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Why U.S. Statehood for Puerto Rico is Inevitable

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Puerto Rico Independence, Puerto Rico Statehood, Self-Determination, Soberanistas vs. Autonomistas, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on September 26, 2012 at 2:21 PM

THE FOLLOWING ESSAY is from ABC-CLIO‘s World Geography: Understanding a Changing World website
http://worldgeography2.abc-clio.com/

By Javier Arvelo-Cruz-Santana

Puerto Ricans have repeatedly made clear that their American citizenship is non-negotiable. Successive presidents and Congresses have elucidated their official welcome to Puerto Rico as a state if petitioned. The commitment to the union and its ideals borne out in the prolific participation of Puerto Ricans in the armed forces is a matter of record. Both major mainland political parties have enshrined their support of Puerto Rico’s right to statehood in their respective platforms. The precipitous decline in support for the “Commonwealth” has been well documented since the early 1990s.[1] The notion of an “enhanced Commonwealth” status is universally rejected by both chambers of Congress, various presidential reports, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Similarly, Puerto Ricans have rejected sovereignty through independence or free association. The original intent of the U.S. territorial status as temporary has regained its currency and recognition. Inviolable, natural American citizenship is now inextricably coupled with the Puerto Rican desire to be free and equal, and participate in their national government. In so doing, Puerto Ricans will finally control their political, economic, civic, and legal destinies.

These facts necessarily lead reasonable observers to conclude that the small-in-size, but big-in-population archipelago inevitably will become America’s 51st state.

Territorialism

Congress holds, under the U.S. Constitution’s Territorial Clause, all powers over Puerto Rico. When the first Congress established the  Northwest Ordinance (1787) to manage the first of many organized territories, it worked to design a blueprint for administering the powers derived from the Territorial Clause. In Puerto Rico’s case, a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases between 1901 and 1922, known as the Insular Cases, distorted the traditional territory-to-statehood trajectory partly for socio-cultural, religious, and ethnic reasons.

Puerto Rico still struggles with the residue of those biased distortions, mainly the Supreme Court’s concoction of the idea of unincorporated territories “appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.”[2] Before these rulings, every organized territory under the power of the federal government was understood to be on its way to statehood, as territorial status was considered temporary tutelage in republican democracy and economic development. When the residents of a territory with a large-enough population organized a republican system of government, they could petition for admission to the union and Congress would accept them as equals. Things rapidly changed when the U.S. territorial expansion that began with the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and continued with Manifest Destiny through the Mexican-American War (1848) culminated with the acquisition of Pacific and Caribbean islands after the short-lived Spanish-American War (1898). Despite these now-moot, radical decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, Puerto Rico remains an exemplary candidate for statehood. Puerto Rico will be the next state precisely because the Americans of the territory want U.S. citizenship in perpetuity and equality in benefits and responsibilities (as all free people do), and the federal government supports the goal, following Puerto Ricans’ petition.

Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States more than a century ago after the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1898)[3] with the Kingdom of Spain. After American forces landed in Guánica Bay and wrested control of the small archipelago from Spain, most Puerto Ricans welcomed the Americans not as occupiers but as liberators. That sense of liberation was buttressed by the words of General Nelson A. Miles upon the American arrival on July 25, 1898: “We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but . . . to bring you protection . . . to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our Government [emphasis added].”[4]

Despite the promises of “protection,” “prosperity,” and “immunities and blessings,” the sovereign power of Congress over Puerto Rico has remained unchanged since. Though afforded enfranchisement through limited local self-government in 1952, 3.7 million Puerto Ricans remain subordinate to laws enacted by Congress without their participation. The “Commonwealth” status, translated by island-based supporters as “Free Associated State,” is neither free, nor associated, nor a state, and cannot provide citizenship equality with full democratic rights. Puerto Rico can only attain equality through the attainment of statehood, which brings proportionate voting representation in Congress and the right to vote for electors in the presidential election. There can be no political or citizenship equality within the union without statehood.

Citizenship

Myths and lies abound about Puerto Rico’s status and are put forward with the purpose of denying equality to Puerto Rico to benefit a few who have found it politically convenient, and others who find it impermissible. Although U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are routinely linked to immigration and assimilation debates they should not be subjected to, with the intention of marginalizing island residents who are overwhelmingly Hispanic. Puerto Ricans are Americans, residing on American soil, and citizens since 1917 who have fought alongside their mainland fellow citizens. Only a small minority in Puerto Rico would readily discard U.S. citizenship for political independence, but island-based supporters of the territorial status seek to protect the status quo for narrow political and economic ends, and a majority of them would never discard their American citizenship.

Puerto Rico’s American citizenship has three unpalatable classes. Though granted statutory citizenship in 1917—meaning by act of Congress, not by the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment—Congress passed and President Harry Truman signed a law on June 27, 1952,[5] that retroactively declared all persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, to be natural-born U.S. citizens and all persons born between April 11, 1899, and January 12, 1941, to be statutory citizens of the United States as of January 13, 1941.

Thus, one can argue, there are three classes of American citizenship in Puerto Rico. Someone born before 1941 remains a statutory citizen and Congress can take that citizenship away. Comprising the second class are persons born in Puerto Rico who have natural citizenship that Congress cannot take away through law, but who reside in the island without full political rights. Finally, first-class-citizenship Puerto Ricans are those born in Puerto Rico and who for various reasons—principally economic exile—decide to relocate to a state; they enjoy full political equality as bona fide residents of the states.

A further argument can be made that yet a fourth class exists: that of the Puerto Rican unborn, whose impermanent citizenship rests in the hands of future Congresses. This is one of the embroiling differences between a U.S. state and an “unincorporated” territory.

Language & Culture

Arguments offered by opponents of statehood—in the pro-status quo Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and on the mainland—mislead the uninformed, lack foundation, and are often intellectually dishonest. Equality opponents cite Spanish as an obstacle to statehood, a position for which there is no precedent in the admission of new states. Supporters of English-only claim it would protect America’s linguistic culture. Both opponents of statehood and supporters of English-only misrepresent their intentions.

Hawai’i is an officially bilingual state. The States of Maine and Louisiana have no official language, but recognize English and French. New Mexico publishes government documents in English and Spanish. Alaska recognizes Native languages. California has official English, but recognizes eight languages for government documentation, nine languages for a commercial driver’s license, and an outstanding 32 languages for a regular driver’s license. Arizona has made English official but recognizes a variety of Native languages for elections. The States of New Mexico, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Washington promote multiple languages through “English Plus.”[6] The 2010 federal Census was made available in over 60 languages.

Puerto Rico is officially bilingual since 1902, and its constitution is written and its laws promulgated in English and Spanish. No state officially recognized English before Puerto Rico! In fact, most states with “official” English have carved out many exceptions required by statute, state constitutions, and/or the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, most state-based official English laws simply require state governments to print and promulgate their official business in English, at least.

Many states have adopted English as their official language, others have chosen not to adopt an official language, a few have recognized multiple, and one is officially bilingual. As such, choice of official language is an established states’ right. Multitudes of communities throughout the country speak languages other than English without detriment to the national or state social identity.

Opposition to Puerto Rican statehood based on sociological cohesion among island Americans conveniently overlooks that Puerto Rican self-identity is as strong as it was in 1898, and that culture is not static. Puerto Ricans pride themselves in their multicultural ancestry, and have absorbed as much American culture in the last century as they did Caribbean and Spanish culture during the 400-year-long Spanish domination.

Opponents of statehood suggest that social and cultural identity are barriers to statehood and suggest Puerto Ricans could never integrate successfully, ignoring the fact that California, Vermont, and Texas were independent countries, and Hawai’i an independent kingdom, with non-English-speaking populations before their admission as states. To pretend that their identity, culture, language, and nationhood were impediments to their successful integration belie the facts![7]

Neither language nor social identity has ever been a prerequisite for statehood. Rather, a working government and population size have, and Puerto Rico more than meets those requirements. The local economy is what Puerto Ricans have not been able to build to the fullest under the deficient, territorial “Commonwealth” status. That is a problem.

Territorial Economics

While congressional process is integral to ending territorialism in Puerto Rico, the economic promise and benefits of statehood for all Americans cannot be understated. In 2009, federal transfer payments to Puerto Rico cost mainland taxpayers over $22 billion—over $400 per household[8]—and another $11 billion in tax expenditures for mainland and foreign corporate interests on the island. Though economic advances were made after the 1950s, growth has been flat since the 1980s, and the uncertainty of the island’s territorial status is to blame. Some argue federal taxes in Puerto Rico would sink the local economy, but do not mention the disproportionately high local taxes, their effects on the economy, and most importantly the federal income tax thresholds. Once the federal income tax system is integrated, local taxes will require adjustment to rebalance taxpayer burden.

Like mainland taxpayers, Puerto Ricans participate in the federal payroll tax system, which funds Social Security and Medicare. Statehood will alleviate the public costs of inequity with an initial infusion of federal funding, which will be reciprocated to the U.S. Treasury as island-based corporations and individuals pay federal taxes after statehood.

Americans in Puerto Rico do not get their proportionate share of federal healthcare,[9] transportation, or infrastructure funding. For example, Puerto Rico gets 50% of its Medicaid funding from the federal government; if it were a state, the federal formula would award the maximum 83%. Simultaneously, Puerto Rico operates quasi-independently of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) structure with a patchwork of preferential tax treatments for various commercial interests that cost mainland taxpayers billions per year. Territorialism imposes artificial constraints on the island’s economy. With parity, Puerto Rico will be able to manage its economic future with reliability the “Commonwealth” cannot supply. Statehood will reduce the unbalanced fiscal burdens that the “Commonwealth” status forces all Americans to endure, and it will progressively produce billions for the U.S. Treasury.

Statehood for Puerto Rico will not be a burden to Americans on the island or the mainland. Besides, if it were, for justice it should be viewed as the inevitable result of a century of neglect in territorial limbo. Regardless, any “extra fiscal burden” will be short-lived because it is indisputable that territorial economies—after statehood—experience faster-than-average economic growth.[10]

If Puerto Rico had chosen statehood in 1952, instead of “Commonwealth,” by 1994 island real per capita income would have been—conservatively—at least $6,000 higher, or $13,000.[11] Nevertheless, if the island had chosen statehood in 1993, the per capita income would have increased over $8,000 by 2010 and another $15,000 by the year 2025—all in addition to the anemic growth under “Commonwealth.” In other words, if statehood had been achieved in 1994, when the real per capita income of the island territory was $7,000, by 2010 the island’s real per capita income of a little over $16,000 would have stood at about $24,000. That same year, 2010, Mississippi had a per capita income of roughly $31,000, or 93% higher than Puerto Rico’s[12]. In 2010, Mississippi would still have outranked Puerto Rico as a state, but remarkably by only 29%. This “economic opportunity gap” is the direct result of the “Commonwealth” status, sustained by its creators and defenders in the Popular Democratic Party.

‘Commonwealth’ & the PPD

“Commonwealth” status won the 1967 referendum with 60.4% of the vote, and though supporters of statehood boycotted the plebiscite, statehood garnered 39% and independence 0.6%. In 1993, “Commonwealth” won a plurality of the vote with 48.6%, statehood 46.3%, and independence 4.4%. Notably, it was the first time a majority of Puerto Ricans voted against territorial status. By 1998, the territorial option had dwindled to a 0.06% share of the vote with statehood garnering the plurality among the permanent options with 46.49%, independence with 2.5%, and independence in free association with 0.29%. “None of the Above” captured a 50.3% majority.

The pro-status quo PPD, founded in 1938, evolved from an independence party. In the lead-up to the adoption of the local constitution approved by Congress, Luis Muñoz Marín, the charismatic leader of the PPD, settled the fight between the sides that advocated statehood or independence for the island. Muñoz Marín proposed a temporary compromise—the “Commonwealth” status—through which Puerto Rico could build up its government institutions, lagging economy, and civic strength so that at a not-too-distant future, a choice could be made between statehood and independence. Muñoz Marín’s plan succeeded. In 1948, he became the island’s first popularly elected governor since Christopher Columbus claimed the island on behalf of the Spanish Empire in 1493.

Muñoz Marín served four four-year terms as governor. In that longest-of-gubernatorial-reigns, he worked to consolidate power to make his party indispensable to Puerto Ricans. From the beginning, Governor Muñoz Marín decided that the temporary “Commonwealth” status was to remain in place permanently, so the PPD began a campaign to build the arguments in favor. First, the PPD embarked on a scheme to portray the “Commonwealth” status as permanent. In fact, four years later, in 1952, when Congress allowed the island a local constitution, he lobbied Congress to name the new status the “Free Associated State of Puerto Rico,” which the Congress rejected as misleading. Having failed to garner congressional support, the governor used the English-Spanish language divide to promote the misleading title in the island. He chose the word “Commonwealth,” which in English is devoid of meaning as a political status, but once in Puerto Rico, the constitutional convention decided to use “Free Associated State” as the name for the “new” entity.

Subsequently, the PPD leadership moved to build the now-universally-rejected argument that Puerto Rico stopped being a territory of the United States under the Territorial Clause. Their argument’s central point was that Congress ceded its plenary powers over the territory. Simultaneously, dissatisfaction with the “Commonwealth” status began to simmer as the local economy stagnated. Immediately, the PPD began its now-infamous campaign of “enhancement,” which promised Puerto Ricans that the PPD would convince Congress to grant more local autonomy. Congress rejected the idea, stating that the territorial status will remain as is—no more, no less. The PPD still promises “enhanced Commonwealth” as an “acceptable solution,” while continuing to claim (erroneously at best, misleadingly at worst) that Puerto Rico has a bilateral treaty with the U.S.

To add insult to injury, the PPD now rejects any plebiscite put before the people of Puerto Rico. It is clear its leadership is content to keep a majority of Puerto Ricans under the territorial status. Surely, a minority in Puerto Rico does not have the democratic right or the moral authority to keep a majority of its compatriots under the shackles of inequality and the shadow of economic stagnation. That the “Commonwealth” status has cost Puerto Rican families thousands of dollars in economic growth is irrefutable.

Conclusion

Admission to the union does not require extraordinary constitutional measures; neither constitutional amendment nor state convention is required. Statehood merely requires petition, simple majorities in Congress, and the president’s signature on a Statehood Enabling Act. The fact is that after the original 13 colonies, Congress has admitted 37 states and has never refused a petition for statehood. Though it did temporarily ignore eight requests for admission, those states joined through the now-famous Tennessee Plan.

Puerto Ricans have contributed significantly to all facets of American national life and have served in all branches of the armed forces.  Puerto Rico’s participation in the military is one of the highest among the states, yet hundreds of thousands of island veterans do not share the equal rights enjoyed by their mainland counterparts. Unequal citizenship is the result of continued territorial status and the absence of equal representation in Congress. Puerto Ricans elect one delegate with no voting rights to the House of Representatives instead of a full, voting delegation of up to five representatives. They remain voiceless in the U.S. Senate. Without voting representation, Puerto Ricans do not have a say as to whether their sons and daughters will fight wars approved by Congress; similarly, they cannot vote for their commander-in-chief.

That Puerto Ricans have demonstrated their commitment to the United States during this longest-of-territorial-relationships is undeniable. To suggest that a lower class of citizenship is acceptable by virtue of limited self-governance must be anathema to the just principle of equity. That suggestion belongs to times in our national history when paternalism and bigotry once held that minorities desired to be led by others and had neither capacity nor yearning for political rights and empowerment. Such beliefs are unacceptable and opposed to America’s values and principles.

“Almost complete administrative autonomy,” as the PPD claims, cannot supplant full citizenship equality, for the price of being a democratically deficient colony and an economically starved society already has proven too heavy a price. The peddled notion that Puerto Rico should not concern itself with the status issue because of the “more pressing” social issues facing residents exposes the intellectual disconnect the PPD manipulates and exploits. The brain drain, crime, and continued destruction of the social fabric in Puerto Rico due to the lack of economic progress is the true threat to the very society the PPD pretends to defend through its obstruction. The fact is these problems—as serious as they are—are but acute symptoms of a chronic disease called “Commonwealth” status, which is territorial and has stagnated Puerto Rico’s economic progress to the detriment of multiple generations of American citizens. Worse, it continues to give them an uncertain future.

Justice dictates that equal rights and citizenship should not be usurped by intellectual dishonesty. Language, culture, and geography have never been prerequisites for the admission of states; rather, commitments to republican governance, democratic principles, patriotism, population size, and economic considerations have. Puerto Rico meets all those necessary requirements to become the 51st state. Absent statehood, Puerto Rico can never be equal under the U.S. Constitution and will never attain economic parity with the states. Americans in Puerto Rico deserve equal citizenship, democratic and civil rights, and a sovereign voice in their political and economic futures. Equality through statehood, now!


Notes:

[1]    To see the decline of the “Commonwealth” option’s favorability through the three status plebiscites held in Puerto Rico, visit:

1967    <http://eleccionespuertorico.org/cgi-bin/events.cgi?evento=1967>,
1993    <http://eleccionespuertorico.org/cgi-bin/events.cgi?evento=1993>,
1998    <http://eleccionespuertorico.org/cgi-bin/events.cgi?evento=1998>.

[2]    Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901) and Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922).

[3]    A Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain, U.S. Congress, 55th Cong., 3d sess., Senate Doc. No. 62, Part 1 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1899), 5-11.

[4]    Karl Stephen Herrman, A Recent Campaign in Puerto Rico by the Independent Regular Brigade under the Command of Brigadier General Schwan (Boston: E. H. Bacon, 1907), 10.

[5]    Persons Born in Puerto Rico on or After April 11, 1899. United States Code, Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter III, Part I, § 1402.

[6]    Statement of Purpose: Founding document of the English Plus Information Clearinghouse, EPIC, accessed March 18, 2012, <http://www.massenglishplus.org/mep/engplus.html>.

[7]    Of course, it would be a bit disingenuous to say California was a republic without mentioning the fact that the “Bear Republic” lasted less than a month; however, the fact that the land and many of its inhabitants pre-statehood felt and were different: they  were Californianos! In much the same fashion, the people of Texas to this day feel “American” but also strongly “Texan.”

[8]    Alexander Odishelidze and Arthur Laffer, Pay to the Order of Puerto Rico (Fairfax: Allegiance Press, 2005), 11.

[9]    Kathryn G. Allen, U.S. Insular Areas: Multiple Factors Affect Federal Health Care Funding, (Washington, D.C.: Government Accountability Office, October 2005) <http://www.gao.gov/assets /250/248141.pdf>.

[10]    Glenn P. Jenkins and J. Tomas Hexner, Puerto Rico: The Economics of Status (The Citizens Educational Foundation, 1994), 11-20.

[11]    Ibid., 18.

[12]    Personal Income and Per Capita Personal Income, by State and Region, 2006-2010, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed March 3, 2012, <http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/ spi/2011/xls/spi0311.xls>.


MLA:
“Why U.S. Statehood for Puerto Rico is Inevitable.” World Geography: Understanding a Changing World. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

Puerto Rico’s Status and Citizenship

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on July 31, 2010 at 1:34 PM
Why the Americans of Puerto Rico Want and Deserve Citizenship Equality

Here at La Chuleta Congelá’, we believe that there is but a one-way street for Puerto Rican self-determination and citizenship equality: a statehood-versus-independence plebiscite.

The Enemies of Equality in Puerto Rico must choose what it is they want as a perpetually sovereign form of government with full citizenship for the American citizens of Puerto Rico. No more can the unequal status quo be offered—enhanced or otherwise. Call it colonial or territorial; it is not equal.

The Puerto Rican people have made it clear that this is about citizenship—more specifically American citizenship. Overwhelmingly, 97 percent of Puerto Ricans consider American citizenship uncompromisable in any final status solution. The political status issue of Puerto Rico is a multiple-choice-, not an essay question.

Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment in Korea. During this particular battle against a Chinese Division, they bravely conducted what would become the last documented bayonet charge in the history of the United States Army.

The essay question is the citizenship question, which Puerto Ricans have been filling out in blood for over a century in the name of American values. “Every good citizen makes his country’s honor his own,” said Andrew Jackson, “and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defence and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.

There should be no doubt as to the sacrifice the Puerto Rican people have endured in the name of the United States of America, and, yes, the territories, and their American citizenship. The United States invaded in 1898; in 1899, the “Porto Rico Regiment” was formed. The 65th Infantry Regiment (The Borinqueneers) went on to fight valiantly and honorably from World War I and World War II to Korea and Vietnam. Puerto Ricans stood side-by-side with the U.S. throughout the Cold War with no conflict, no rebellion, no Communism, just adherence to the Borinqueneer motto Honor et Fidelitas.

Moreover, the Puerto Rican devotion for America, for Puerto Rico, has led them into every modern conflict including the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War. Puerto Ricans have fought with other Americans from all states for over a century, concurrently enjoying but the morsel of second-class citizenship.

Those who propose Puerto Rico is not good enough to join the union of American states as equal partners in the democratic endeavor our founders began, refuse to see the overwhelmingly positive evidence because it frustrates their notion of what America or Puerto Rico is supposed to be and look like, but they ignore reality and deprive themselves of the very spirit on which this great experiment of self-government was founded. Those principles are spelled out in our founding documents. The U.S. Constitution (our highest legal authority) and our Declaration of Independence (our highest moral authority) give us our soul and conscience.

We the People of the United States,” begins our soul as written in the Constitution, “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Such is the structure of our soul’s constitution; this is who Americans set out to be. The constructs of American citizenship are but the precious residue of the sweat, blood, tears, and treasury spent over the years by a great people whose conscience encapsulates that highest of American values: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While the America of the Founding Fathers did exhibit a lack of moral fortitude when it came to the true equality of American citizenship, no one can deny that their own vision of “a more perfect union” was meant as a guiding light for future generations of Americans who could—and would—correct past wrongs. “The best principles of our republic secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights,” believed Thomas Jefferson and it is in this spirit that all Americans should answer Puerto Rico’s plight.

American citizenship is not about language, or ethnicity, or economics, or even local culture (none of them found anywhere in the founding documents) though these elements of culture have peripherally affected Americans’ perception of their citizenship throughout our history. American citizenship is defined by the overarching popular principles on which this country was actually founded: collective Union, -Justice, -Tranquility, -Defense, -Welfare, and -Liberty. Necessarily, the blessings of American government are sustained by the mantra that ALL are equal in their allotment.

And for the support of this Declaration,” stated the Founders as they closed their democratic proclamation, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The four million American citizens of Puerto Rico have been deprived of their natural rights to self-determination. The nature of said rights is undisputable, and their insistence to end their 500 years of subservient government is but a Puerto Rican expression of the American values they have consecrated. To trick the Americans of Puerto Rico with political obstruction and to put before them “options” that amount to enhanced colonialism is to trick our founders and our founding principles and to cheat future generations out of the achievements of a more perfect union.

The Declaration of Independence speaks to what it means to be an American, but it also speaks of what Americans must do to rid themselves of bad governance:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

The “Commonwealth” system of government in Puerto Rico is an evil government that Puerto Ricans were tricked into back in 1952, but one they are no longer disposed to suffer. And while none of their tools for deposing this government will be in the arsenal of war, the tools that Puerto Ricans have at their disposal will prove much more morally assertive. As Mark Twain believed, “Citizenship is what makes a republic; monarchies can get along without it.”

It is time Puerto Ricans make a decision on a permanent, sovereign status option. They can choose to construct their own version of citizenship, or they can continue to expand the long course charted thus far, but what they cannot do is keep a majority of their American brothers and sisters bound to a colonial model of governance that only yields ambivalence and uncertainty from cradle to grave.

The overwhelmingly vast majority of Americans in Puerto Rico want a permanent, non-territorial status solution that protects their century-old effort in the name of American citizenship.

Puerto Ricans have earned that much.

United States Plus One

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on July 22, 2010 at 11:35 PM

How an Independent Mind Can Cut through the Fog of Puerto Rico’s Status Politics


La Chuleta recently received notice that there was some guy out there trying to do an independent project on the status issue of Puerto Rico. Apparently, he noticed that the recently passed H.R. 2499, which could result in Puerto Rican independence or statehood, did not garner the attention of the American people as much as the possible admission of a new state should. The “guy” is Craig Edwards of SolidPrinciples.com, and he set out to find out what is really going on with the status issue, and what he found was nowhere near what he had believed.

With some of the most prominent voices  (and some of the loudest) of the status issue at his disposal, Craig Edwards moves to answer some key question about Puerto Rico’s path to self-determination: 1) Have Puerto Ricans ever voted “against” statehood? 2) If not statehood or independence, then, what? 3) What happened in the 1993 and 1998 plebiscites? 4) Why was H.R. 2499 different from previous plebiscites? 5) Will Puerto Rico be Democratic or Republican? 6) What about bilingualism?

Craig Edwards’ final product does not reflect a pro-statehood or a pro-independence ideology (although there are no Independentistas in the audio); instead, what the audio reveals is an intricate lie that has survived for half a century. With Luis Dávila-Colón, one of Puerto Rico’s foremost political analysts (and a trusted voice everywhere in Puerto Rico) as the fulcrum of the status argument, calumny on Puerto Rico and what it is trying to achieve through self-determination does not stand for long.

Of course there are sides, but that does not subtract from the learning experience of the documentary. Instead, the listeners gets to make their own opinions as to what is really going on in Puerto Rico and why the territory does not seem to find “consensus” on the status question.The sides include pro-statehood supporters (i.e. Gov. Fortuño (R-PR); Res. Comm. Pierluisi (D-PR); former mayor of San Juan and fierce advocate of equality, Hernán Padilla; Kenneth McClintock, PR Sec. of State), the Enemies of Equality (i.e. PR Rep. Hector Ferrer, PPD President & House Minority Leader; US Rep. Luis Guitiérrez (D-IL); Don Soifer, Lexington Foundation; Brian Darling “Bombastic Know-Nothing“; Phylis Schlafly, Eagle Foundation), and the interviewer, the expert and the analyst (i.e. Craig Edwards, Jeffery Farrow, Luis Davila-Colon, respectively).

As noted before, there are no independence supporters on the panel, but given that this is NOT a forum for the airing out of comparisons between statehood and independence, the quality of the information gained has not been diminished one bit. Although to have been able to hear some of the Independentistas‘ rhetoric on the “Commonwealth” status would have been delightful, their absence did not translate into missed opportunities for raising very essential questions about the current status. And that mantle of chastising the Enemies of Equality at every turn fell on the pro-statehooders, and we at La Chuleta must confess that we were quite pleased with the way in which the PPD lie was, once again, cogently exposed.

The opposition, though, did not come only from the Enemies of Equality in the territory; there were two other overarching “arguments” being leveled against Puerto Rico self-determination. The first had to do with the implications of Puerto Rico’s bilingualism and the second with political composition of a state of Puerto Rico. There, the documentary makes it clear that in Puerto Rico’s status issue 90 percent of the opposition is premature or misguided, with the other 10 percent being merit-based opposition and legitimate concerns.

We hope this audio documentary provides the readers of La Chuleta Congelá’ a valuable glimpse into the very sinister actions of the PPD and the condition (political and otherwise) of the unequal American citizens of Puerto Rico.

 

—–

 

Listen to The United States Plus One: The Prospects of Puerto Rico as the 51st State (by Craig Edwards @ SolidPrinciples.com).

 

 

Puerto Rico’s Linguistic Culture Is An American Tradition

In Enemies of Equality, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth", Self-Determination, Commentary and Analysis, Citizenship Equality, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Puerto Rico, Tennessee Plan, H.R. 2499 on July 10, 2010 at 11:49 PM
Why Opponents of Equality Will Not Succeed in Derailing Puerto Rican Self-Determination

 

Puerto Rico as a state would have a Tenth Amendment right to keep English AND Spanish as both of its official languages. Any notion to  the contrary is a change of the statehood rules in mid-game.

If you, as so many Americans do, support English as the official language of the United States of America then get  in line in your particular state and lobby to have that state recognize the lingua franca as its official language–as 30 other states have done. That’s what federalism is all about, but to pretend that Puerto Rico is the Quebec of the United States after 112-years of active participation in the American armed forces, or that its prospects of bilingualism as a state would undermine the very foundation of American culture with roughly two-thirds of this country being former foreign lands, or that only with an English-only Puerto Rico can American culture be safe from the vandals of multiculturalism even as every government body and private industry across the land moves toward bilingualism is an obsence affront to the very principles and culture for which these so-called defenders of American culture are fighting for.

There is a variety of national organizations that promote the concept of English as the official language of the United States, which is an exercise of their consitutional rights under the First Amendment. Further, as American organizations and individual citizens, they also have a stake in Puerto Rico’s status–but that is where the two topics’ connection ends!

Those same organizations do not have a constitutional right to undermine the full capacity of the people of Puerto Rico to run their state as they so wish, and that would be their Tenth Amendment right. Puerto Rico’s unique culture is not some  homogenous, static “thing” that can be controlled (and that much can be said about the broader American culture); in fact, those who champion one or the other, in Puerto Rico or the mainland, live under an illusion of the highest magnitude.

To pretend that American culture has not permeated every nook and cranny of Puerto Rico’s own local customs carries the same harsh penalties of ignorance that would be leveled upon anybody in the mainland who tried to deny those same permeating qualities of culture that have created our unique American style.

To be sure, those organizations that promote official English claim to be protecting American values and the overall linguistic culture by opposing a bilingual state like Puerto Rico (or Hawaii or New Mexico), but they are more than happy to have a bilingual colony. That, to them, presents no problem of conscience. No blemish on the American fabric of freedom, just the spoils of war and the bad luck of Puerto Rico for having been claimed by the Spanish Empire rather than the English 500 years ago.

Let us remember that it was not Puerto Rico who invaded the U.S. in 1898. As history tells it, it was the American flag that came to Puerto Rico after over 400 years of Spanish language dominance and the Americans knew it. And if we follow the invading American general’s (Gen. Nelson A. Miles) remarks, it sounded like the Americans were in Puerto Rico to stay:

“We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but . . . to bring you protection . . . to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our Government.”

In addition, America’s private industry–which nobody can deny wields extraordinary power in defining our American culture–trips over itself to throw money at Hispanics in the United States. They are willing to print every advertisement slogan in both English and Spanish, and whatever other languages the bottom line requires. But we do not see Official English organizations picketting private businesses. In that instance, then, the stains on their American culture and its “distortions” are the price of doing business, right? Somehow, though, citizenship equality, equal enfranchisement for all Americans, and equal opportunity for the people of Puerto Rico like the peoples North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, California, Vermont, Utah, and all the other states, each unique, have is not as important to these organizations.

The acceptance of new states into our Union has depended not on cultural proselytizing but on cultural assimilation. Assimilation, though, does not mean the absorption of a small- into a large culture; it is, rather, an amalgamation of both, with the largest, of course, defining the relationship. Indeed Puerto Rico’s qualifications for statehood–when held before the record of history–look as good as all of its 37 predecessors. That same record tells us that there are three basic, tradition-based requirements: population size, republican form of government, and a territorial majority for statehood. Period!

Any attempt to throw the non-germane issue of language should be viewed as simply more attempts to derail the status question and keep four million American citizens unequal–democratically and economically.

Former Colonial Governor Hernandez-Colon’s ‘Quicksand’ Argument

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on July 8, 2010 at 11:44 PM
The Spaniard’s Puffery in Support of a Constitutional Convention on Status

 

Former Governor Rafael Hernández-Colón’s last two columns on CaribbeanBusinessPR.com (see Part I; see Part II) show that the Spaniard has shifted his focus beyond H.R. 2499 because it is obvious that the colonial status party, the PPD Commonwealthers, have succeeded once again in derailing the process towards self-determination by attacking the possibility of statehood and refusing to define what their sovereign solution for Puerto Rico is.

Hernández-Colón’s two-part column begins by highlighting two questions on a CaribbeanBusiness-Gaither poll:

1. How important is it to resolve Puerto Rico’s territorial status?

2. What is Puerto Rico’s principal problem?

On the first question, the poll shows that 70 percent say it is important or very important to resolve the status issue. The governor also points to the 60 percent who think it is “urgent,” while simultaneously saying these figures have not changed in the past five years. Further, on the second question, the poll shows that less than 1 in 10 persons believe the status issue is “a principal problem,” bested by homicides, healthcare, and the economy. Now, there are natural questions that arise in view of these paradoxically tantalizing poll answers, and the former governor has his.

Hernández-Colón uses these ostensibly opposed answers to validate his belief that Puerto Ricans do not wake up in the morning “fearing or feeling oppression from the chains of colonialism as the ideological status junkies would have us believe.”

His conclusion is that “Puerto Ricans are not upset at the functionality of the (territorial) Commonwealth” but at the “ongoing conflict between varied aspirations of the Puerto Rican people as to the ultimate political destiny of the island,” which the governor qualifies as a “governing problem.” (All emphasis added)

The one thing the former governor has right is that Puerto Rico’s current territorial status is NOT the pinnacle of Puerto Rican sovereignty he and his party have sold to Puerto Ricans for almost 60 years.  It is the very “functionality” (or lack thereof) of the territorial structure known as the “Commonwealth” that the people of Puerto Rico do feel everyday of their lives and the consequences of such an uncertain, impotent mechanism.

As for the “ongoing conflict between varied aspirations,” let us not kid ourselves, governor, we all know that in Puerto Rico the real “fight” for status is between those who believe Puerto Rico should be sovereign through statehood and those of you who believe the current territorial, unequal “Commonwealth” status is just fine. Only less than 5 percent of Puerto Ricans want sovereignty for Puerto Rico through independence, but at least they have a real, constitutional option out there for the Puerto Rican people and they can vote for it if they so wish.

But Hernández-Colón and the PPD do not care about ending the current territorial status–they want to “enhance” it. Lipstick for that pig, anybody?

The “lipstick” in this case is a Constitutional Convention on Status. The foundation for his argument is that “status resolution devolves through a fatal political quicksand that requires more than a one-shot deal plebiscite expression to bring the matter to fruition” because (as he shockingly admits) “the losing parties will mount an all-out campaign–to them a matter of political life or death–to defeat the will of the people.”

This last comment on “losing parties” is not some sort of premonition or academic conclusion, as the governor attempts to portray it, but, instead, it is a page out of the PPD’s dirty playbook. The latest occasion for its deployment being the assault on Res. Comm. Pedro Pierluisi’s H.R. 2499, which sought to end the current unequal and subservient status of Puerto Rico. And it worked! It worked so well that it “defeated the will of the people” before they had a chance to express it. Brilliant! (see Foxx Amendment)

So, to recapitulate the governor’s stand, 1) direct democratic plebiscites are the wrong way to go; 2) losing parties will defeat the will of the people; 3) there is nothing wrong with unequal democratic and civil rights; and 4) we should enhance the very structure that supports the unequal status, even though this idea does not have the support of a majority of Puerto Ricans. Mix well, look up, look down, clap once, propose a Constitutional Convention on Status and Presto!

Rafael Hernández-Colón erroneously concludes that because past plebiscites have not worked to produce a clear choice from the Puerto Rican electorate it is time to move beyond the direct will of the people and on to a yet-to-be-described big “C” convention. Hernández-Colón has already told us that past and future plebiscites will not work because those who stand to lose will do anything to subvert the will of the people. When it comes to past plebiscites–the same plebiscites the enemies of equality claim are repudiations of statehood–what the former governor fails to mention is that all have been riddled with innocuous obstacles placed there by the party that stands to lose the most: Mr. Hernández-Colón’s PPD.

“In status politics,” Rafael Hernández-Colón believes, “anything goes.”

And he means it!

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