Puerto Rico- Its political history and future
Recent events since the election of Sila Caulderón as the governor have combined with the campaign to divide island loyalty to the U.S. over a badly mis-perceived series of claims about health issues in Vieques, to cause major shifting in Washington.
Although almost all of the health claims have been both discredited or withdrawn, the 'civil disobedience' that has been encouraged has provided an opportunity for many foreigners to intervene for their own purposes.
Read here to see how these issues were perceived 25 years ago by a local speaker to the Rotary Club of San Juan, and then see how current events show why the issues will not go away without Congress paying attention.
What’s New about the status issue in P.R.?
The ‘Mainland’ perspective has been around for a long time.
Few have expressed it any better than did Garry Hoyt an advertising agency executive, who had Iived in Puerto Rico for 24 years and occasionally commented on local problems. The following article is a transcription of a speech delivered in 1977 before the San Juan Rotary Club. Here is what he had to say:
Through a series of diplomatic pressures the United States recently succeeded in blocking moves at the United Nations to declare Puerto Rico a colony, thus momentarily sparing official worldwide embarrassment. But this was much less a permanent victory than a temporary evasion of the inevitable. Cuba is bound to bring the question up again and again. We can of course leap up and down in righteous indignation over Cuba’s lack of democratic credentials as a critic. And we can take refuge in Puerto Rico’s voted preference for its present status. Or we can dispassionately review the historical facts.
Which are that Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony which became a U.S. colony, by conquest, in 1898. For years it was ruled exclusively by long distance, largely for long distance American interests. When the United States eventually conferred U.S. citizenship on Puerto Ricans in 1917, it was by American decree rather than by Puerto Rican choice. Democratic modifications were gradually made, and Puerto Ricans now elect their own governor and legislature, but the fact remains that all the vital decisions are still made in Washington, where Puerto Rico has no vote, nor any vote for those who do vote.
By historically accepted terms, this is clearly a colonial situation. It has only escaped majority Puerto Rican condemnation as such because, unnoticed by most, Puerto Rico has gradually succeeded in becoming the first colony to effectively exploit the colonizer. In this neat reversal, the nature of the colonial condition is not altered—but the flow of benefits is.
Traditionally the colonizer exploits the colony by either extracting large quantities of natural resources, or imposing onerous trade agreements. The former abuse is not possible in Puerto Rico for the simple reason that there are no significant natural resources on the island, and in fact, the chief resource leaving Puerto Rico has been the excess of its population. This has been a useful safety valve for Puerto Rico because one third of the island’s overcrowded population also the lowest income group was simply transferred to the United States economy. No colony ever managed that before.
As a market Puerto Rico is unquestionably a very lucrative one for many United States and international companies. It cannot accurately be described as a captive U.S. market since the largest dollars outlays from Puerto Rico go to Arabian and Venezuelan oil interests. Japanese and European automobile manufacturers control substantial portions of the car market, and the same could be said of radio, television sets, watches, and other high-priced durable goods.
The area where American companies most dominate is in the vital category of food, and Puerto Rico imports virtually its entire food supply. However, there are only three countries in the world who are major food exporters —United States, Canada, and Australia—so the choice of food suppliers is rather limited for Puerto Rico. U.S. food comes here for basically the same reason that communist Russia ends up buying capitalist wheat from the United States— because they are the best available source, and even an independent Puerto Rico would still have to buy food from the United States.
A costly penalty of U.S. monopoly is the shipping regulations, which force the use of U.S bottoms and prohibits the use of cheaper foreign ships. But while it may make good revolutionary copy to complain about the million of dollars of profits being earned by the U.S.A. on sales to Puerto Rico, the fact remains that Puerto Rico has to buy goods from somebody, and nobody including Russia is going to sell here without profits, because International business doesn’t work that way. In short, the dominance of American goods in Puerto Rico is more a function of geography and American’s great material wealth than of any restrictive trade policies.
Objectively speaking, the most exploited party in the present relationship is the United States taxpayer who annually puts over $3 billion in federal aid in support of a special taxpayer category of U.S. citizenship in Puerto Rico. These $3 billion equate to a $1,000 annual subsidy, for each person in Puerto Rico, and there is no colony in the history of the world which has ever received benefits of that magnitude.
However, my sympathy is not for the U.S. taxpayer, who can afford to provide this generosity to Puerto Rico —but for the island itself which can no longer afford to receive it. The massive American aid that now sustains Puerto Rico has disoriented the will to work, and affixed in its place the kind of fateful addiction that insulates against one’s awareness of his own deterioration.
“Like the diet prescribed by doctors which neither restores the strength of the patient, nor allows him to succumb —so these doles you are distributing neither suffice to insure your safety, nor allow you to remove them and try something else.” Spoken over 2,000 years ago in 320 B.C. by the Greek Demosthenes, it would be hard to find a more succinct summary of Puerto Rico’s dilemma today. Eerie—but perhaps reassuring as evidence that what we face is no modern mystery, but merely a reprise of a very old problem.
And so we need —not some complex- modern solution but rather the application of historical perspectives and common sense.
First off we must recognize that Puerto Rico’s preference for the existing commonwealth status, which was registered in the 1967 plebiscite —does not constitute valid current proof that the island is not a colony. A cynic would say that, on the contrary, this is merely evidence that the United States has poured in enough money to cushion the inherent indignity to the colonial relationship. Whatever the case, the confusion cannot logically be laid to Puerto Rico because Puerto Rico has always been the smaller, poorer, and essentially powerless partner. So, if Puerto Rico has pursued the available alternatives to its best advantages and voted along like lines —that is entirely natural and so would anyone else in similar circumstances.
Probably the best word to characterize the U.S. attitudes and actions towards Puerto Rico is “carelessness.” The 80 year relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico has been a chronicle of American carelessness. The U.S. was careless in the acquisition of the island, careless in its maintenance, and is now being careless in its most critical moment of decision.
I realize that careless may seem a harsh way to describe $3 billion of annual aid. But I mean careless in the sense of not careful and not caring —and it Is this carelessness that both fits —and foils- billions of dollars of U.S. generosity. “Fund it and forget it” is what passes for a Federal policy on Puerto Rico.
Like the whole welfare mess in the United States the solution is regrettably not simple. In fact, the scope and depth of the dependence syndrome in Puerto Rico goes far beyond any parallel with the problem in the United States. In the States we are talking about an unemployment figure of 6 to 8 percent. So no matter what the ills of the welfare system there, the great majority of people still works, produces, provides the money for welfare, and worries about how its tax dollars are spent.
In Puerto Rico the official unemployment figure is 21 percent, and the actual figure is probably well over 30 percent. An estimated 70 percent of the population is on federal food stamps. So welfare is the rule, not the exception, and therefore there is no real social pressure against it. ‘Since all the money for this welfare comes from the United States and none from Puerto Rico, there is no factor of public indignation here against more welfare —because it does not cost anybody here anything. Thus the politicians in Puerto Rico fall all over themselves promising that they can get more dollars from the United States than their opponents, because dollars wheedled out of Washington amount to tax benefits without taxes —a politician’s dream.
Worst of all, people here have begun to think of a steady diet of American aid as their due, their right —without any sense of compensating contribution. One can readily concede that every society has an obligation to take care of ifs own, within a framework whereby those citizens who can afford to, provide for those that cannot. But in Puerto Rico we “have a separate society being provided for by an American society to which it neither contributes financially nor belongs emotionally.
So we arrive at the heart of the dilemma the commonwealth status. Under Commonwealth, Puerto Rico presently suffers a schizoid cleavage between ever growing financial dependence on the U.S.A., and smoldering emotional aspirations as a separate people. This situation can be directly attributed to the philosophy of the commonwealth status under which Puerto Rico has operated for the past 25 years. Indeed it can fairly be said that keeping alive the emotional aspirations of separation became one of the unstated purposes behind commonwealth. The early expectation was that, under commonwealth, financial independence could be built up to match and eventually join the emotional independence that was being preserved and fostered. What has happened is exactly the opposite — and the financial dependence that failed now operates at painful odds with the emotional independence that succeeded.
Commonwealth status was a product of the political genius of Luis Munoz Marín — Puerto Rico’s first elected governor. Muñoz’s self confessed personal preference for independence could not be squared with the reality of the severe economic hardships that independence would have initially involved for the people of Puerto Rico. So in a brilliant improvisation he fashioned commonwealth status, an expediency which enabled Puerto Rico to continue an emotional course of separate Latin identity, while receiving all the benefits of the U.S. citizenship, with none of the financial obligations. In a quick marriage of economic convenience, cheaper wages were matched with total tax exemption, and many U.S. Industries came to the island. New jobs were created, Puerto Rico began earning the highest per capital income in Latin America, and was christened a “showcase of democracy.”
Actually Munoz ran a form of enlightened dictatorship, where he had total control of the Legislature, which did exactly as he wished and nothing he did not wish, the investment climate, the labor climate, and the political climate were, with the voted consent of the people, very carefully directed and controlled with excellent effects.
What Munoz could not foresee, was that commonwealth’s ambivalence would, with changing times and in the hands of men of less intelligence and less integrity, become an increasingly divisive contradiction. Unfortunately this is precisely what has occurred.
In the post Munoz era, labor unions moved quickly to bring wages’ up to the U.S. level, unmindful of the crippling effects ~ Puerto Rico’s vital need to maintain some competitive advantages in order to attract steady stream of new investment to provide new jobs for a growing population.
Most damaging, the uncontrolled local Legislature outdid itself in the passing of an ever-expanding program of fringe benefits, which steadily contributed to a higher cost of production, versus a static productivity. The result was less and less industry coming to Puerto Rico and ever more industry leaving.
Meanwhile Puerto Rico’s intellelectual community, traditionally strongly in favor of independence, retrenched in the Public and university educational systems. The effect was a constant educational reassertion of Puerto Rico’s separate identity, accompanied by a steady downgrading of the instruction of English language and American history. The acquiring of American ways was contemptuously labeled “assimilation” and given a social value somewhere between sellout and leprosy. The artistic community also tended to strongly favor independence, and so the independence cause was continuous romanticized in popular song and drama.
To understand the significance of all this, we have to remember that none of us — French, Russian, American, or whatever — are born to patriotism. We are raised to it by the influence of parents, teachers, and the society around us. In a very real sense we feel what we are taught to feel; and Puerto Ricans were taught to feel Puerto Rican just as surely as Americans on the mainland were taught to feel American, On the face of it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Puerto Ricans feeling Puerto Rican, and many would consider that the proper course. Except for the nagging fact that Puerto Ricans are supposed to be American citizens qualified to be treated like every other American. Yet they are obviously not the same because they neither feel the same, nor speak the same language, nor revere the same history, nor pay the same taxes.
A particularly unfortunate by-product of Puerto Rico’s educational preoccupation with the development of non-Americans has been the development of a generation of non students. Because in addition to not learning English, a whole public school generation here has also not properly learned mathematics, science, history, or even Spanish — the defense of which was the original justification for the whole disastrous detour.
The blame for this disheartening dichotomy again has to be laid to American carelessness, which by financing and toleration has encouraged it to develop over a long period of years. Some might say it was liberal and sensitive of the United States to allow Puerto Rico to preserve its own identity in this fashion. In my own view it is a questionable liberality that encourages the development of separate identity on one hand, while inducing educational deficiencies and financial dependence with the other. This is akin to teaching a person to stand up in order to later force him to kneel. l believe that the hands off attitude of the U.S.A. ‘towards the education of its Puerto Rican branch of American citizenry is no more admirable than a parent who refuses to get actively involved in the upbringing of his children — sends loads of money, and then cannot understand why the kid doesn’t really like them, can’t get a job, and hasn’t turned out quite the way they would wish.
But right or wrong that is the situation we have today. Spanish-speaking Puerto Rico, technically part of the United States, remains emotionally alien. And its American oriented economy has now gone sour because wage.’ and legislated fringe benefits have risen to the point that, even with tax exemption, the island no longer represents an attractive investment opportunity for labor intensive manufacturing. In short, the United States has managed the questionable accomplishment of inducing American habits of consumption, without bothering to establish American levels of education or production—and filling that gap now requires ever increasing amounts of American aid.
To Puerto Rico’s understandable confusion President Carter’s response to this complex situation is to say in effect: “If Puerto Rio ‘wants independence, we will support it. If Puerto wants commonwealth, we will support it: and if Puerto Rico wants statehood, we will support it.” This apparent reasonableness amounts to favoring gesture over substance, and is once again — carelessly in complete. Obviously, Puerto Rico must make its own choice, but to do that intelligently, Puerto Ricans must understand what is involved in those choices.
-For once the United States should not sit on the sidelines, but rather should step up and clearly spell out for the Puerto Rica people how it proposes to handle each of the possible alternatives.. Because how the U.S. will handle them has a great deal to do with the viability, and hence the desirability of any status.
For example, the cause of independence is generally discredited, not so much because of a lack of popular appeal here —but because it is generally assumed that independence would mean the disappearance of aid, industry, free enterprise, law, order, and democratic rights. On this basis, independence never gets more than 6 percent of the votes. Yet to my way of thinking this is unfairly stacking the cards against the independence cause, and this defeats the purpose of any plebiscite —which is to find out how the people of Puerto Rico really think. Obviously if independence is perceived to mean financial ruin, none but a few fanatics will vote for it, even though many might want it. For independence to be a possible alternative, the United States must establish terms that could make it possible.
The United States should specify its willingness to treat a voted preference for independence with the following plan —and then delineate how an orderly transfer of power to a properly elected, independent government would be handled. Such a plan would have to contain generous provisions of continued aid if we have any interest in a stable and friendly Puerto Rico. Hell, we’ve given aid to everyone else in the world, including aggressive foes —why should we contemplate denying it to a people that have helped fight our wars, have been steady friends, and in purely commercial terms are excellent customers.
Surely in the light of American history we cannot oppose independence on grounds of principle. And the fact that the independence cause here is closely tied in with socialism is also the source of a lot of unnecessary hysteria. After all, we are looking at the very real prospect that both France and Italy will soon elect socialist governments, and I don’t hear anyone proposing that we begin considering them as enemies.- In the same vein we are now seriously attempting to reopen relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba —which is a total socialistic dictatorship. So what is the logical basis for assuming that United States should vigorously oppose the long —range prospect of an independent -or even socialistic Puerto Rico- if indeed that proves to be the free will of an informed people? A number of business interests, including my own, would stand to suffer by a move to independence. But this is an instance of national destiny where business interest alone cannot be allowed to dictate the course.
The terms and conditions of statehood should also ‘be clearly explained by the U.S.A. to Puerto Rico. Statehood must not be presented as merely a means of getting more U.S. funds, because that is a deceptive and degrading motive that only assures future disenchantment. The U.S.A. should understand that in Puerto Rico today there is wide concern that statehood would involve a loss of language and identity. Naturally these fears are fanned to outsize proportions by those who oppose closer ties. One can point out numerous examples of third and fourth generation families in the U.S.A. who in the home still speak the language of their original home country as examples of the truth that your culture is as secure as you want to make it. One can point out to the nearby island of St. Croix, where large numbers of Puerto Ricans have for years compatibly adopted English as the common language, while retaining full ability in Spanish. And finally one can point to the revealing fact that the attacks on English instruction are invariably led by those who themselves already speak English. Thus, independence leader Ruben Berrios can be educated at Harvard and Cambridge, with no apparent damage to his identity —and yet return to the island to insist that English instruction is dangerous to the culture of the “common people”. The transparent absurdity of this argument has not stopped it from gaining great credence here.
But it is also untrue and unworthy to, say that there is no “change” in becoming an American —because that means that there then is nothing to “being” an American. There is a price to everything worth having, and the first step to being an American has to be to want to be an American.
The plain fact is that most Puerto Ricans today have been taught to think of themselves as Puerto Ricans first, and American second —if at all. I make no moral judgment on that, except to note that this is a highly unusual approach to U.S. citizenship. I believe that the 200 million ordinary American citizens who are footing the bill in Puerto Rico have a right to ask: “If you don’t want to be American —why should you continue to be an American citizen?” If the only condition for U.S. citizenship Is a desire to preserve one’s own national identity and to participate In U.S. funds, why half the world would want to be U.S. citizens.
The unique strength of America is that it is composed of a wide variety of races and heritages which have contributed their back grounds to a whole that is the richer for its diversity. No one asked the Greeks, or the Germans, or the Irish, or the Italians, or the Jews, to officially renounce their proud heritages when they came to America —but it was understood and expected that they were to realign their loyalties within a primary allegiance to the United States. Indeed, so it is with any citizenship in any country. As a result, the United States is now composed of at mix of people who were born there —and raised to feel American —plus those who came there and worked to become Americans—all united by a common language, a common sense of identity, and a common desire to be an American.
Separate from this regular U.S. citizenship we have the Puerto Rican variety who are raised not to feel American, are not effectively taught English, have no financial responsibilities to the U.S., and are not involved’ in U.S. elections. I believe this separate policy is painfully inconsistent with any permanent relationship with the U.S. that is to be based on equal citizenship. As we surely must have learned, separate cannot be equal.
What then about commonwealth? There is no question that commonwealth status is still popular with a large number of Puerto - cans. This is not hard to understand because commonwealth essentially means getting everything that U.S. citizenship has to offer, without giving up, or putting up, anything of your own. Who wouldn’t go for a deal like that? It is the original “have your cake and eat it too” formula.
Granted, the fact commonwealth happens to be a very easy deal for Puerto Rico is not necessarily grounds for its disqualification by the, U.S.A. And as long as commonwealth seemed to provide the key to economic development, there was strong temptation to overlook its philosophical discrepancies. But Puerto Rico has continuously had commonwealth for 25 years and it must now be starkly clear that even its economic justifications are largely discredited. Those who argue that the answer is more autonomy for commonwealth are merely asking,to widen the gap that is tearing Puerto Rico apart: The cleavage that commonwealth has already caused will be exaggerated —not solved— by more autonomy.
Let us turn to historical principle. Can we honestly imagine that the framers of the American Constitution conceived a special class of U.S. citizen who were to pay no taxes to the country, to not participate in its elections, and to not speak its language?
Whatever it may be in Puerto Rican terms, in American terms commonwealth has to be considered an aberration, an innovation that has gone astray. The U.S. is under no obligation to continue an experiment that has so conspicuously failed. On the contrary, the primary U.S. obligation is to the 200 million American taxpayers who are unconscious ably being asked to continue to finance this demonstrable failure.
The United States has a clear right to define the range of choices that are available and acceptable within the limits of U.S citizenship. I believe that commonwealth should be disqualified by the United States on the grounds that after ample testing— It has proven a costly burden that offers neither economic viability, nor American compatibility, nor International respectability. Such a disqualification is as fair as the father who says to the willful and troubled son —“As long as you live under my roof, at my expense, you must be governed by the same rules as other members of the family. If you don’t want that —fine- then go with my blessing and learn to live by yourself.”
An ultimatum of this sort does not evidence any lack of compassion —rather it demonstrates once again that establishing thoughtful rules can be more considerate than continuing careless acquiscences.
It is said that Puerto Rico’s problems today are chiefly economic, but no economic solutions can grow in the island’s present jungle of confused chauvinism. For example, the blunt reality is that there can be no equal opportunity within the U.S. economy without a knowledge of English. To provide public education in Spanish to Puerto Ricans living in the United States has had the immediate effect of removing their need to learn English at precisely the age when language is most easily learned. This is not being liberally sensitive to the cultural needs of a minority, rather it is being blindly insensitive to the cultural and economic needs of a minority in its new environment. It is no coincidence that Hispanics —who have stayed at the bottom of the economic ladder longer than any immigrant group —are also the only immigrant group that was ever encouraged not to speak English.
Similarly for the U.S.A. to subsidize a public education program in Puerto Rico that is deficient in general terms, and specifically deficient in general terms, and specifically deficient in the instruction of English and in a feeling of being American, takes away both the practical and the emotional tools that are necessary for economic and civic progress within the American system. To be denied the language and a sense of belonging to the nation that dominates your financial opportunities is to be denied equality. To talk of granting Puerto Rico the presidential vote when the people here can’t even understand what the candidates say, displays a dangerously disordered sense of priority.
A nation can speak as many languages as it wishes, and will be the better for that ability—but its citizens must share one common language. Common citizenship cannot succeed without a common language. Canada’s current problems in Quebec testify to this, and show that even where there is overwhelming geographical convenience —without a common language there is perpetual cause for disunity.
It is the sum of commonwealth contradictions and American carelessness that now afflicts and enfeebles Puerto Rico. Commonwealth’s ambiguities provide constant fuel for luring the island’s political energy into the paralysis of endless debate. Careless American generosity sustains the luxury of this debate by removing the normal need for concentrating on the basic problems of earning one’s daily bread. Constant political wrangling over what they are keeps Puerto Ricans from working at what they could be.
The United States should decide now to either help Puerto Rico into the Union or to help Puerto Rico out of the Union. The first step must be to stop dangling Puerto Rico on the costly sham of commonwealth. History provides no sustenance for the nation that a group of people can progress without a clear sense of their own identity, or by pretending to be part of the one thing for cash reasons while wanting to be another for emotional reasons -
The U.S. Congress must act to end this chronicle of American carelessness. United States citizenship does not deserve to be devalued by special exemptions that are inconsistent with the Constitution, unfair to the majority of regular citizens, and in the end not helpful to those exempted.
Having intervened rather crudely in Puerto Rico’s history, the United States has a special obligation to set things right. We are not merely a detached observer on this scene. The U.S. has been part of the problem and must be part of the solution.
In a world dominated by selfish interest and complicated by our own failings it is often too late to set things right. It is not yet so late here if the United States will define the acceptable choices and take them directly to the people of Puerto Rico, thus setting the stage for a free and informed selection that the world can comprehend and respect.
My commentary is a letter to Dr. José Rivera of Humacao, P.R., who provided the above text to me on June 10, 2001.
It has taken me a while to scan your last copy which I have taped back together after getting it all ingested into my computer, so that you can have as many more copies as you want! In putting it on to the web page at gratisbooks.com it will live for a long time and be available to millions. It is a remarkable speech that Garry Hoyt made in 1977 to the Rotary Club of San Juan. It was timely then and it would be timely today.
Although my own feelings were still being built at that time, I would have much enjoyed it if I had been making-up at that meeting, for my sentiments and experience in learning about life in the U.S. would have made me able to say much of the same message, albeit not as eloquently! My college majors in economics and political science combined with my study of history, Español, and an interest in P.R. since 1942, all made me a lot more aware than most about just how ‘careless’ the U.S. Congress and White House occupants have been.
Hoyt hits the ‘nail on the head’ for both mainland and Puerto Rican Americans. It is clear to me that about half of all of the people today in P.R. are ready to be full citizens and members of a state in the union. Almost another 45% will be likely to join the others, if the U.S. Congress gets around to making the case for encouraging the people of PR to decide between Statehood and Independence. In effect allowing the status quo without support.
The problem is that Congress is inefficient, and as careless as Hoyt suggests. It is also filled with conflicting viewpoints and different agendas. If it somehow gets forced to face up to its responsibility to help PR decide, I think the results will be predictable- unless the current Governor has a different plan. If Gov. Caulderón is able to make the Congress angry over her stubborn insistence that somehow lots of folks are dying on Vieques because of the U.S. Navy programs, she may get the Congress to do what she wants.
She learned 20 years ago that she could not find a way to enhance and make Commonwealth permanent. Therefore, I suspect that she wants to maneuver herself and her party into control of the Independence movement as something she is forced to do when the Congress calls for a decision between the only two options the Constitution allows it to offer. That may let her reluctantly come out for a way to gain independence and then negotiate from the strength of her party and position what a Ruben Berrios can not do. She may be able to pre-wire a way to let independence happen concurrently with a continuation of what appears to be the present Commonwealth, albeit enhanced as she wanted before, except Congress will not be able to pay $13 billion per year forever for agreeing to independence! Even if it wanted to do so, it can’t guarantee it! So, it is conceivable that some Congress folks would be liberals willing to find reasons to accommodate. However, do not look for them among the Republicans or the numerous conservative Democrats; or the President, George W. Bush. They will be prone to dealing to save Vieques for the U.S.Navy, even if they have to pay to move 9,400 people to a safe main part of P.R. The president, however, just used the issue as an opportunity to woo the Hispanic vote by getting the Navy to volunteer to leave and then accepting it.
Because Vieques has been more important to all but 4 of 180 arrested for trespassing onto the Navy land’s firing range, one wonders if these foreigners will return with the current round of training. With Al Sharpton in jail, Robert Kennedy on trial with some others, it may be hard for the media to avoid outnumbering the protesters this week. Sure enough eight managed to get arrested and among them is the wife of the discredited Jesse Jackson, the demented seller of ‘racism’ as his way to raise money and lead an illicit life! Sharpton is in jail for his personal benefit in his campaign to unseat Jesse Jackson. Ms. Jackson better show up if she doesn’t want to lose her support from Jesse. Does this mean that the July referendum will be more likely to happen? What if it fails to show a large majority trusting the Governor to spend $50 million in Vieques as promised? Not to worry, the Governor will blame the inability on funding her promise on the mean old Congress that cuts its aid package in retaliation.
With Caulderón showing a strong lack of ability to spend money because she fears it is not there, it may be hard for her to deliver on her promise. This will be especially true, if Congress cuts off some PR benefits.
All of this takes us back to the wise words of Garry Hoyt, who noted that the U.S. Congress is guilty of encouraging the people of PR to be dependent and to some extent this has slowed the ability of many to seek a real education to give the skills needed to make PR able to be an island of success in a global economy.
My own conviction is that P.R. will do better, if it can negotiate statehood with some extra benefits such as phasing in of income taxes with special deductions; or special tax breaks that phase out. But if the dependency syndrome is too strong, the apparent benefits may well be counter productive. Time will tell. I do not think the status quo will last another 100 years.
Next look at what the media had to say about the Vieques issue and see if you find a way to relate it to the words above of Garry Hoyt and Richard Tryon:
Republicans Balk at Bush's Vieques Decision
By PAULINE JELINEK
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (June 14) - Conservative Republicans balked at President Bush's plan to end six decades of naval training on Puerto Rico's Vieques Island, complaining that he is caving in to protesters and endangering the military.
''We are going to lose lives if we don't train these people,'' said Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah., after a Capitol Hill briefing with top Pentagon officials on the decision to stop bombing and other training exercises by mid-2003.
Added Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.: ''We are going to lose other ranges if this range is lost.''
Rep. Bob Stump, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, planned hearings. ''This place is irreplaceable. Once you give in to this type of action, we're inviting trouble in many other cases,'' said Stump, R-Ariz.
Hansen said there are 33 ranges in the United States, each with its own opponents. He wondered what the United States should tell countries such as Japan, where the U.S. military has a large presence.
''We won't bomb on ours but we'll bomb on yours? It's a line in the sand,'' he said of the idea of bowing to Vieques protesters.
Protesters say years of live fire bombing have destroyed their health and environment. They have pressed for an immediate halt.
''Not one additional bomb or bullet should fall on the island of Vieques,'' said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who was arrested in one of the mass protests to drive out the Navy.
President Bush, speaking in Sweden on Thursday, said, ''These are our friends and neighbors, and they don't want us there.'' He added: ''The Navy ought to find somewhere else to conduct its exercises.''
In Puerto Rico, Gov. Sila Calderon said she was glad that the exercises would end, ''but we deplore that the intention to continue with the military exercises and bombings for two additional years.''
The lawmakers, meantime, heard from Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, and Navy Secretary Gordon England.
The two officials want planning to begin now for an end to all exercises there, possibly with appointment of a study panel to look at alternative sites and ways to train to make up for the loss.
House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt said the White House and Pentagon ''could have a long time ago'' started working on an alternative. Gephardt, D-Mo., said he was ''sorry that they seem to be putting it off for two years.''
At the Pentagon, officials said Bush's decision was a big disappointment. They wondered why he the president did not await results of a scheduled November referendum, when residents of the U.S. commonwealth are to vote on the Vieques question.
While White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the decision was based on ''the merits,'' others charged that the move was a miscalculated attempt to win Hispanic votes.
''President Bush's announcement is a political attempt to pacify Latinos, since he knows we are the fastest-growing minority in the country and a major voting block,'' said Juan Figueroa of the Puerto Rican Defense Fund said.
The Navy, which calls Vieques the ''crown jewel'' of its Atlantic training sites, has used the island's bombing range for six decades. It has said repeatedly that the site is vital to national security, uniquely combining the ability to train in land, air and sea maneuvers without interference from civilian air or sea traffic.
Navy to Look for New Bombing Site
By LARRY MARGASAK
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Navy Secretary Gordon England said Friday that sailors and Marines may have to use multiple training sites and change the way they do some exercises in order to make up for the loss of training on Vieques Island.
England called Vieques a ``crown jewel'' of the Navy's Atlantic training sites. ``That does not, however, mean that we cannot find a suitable alternative,'' he added.
President Bush said Thursday the United States will stop operations by May 2003 on the Puerto Rican base.
England said the Pentagon is actively looking for a place or places where the Navy can to do the bombing and other exercises that it has done for 60 years on Vieques. And he said he is creating a panel of experts to ``reinvigorate'' the effort.
The Navy has long said Vieques is the only place in the Atlantic suited to combining land, air and sea maneuvers.
England said the Navy might not find ``another Vieques'' but declared: ``We will adequately train our sailors and Marines.''
He also disagreed with critics who said the move sets a bad precedent because it amounts to caving in to Vieques protesters.
Some 180 people were protesters were arrested during April-May exercises.
Bush's plan to end bombing and other training on the Puerto Rican island has been criticized by Vieques protesters who say the 2003 withdrawal is not soon enough - and by some legislators who say it could cost America readiness and eventually lives.
U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., ranking Democrat on House Armed Services Committee, said the move was ``an attempt to strike a middle ground'' but it was ``kind of like walking down the middle of a highway and getting hit from both directions.''
A law passed during the Clinton administration would have Vieques residents vote in November on whether the Navy should stay or go - and have the Navy abide by the result.
England said he'll ask Congress to do away with the vote since Bush has decided the Navy will leave Vieques. If they don't, ``we will work to win the referendum,'' he said.
``If the people in Vieques wanted us to stay ... we would reconsider this position,'' he continued.
Earlier Friday, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott complained that he wasn't consulted or warned about Bush's decision.
``I've had basically no contact with the administration over it,'' the Mississippi senator said. ``At this point, I disagree very strongly with the decision.''
Republicans have complained that military training might not be as effective if moved off Vieques and that giving in protesters sets a bad precedent because there are other places where area residents oppose U.S. military presence.
England said the Navy was seizing ``the initiative'' and showing protesters that the Pentagon controls where it will train.
Officials said they wanted a panel of active and retired military personnel to look at new training sites. They said they hoped they could finish their work in 90 days.
On the Net:
Pentagon's Vieques site: http://www.navyvieques.navy.mil/
Time Magazine wrote...
Why Bush Bowed Out of Vieques
After considering the political risks of inaction, the White House decides to end the Navy's controversial training raids on the Puerto Rican island
BY JESSICA REAVES AND MARK THOMPSON
CNN: Navy Will Give Up Vieques Bombing Range
TIME: Letter From Vieques
Thursday, Jun. 14, 2001 After years of local resistance — and a few months of high-profile protests and arrests — the U.S. has decided to end Navy training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
The bombing runs, which residents say are dangerous to their health and to the local environment, will end by 2003, according to a White House statement released Thursday.
This is a dramatic turnaround for the Bush administration, which until recently had solidly backed the Pentagon’s insistence that the Navy could not afford to lose one of its most unique and vital training grounds.
TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson has been covering the Navy’s dilemma in Vieques. He spoke with TIME.com Thursday morning.
TIME.com: Why did the White House make this decision now, after so many years of pledging to continue the bombings?
Mark Thompson: Plainly this was a political decision, not a military decision. The military did not want to give up this site. Bush, apparently for political reasons, decided to just move ahead with a closing date without asking for a referendum.
The White House perceived this to be a growing political problem among Hispanics, who are a very important and increasingly powerful political bloc.
Was Bush’s decision really so targeted, or was it designed to appeal to voters outside the Hispanic community as well?
Concern was spreading outside Hispanic community — this has become a cause celebre in certain circles — but those circles certainly aren’t representative of the American population at large.
You’ve mentioned the political benefits of Bush’s decision to stop the bombing. Will there be political fallout as well?
Definitely. Republicans on the Hill are extremely vexed by Bush’s decision, and they’re going to be demanding answers from the White House
Protesters on Vieques have vowed to continue their activities until the last plane leaves the island. Is there any chance the exercises will stop before 2003?
Who knows? A year ago the Navy said there was no chance they’d pull out of Vieques, and now they’re getting ready to move. It’s simply a question of how much the Navy is willing to give up to train their troops. Our last amphibious landing was 50 years ago — and there is the question of whether we really need to be training for another one. It’s a risk analysis, and ultimately the decision is up to the political leaders. Bush has apparently decided the political risks of continuing the bombing is greater than the risks of asking troops to train in conditions less ideal than those on Vieques.
Where might the Navy look for alternative site?
They want something in the Atlantic so they don’t have to reassign ships to a completely new locale. The Navy has held bombing practice in the Mediterranean and in Scotland. The problem is in Vieques you can have airplanes flying, dropping bombs, ground staff doing their maneuvers and amphibious crews practicing. Finding a place where you can practice the trifecta of military maneuvers — air, land and water — is extremely difficult. The Navy was well aware of this difficulty, which is why there was so much resistance to leaving Vieques in the first place.
Five years later...
Status Solution time? Posted 3-13-06
Final Status commentary?....
by Richard R. Tryon
For 22 years the Star has published my words aimed at helping Puertorican Americans understand a bit about how mainland Americans think about the relationship of P.R. to the U.S. I've confined my words to the sharing of thoughts about how Puerto Rico is perceived by mainlanders, who are not among the 2.5 million Puertoricans living mostly in many enclaves that are scattered from NYC to Orlando, Miami, Chicago, and other major cities.
My half time experience in P.R. in farming, and other business, combined with much travel and development of church and other social friendships, have given me ample opportunity to come to understand the variety of political opinions about status among the people here.
Rafael Arzuaga Arroyo of Río Piedras, a statehood supporting reader, was published on 3-13 with a call for all to study the advantages and disadvantages of each choice that may be coming soon to be a referendum of great consequence. I share his belief that many actions and events in history have caused confusion among the people concerning status and applaud his call for dispassionate study.
Many actions in the past have contributed to to the 100% approval of the PR legislature's recent agreement with the governor's own words, which he then vetoed. These words have been forwarded to the U.S. White House at a politically opportune time. In the age of civil liberties, it is no longer possible for various interests in the U.S. to continue the colonial rule over P.R. via use of the territorial clause without being exposed to global ridicule and charges of hypocrisy.
The former economic and military reasons to keep P.R. under the control of Washington have been eliminated with help from the recent major political actions in P.R. The demise of Sec. 936, long overdue for many reasons, was accepted as a bipartisan act of Congress and approved by Democrat President Clinton as a means of closing a budget gap! It didn't.
The supposedly menacing presence of the U.S. Navy, the arm of the military that lead to the capture or liberation in 1898, depending upon one's personal view, was removed via a campaign here that featured an array of innuendo over use of the tip of Vieques as a firing range. The calling of the accidental death of David Sanes, a callous murder by an uncaring Imperial master, was enough to combine with corruption charges to drive out both the party in power and also the major U.S. militiary reason for presence in P.R.
The follow-up call for enhanced Commonwealth, as a way to escape from the ill-kept notion that P.R. was not a colony, ruled by Congress under the territorial clause, produced only one action- the new and timely call for Congress to provide a mechanism to require a decision that provides a way to escape the colonial imposition or accepts it!
At a time when the global economy and development of possible further spreading of democracy, the world is now given the chance to see four million people in P.R. and perhaps up to 2.5 million more living on the mainland, have a chance to decide first, if they want to vote to continue having the four milion be imprisoned on an island, supported in part by grants from Congress, with exemption from voting for U.S. presidents and Congressional Representatives and Senators, and the making of paymenst of taxes, based on personal or domsetic Puertorican corporate income. If the vote is YES, the Estado Associado y Libre, known on the mainland as well as here as Commonwealth will prevail and the world will see that it was a democratic vote that made this choice the preferred option. It is obvious that this choice contains no guarantee as to what Congress may choose to do from time to time, regarding benefits enjoyed in P.R. and among Puertoricans living on the mainland, who also enjoy U.S. citizenship as a result of prior Congressional action.
If the vote is NO, then a second vote must be put into place to decide among the option of Statehood and some form of independence, which may include a negotiated associated state of some type, with terms and conditions as may be found to be mutually acceptable among the equally sovereign partners. Finding an acceptable formula, and expecting mainland Americans to encourage acceptance is not likely, and that leaves statehood as the option to be considered.
The conventional U.S. mainland political wisdom is that P.R. as a state, can only be expected to divide politically along historic lines that want to claim that poor people vote for Democrats and that most people in P.R. are thought to be poor. This idea is from the last century, and is no longer automatic anywhere. Republicans have proven that their concerns for the poor, as well as everyone else, can produce equal or better opportunity for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty, a task welcomed by many, but not all. It may be that being poor on the mainland is harder, because it is easier to freeze or starve than is the case on the enchanted island. The Congressional fear of this has been weakened and the current awareness of the size of the Latino vote has given more currency to the thought that mainland politicians best not look like they are keeping P.R. from being free and/or themselves from looking like colonial imperialists.
If the Congress does not act, even if its busy schedule often deals with less important subjects, the status question will linger. If it acts, the status question will be, if not resolved, buried for a long time. If P.R. votes for the status quo and in a sense against freedom, it will be a sign to the world that one island nation prefers being dominated, rather than free. I wonder what that will say about the people of P.R. or of the mainland that could tolerate it for some indefinite period of time?
I am not a betting man, and as always I maintain that my living among Puertoricans does not entitle me to favor any choice, but I have been a student of P.R. since 1942, and ofl as economics, political science, history and religion as well. Yes, I will certainly watch to see if the status issue is to be resolved or maybe solved? Regardless of the outcome, my heart is with the people and I wish all of them well.
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