Puerto Rico and the American Commonwealth
I do not know why Democratic Party gave 55 delegates to the associated free state of Puerto Rico when only Puerto Ricans who reside inside the territorial United States can vote in the Presidential election.
But listening to Hillary's acceptance speech, I certainly know how she got the votes. She promised the Puerto Ricans - whatever their decision on Statehood might be- the right to vote, Medicare, Medicaid and other federal program. Nice going. Just promise anything.
Puerto Rico is already a huge recipient of Federal largesse while paying nothing into the US Federal treasury.
While they do pay taxes, all their taxes are paid to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
My figures are not current, but based on the figures in 2002. At that time, Puerto Rico was the third largest recipient of HUD (Federal Housing Authority) money, the second largest recipient of FEMA (Emergency management- hurricane relief) funds, and received an additional $12 billion dollars in unrestricted funds. Much of that money was simply distributed to its low income people, distributed into their checking accounts with no restrictions, no embarrassing food stamps, and no lines at the unemployment center.
All this was in return for keeping Puerto Rico safely tucked under the US flag, at the entry to the Caribbean, particularly during the wars of the last century.
I know Puerto Rico quite well, having served on the Vieques witness for four years, alongside those who were intent on stopping the use of that inhabited island as a bombing range.
Puerto Rico has a peculiar status with the United States. Taken from the Spanish during the Spanish American War in 1898, Puerto Ricans were granted United States citizenship under the Jones Act of 1917, in an appeal both to recruit more men for the armed forces and to secure land for navy and military operations.
The United States used Vieques and Culebra as bombing ranges for 6O years, practicing air and sea landings, using live ammunition, and renting out the facilities to other foreign nations who might not have a convenient little bombing range - albeit inhabited. The people of Culebra, through non violent protest and resistance, closed that island to bombing in 1979. Twenty years later, in 1999, the people of Vieques occupied the bombing range on Vieques for a year, halting all Navy bombing operations. After 1700 of us crossed into the bombing range during Navy exercises and were arrested and went to jail, the US government agreed to halt the bombing of Vieques. They also threatened to close their Navy base on the mainland, Roosevelt Roads, the largest US Navy base in the world, which they did.
The US tried an unsuccessful "conquest" of this Spanish island during the 50's. We banned the use of the Spanish language in schools. We forbad the flying of the Puerto Rican flag; The Americans started "Operation Bootstrap" which was a prelude to our building our factories along the Mexican border, in China, etc, etc, etc. Now those factories lie most of them abandoned leaving behind them all the rivers polluted. But we also introduced potable water, good and decent roads, good public housing, sound banking, the US post office, and US federal law.
Puerto Rico now has an autonomy which it would lose if it were to become a state. I think that most Puerto Ricans would be shocked at the changes. Currently, Puerto Ricans have full control over their educational system, conducted completely in Spanish. They keep all of their tax money. Only last year did Puerto Rico impose a sales tax, at a modest 6%, when it was clear that the government would not have enough money to support itself.
Hillary won the Statehood vote. But the Statehood vote has never won in Puerto Rico. Every year, the vote for independence grows stronger - up from 6% in 2001 to 20% in the last election. Commonwealth status, which they have now, always just ties with Statehood.
Puerto Rico has 500 years of Spanish history.
They do not educate their children in English. There is no English radio station. There is no American music played. They are a deeply Catholic and religious nation. They are very much opposed to the death penalty, which is imposed on them under Federal law. One can be a fully qualified attorney in Puerto Rico without speaking English. Only an attorney who wishes to practice in Federal court needs to speak English.
As a state, of course, Puerto Rico would have to comply with Federal education standards, in English, would have to pay Federal income tax, would have to completely comply with United States law.
Puerto Rico uses Dominicans for agriculture workers. Puerto Ricans will not work for $5 an hour just as Dominicans here will not work for the $10 a day which the Dominican agricultural industries pay the Haitian workers.
Unlike the rest of the Hispanic voters in the United States, Puerto Rico does not have to face the immigration issue, does not have to worry about green cards or quotas, and does not have to worry about how many times they may be allowed home. They already have the blue passport.
To my great dismay, a recent survey here in the Dominican Republic stated that 57% of the population would immigrate if they were given the chance. This is only for economic reasons and, in my opinion, a direct result of the failure of successive governments to invest in education, for without education, there is little hope of rising out of poverty.
If there were a poll taken in Haiti, I am sure the results would be closer to 80% of the people would immigrate.
So rather than talking about Statehood for Puerto Rico, perhaps what the United States might want to consider is a great Caribbean-American Commonwealth for her nearest neighbors- including the DR and Haiti, at least.
Don't misunderstand - I am not suggesting that the DR should actually lose her hard won independence - which she has had since 1868. Don’t want to turn it into a strip mall, like, well, Florida.
But.... well.... a little more help other than loans from the World Bank, etc which now has the country paying out 45 % of its tax revenues in debt service, or DR-CAFTA which puts the local agriculture at a huge disadvantage against America's agro- industries.
Both Dominicans and Haitians are enormously successful as immigrants. A report two years ago said that 60% of the second generation Dominicans in the US have completed college. Collectively, the 3 million strong Haitian diaspora sent home 1.6 billion dollars - about $535 per person in the diaspora and $200 per Haitian.
There are only 16 million people here. And this is a really really beautiful piece of land, full of fantastic beaches, great natural resources, and a wonderful climate
Plenty of room left. Huge. Much bigger than Puerto Rico. Great climate.
Nicer really than Florida since we have mountains, as well.
Florida, if one remembers, was discovered by Ponce de Leon, who was born, incidentally, here. I just walked by his house last week.
Face it, Florida is almost full.
If the US would just allow Medicare to extend to foreign doctors, to the hospitals down here--- as it does to Puerto Rico --- we could start a really BOOMING retirement and eldercare business here.
Think about it. Really.