we can handle 4 million that are already US citizens?

Some of the premises of the Young Bill are either fantasy or glaringly inconsistent with the legitimate interests of the United States and Puerto Rico. Unless those premises are changed, and the United States adopts a principled and rational policy while alternatives are still available, Puerto Rico is likely to opt for state hood. The Senate should be forward-looking. It should exclude outmoded colonial commonwealth as an option, address itself candidly to the consequences of statehood-which would burden the United States and preserve the economic problems of Puerto Rico while furthering its cultural assimilation-and adopt a policy that will pave the way for Puerto Rican independence.

What are the interests of PR and USA? So far it seems that it has been in both to maintain close relations/territorial status. What consequences does the author envision? And how would the USA be more burdened than it already is? He slipped in the last phrase as a cheap shot since he knows most of his fellow Puerto Ricans do not hold this view.

A statehood petition would be the direct result of U.S. Cold War policies that de facto criminalized the island's independence movement, which was supported by a majority of the Puerto Rican people until the 1940's· For the last half-century, those policies have also fostered dependence on federal welfare payments and on tax-sparing arrangements for U.S. corporate investors. In 1996 a budget-conscious Congress repealed what it called corporate welfare and began cutting back on social programs as part of welfare "reform." Puerto Ricans, once again reminded of their colonial vulnerability, have thus been induced to seek the greater federal largess that would purportedly accrue under state hood and consequent representation in Congress.

Yes many of our world views have shaped our policies toward PR. From having men for WWI combat to having naval bases in the Carribean area. But he does bring up why did the attitude change as he believes happened? Every state is somewhat vunerable to the Federal System. Take Alaska with regard to ANWR, a vast amount of Alaskans support drilling but the Federal Government has not allowed it.

The implications of statehood for a territory populated by Spanish speaking Latin Americans (and not a minority, culturally isolated or overwhelmed by a ruling majority identified with Anglo-American culture, as was the case in Texas) with a per capita income one-third that of the United States and half that of Mississippi should not be underestimated. In a Caribbean nation where half the families receive food checks under the federal Nutritional Assistance Program, "State hood is for the poor," as Carlos Romero-Barceló, now Puerto Rico's pro-statehood resident commissioner, said in 1973, was an effective slogan. But the founding fathers did not intend statehood as a ticket for a poor nation to a cornucopia of federal welfare payments. More important, it was not designed with anything like Puerto Rico in mind. It is one thing to accept individual Jamaicans or Dominicans as immigrants; it is quite another to annex entire nations like Jamaica or the Dominican Republic as states.

Sounds like he is trying to say Puerto Ricans are so backward that they don't deserve to be part of the USA. I have not come accross a definitive difference in GDP per capita, but I doubt the numbers he gave. Our founding fathers did not put much faith in the welfare system, but we have supported redistibution of income. And for a variety of reasons redistribution does occur between the states. The US has annexed entire nations or did he forget Hawaii, Alaska and the Oregon territory? Does he not know about the European Union? Where there is not a complete melting of the distinct countries, but the direction to a Federalism system has been created. Where the currency and central bank is over 25 countries. I believe our federalism system is designed for inclusion of nation states such as Puerto Rico.

The present commonwealth arrangement is an outmoded remnant of the Cold War. According to Sections 1 and 9 of the Federal Relations Act, which provided the legal framework for commonwealth in 1952, all U.S. laws enacted by Congress apply to "Puerto Rico and adjacent islands [offshore Puerto Rican municipalities] belonging to the United States," except when deemed locally inapplicable. But territory under the U.S. Constitution was never intended to be permanent, and a growing majority of Puerto Ricans repudiates the present status. In a 1952 yes-or-no referendum, 81 percent of voters backed common wealth and 19 percent opposed it. In a 1993 plebiscite sponsored by the Puerto Rican government, by contrast, the percentage for common wealth had decreased to 49 percent, while statehood had increased to 46 percent, and independence, in spite of decades of discrimination and persecution, garnered 4 percent.

Yes a growing percentage of Puerto Rican oppose the present common wealth status but the opposition to getting closer ties to the US is about the same or dwindling. That is 19% opposed common wealth status before and only 4% wanted independence. The difference in the first pole could have been some that opposed common wealth status for support of statehood. So the writer is in the minority.

As early as 1914, the Union Party, Puerto Rico's majority party, proclaimed independence as its final-status aspiration, but as U.S. participation in World War I became imminent, the United States tightened its hold on the Caribbean. It invaded Haiti in 1915 and the Dominican Republic in 1916 and formalized its will to occupy Puerto Rico permanently by unilaterally imposing U.S. citizenship through the Jones Act of 1917, over the unanimous objection of the House of Delegates. The Jones Act included some reforms, such as an elected Senate, but the fundamental disenfranchisement remained.

I would imagine if the people really felt us citizenship was "imposed" on them they could have asked to become citizens of another nation nearby like Venezuela. Even now it does not look like many Puerto Ricans want to denounce their US Citizenship status. I am sure Cuba would love a propaganda coup.

A massive anti-independence government propaganda campaign was launched. The words patria and nación (nation) were proscribed for decades. In 1948 the Puerto Rican legislature approved the infamous Ley de la Mordaza (Gag Law), a version of the 1940 Smith Act prohibiting seditious speech, under which independentistas were arrested and imprisoned for almost any reason, including reciting patriotic poetry, making speeches, and unfurling the Puerto Rican flag.

This must be the only time in history that repression of political group has nearly wiped it out and subdued it in to submission. Can you think of any other time in history this has happened? Repression of ideas usually strenthens those ideas to the extent of the repression.

After nearly 100 years of American colonial rule, Puerto Ricans remain a distinct and homogeneous Latin American nationality. Spanish is the only language of common understanding as well as of high culture, and less than one-third of the population understands English, even as a foreign language. Renowned Puerto Rican writers, painters, and other artists, heirs to a distinguished centuries-old tradition, have made significant contributions to twentieth-century Latin-American culture. Our folklore and popular arts, a rich blend of the island's Spanish, African, and Taino inheritance, and Caribbean customs and traditions contribute to our national culture, proud and defiant even under the constant threat of assimilation.

Yes I would expect them to maintain their own culture but the only thing that needs to be changed is for High School students to have a degree valid in all of the US to be able to understand (read, write and speak) english and understand the basic history of the USA.

Well a fascinating article, but I think this is enough on the subject for now.


Blogger hank_F_M said...

There are a few relevant points he misses.

There are not 3 million people of Puerto Rican descent. About half of Puerto Ricans live in continental US. This brings up many problems if Puerto Rico would opt for independence, Do these people use lose there US citizenship and become legal aliens? Would 3 million people that the PR economy cannot support be dumped back on PR? What about PR’s who have would have US citizenship because they were born in the US. What of PR’s who have effectively assimilated into continental US society, It seems from my perspective they are doing so very well And a host of others.

Of course if PR is independent the US has no obligation to provide any welfare type support. And the PR government can’t take up the slack. PR will no longer be inside the US regulatory system, thus they will lose their rights that come with being a part of the system. They would be just another foreign country with low wage workers competing with US workers and be treated as such. And a thousand other problems which the US would have no obligation to resolve in a manner favorable to PR, though there would be substantial support in the US for that.

On the other hand PR independence looks pretty in left wing political ascetics, and possibly give Rubén Berríos Martínez the prestige of being a head of state with the financial and other benefits that come with it. But as a matter of truth in advertising he should point out that at best it will divide families, and destroy the Peurto Rican economy.

Of course the question really belongs to the Puerto Rican’s to decide.

4/13/2006 7:48 PM  
Blogger Ronald Rutherford said...

Hi Hank.
How are you doing.
As far as I have read there are about 4 million on the island now and about 40% of the population has migrated to the mainland. But you are right that I did not address the status of Puerto Ricans that live in the USA. I would assume that they would keep their citizenship and decide to stay here. If we were to deny the people on the Island US citizenship then it would create an incentive to move to the mainland.

True, I want them to decide, which every indication would be that they would choose statehood. But to prevent conflicts in the US, I would also like a non-binding vote by the mainland citizens on how they feel. But ultimately congress and the president has to decide after PR makes its voice heard.

4/16/2006 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Julio said...

The truth, as a common Puerto Rican, Mr. Ruben Berrios has always missed the biggest point: Puerto Ricans have closer 'brotherly' ties to the rest of the country's people and to the country itself. He is mistaken to think that our union with the country is purely economical. That is a mistake many have made, and that is exactly why they will never really see Statehood coming. It's only a matter of time. Welcom Puerto Rico, 51st State of the Union.

12/02/2006 12:25 AM  

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