Puerto Rico is not a “commonwealth.” It is a colony.
The US governs its economy, currency, international trade relations, import/export quotas, shipping, consumer prices, judicial code, military, postal system, FCC licensing, and the US congress has plenary jurisdiction (veto power) over any law or regulation passed by the insular legislature.
Even José Trías Monge – who was the principal draftsman of the Puerto Rican “Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,” and also served as Attorney General of Puerto Rico, Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, and personal legal advisor to Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín – published a book titled Puerto Rico: Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World (Yale University Press, 1997).
Trías Monge himself admitted that the “commonwealth” was actually a colony.
The island’s chaotic economy, and its crushing $73 billion public debt, are clear evidence that this relationship is dysfunctional and harmful to Puerto Rico.
The two current options are statehood or independence. This article will discuss statehood.
It will never happen…statehood is virtually impossible for Puerto Rico.
Here is why:
American Public Opinion
When the US first occupied the island in 1898, this is some of what the best and brightest had to say about Puerto Ricans:
“They’re a heterogeneous mass of mongrels…savages addicted to head-hunting and cannibalism.” (Senator William B. Bate )
“God made us adept at government so that we may administer amongst savages and senile people.” (Senator Albert J. Beveridge)
“Puerto Ricans are uneducated, simple-minded and harmless people who are only interested in wine, women, music and dancing.” (New York Times, 2/22/1899)
Now in 2015, when someone won a Powerball ticket in Puerto Rico, the racist insults lit up the internet.
A few weeks later Ann Coulter published Adios, America, which portrays Latinos as rapists, murderers and welfare cheats – and the book is a New York Times Best Seller.
A few weeks after that Donald Trump announced his candidacy for US president, trashed Latinos, recited portions of Coulter’s book – and is now the leading GOP candidate.
After 117 years, on the most basic levels, the US has not come very far. Significant numbers of “patriotic Americans” still view Puerto Ricans as foreigners, and somehow inferior. They won’t come out and say it: they’ll just read Ann Coulter, vote for Trump, and quietly resent us. When the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico comes up, that resentment will express itself with two words: Hell, No!
Puerto Rican debt instruments have been popular on Wall Street because they are “triple tax exempt.” Bondholders and investors don’t have to pay any federal, state or local taxes on them. This tax benefit would disappear if the island were to become a state: so Wall Street has no interest in Puerto Rican statehood. Thanks to Citizens United v. FEC, it will hire lobbyists and give unlimited sums of money – over and under the table – to congress persons who will oppose it.
Controlled Foreign Corporations (CFCs) who use Puerto Rico as a tax shelter – allowing them to pay a 2 percent tax rate, rather than the US corporate rate of 35 percent – will also hire lobbyists and pay congress persons to oppose Puerto Rican statehood.
The unions in Jacksonville, the four Jones Act carrier companies (Horizon, Crowley, Sea Star, Trailer Bridge) and the American Maritime Partnership will also hire lobbyists and buy congress persons to oppose Puerto Rican statehood, since that could eventually lead to Jones Act reform and an end to the Cabotage Law in Puerto Rico.
With a population of 3.6 million, Puerto Rico would send two US senators and four or five congresspersons to Washington, D.C. All of them would be Democrats.
Do you think the Republican Party will allow that?
So the only time a “Statehood for Puerto Rico” bill would pass is during a perfect alignment of all the following:
Even then – with opposition from Wall Street, Jones Act carrier companies, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the American Maritime Partnership, and the Teamster and Longshoreman’s unions – this “perfect political alignment” would still not guarantee a congressional consensus for statehood.
In addition to all this fierce lobbying (and money exchanging hands) there will be no “congressional consensus” because congressional seats are a zero-sum game. There are always a fixed number of congressional seats: 435. If five new congressional seats are created for Puerto Rico, five seats will be taken away from five other states. This would be accomplished through congressional re-districting after the next decennial US Census.
If you were a member of the US Congress, would you risk losing your own seat – losing your political career – in order to make room for Puerto Rico?
No, I don’t think so.
The Early Words of Ruben Berríos
Thirty-five years ago Rubén Berríos, the president of the Independence Party of Puerto Rico (PIP) did something alarming: he told the world that the two major parties in Puerto Rico (PPD and PNP) were a complete fraud…because all their campaigns, and all their candidates, were based on whether or not Puerto Rico should be the 51st state of the United States.
But since the leadership of both parties knew that this was a practical impossibility (for all the reasons discussed in this article), then both the PPD and PNP were lying to the Puerto Rican people, with a fake issue, in order to get elected.
In the words of La Lupe, it was all “Puro Teatro.”
Rubén Berríos was right. The “statehood question” is often used by people with no qualifications, political program or personal ethics, in order to get elected and put their entire family on the government payroll. This is part of the reason that Puerto Rico has 78 mayors, and a $73 billion public debt.
Here is that original speech from Rubén Berríos, as given in 1980:
70+ BILLION IN DEBT , Electric grid a shambles, corruption running rampant, is it any wonder NO-ONE wants the “welfare island” . truly a shame but a beautiful island about to get influenced do a much greater degree by drug cartels Did i mention the mayor of San Juan is in hot water with the FBI , FORGOT TO MENTION BY THE TIME THE NEXT HURRICANE HITS WHO IS GOING TO BE LEFT ON THE ISLAND total lawlessness will follow . such a waste USED TO BE hello Bronx NOW IT hello Orlando
Dear Mr. Denis, I agree with you. Statehood for Puerto Rico can only be accomplished with a miracle of House, Senate and the Presidency in Democratic hands. Please allow me to use excepts from your website to do a radio and video commercial which I will then send to FL. 26 Democratic Candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Michael Bloomberg’s superpac Independence USA . Sincerely, Joseph Timothy Kiernan
If Puerto Rican’s want statehood America will gladly accept… Be sure that is what you want and vote accordingly not a simple majority of 50.1% but something on the lines of better than 60%. I am a Republican and understand Puerto Rico will vote Democratic but that doesn’t bother me. This would be good for America and we are good with anything that’s good… Please make sure that is what you want when you vote. Your debt is a drop in the bucket we can deal with it accordingly. If it does happen I hope to see more puerto rican restaurants in the mainland because I love it…
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PUERTO RICO NEEDS ITS OWN AUTONOMY AND SELF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT,ITS NEEDS ITS OWN SOVERIGNITY AND RIGHT TO EXIST AS A NATION WITH ITS OWN IDENTITY AND CULTURE.
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I agree with Chango
All these air conditioner independence will do anything for Puerto Rico except live in it, when s hits the fan those ones are the first to leave. Just like rats when the ship is sinking. We are Americans, let’s embrace it and stop the crap already. America is becoming brown and Spanish is its second language. By the way the PR flag is New York Rican
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This article tells the truth and makes perfect sense but it is a dreadful reality. I wonder if a delegation of Puerto Rican people who were not politicians but everyday workers could meet with certain members of Congress and present an agenda with let’s say 3 of the most important points to be changed, and make it favorable to the Puerto Rican people. Would that be worth a try? Then next year, the group would meet certain Congress people again and ask for change on 3 different points. I can’t help but think of trying the impossible, to get at least 1 or 2 things corrected. Any ideas on this?
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This is exactly right. In the spirit of bi-partisanship, a more realistic trail to resolution of status would be seeing a Democrat – say, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez – and a fiscally conservative Republican – say, a Senator from Mississippi or Alaska or Oklahoma – draft a bill. The contents of the bill can read as a result of a negotiated deal in some ways like the Panama Canal Treaty where Puerto Rico keeps elements that resemble the the desired elements of the current relationship – in the form of a favorable trade agreement, dual citizenship opportunity for all Puerto Ricans, some military or federal funding/international aid, etc. – then say in 50-75 years all elements for Puerto Rico to be independent will be complete. This gives the GOP a victory – they will stand as championing a win against raising the deficit while also preventing a Democratic political victory – while Democrats can tout maintaining U.S. citizenship and some entitlements and economic benefits the island voters would prefer. The Panama Canal has been controlled for the most part by Panama since the 1990s; Hong Kong became an independent country in the late 90s after being a colony of Britain. From what I know, Hong Kong’s economy ain’t so bad; from what I know the Panama Canal hasn’t imploded in destruction since Jimmy Carter signed that treaty. Puerto Ricans have the ability to forge its future in a positive way if the politics and economics allow. Any doubt of this means Puerto Ricans have accepted notions of being inferior after generations of being told so.
Diana Puerto Rico does have plenty of resources within it’s territory. It has land, rivers, oceans it produces over 400 engineers every year and many lawyers as well. The discovery of oil and natural gas south of Ponce could be a big plus as well. With our industries already in place like banking, manufacturer, latecous ” milk, rum, agricultural telecommunication tourism and many others Puerto Rico does have the capacity to govern itself. Remember Diana we are not inferior.
Many boricuas claim to be very patriotic and anti statehood but love to get the handouts from the U.S. Everything comes with a price. We don’t have the resources to operate independently folks!
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PUERTO RICO IS A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY AND IT IS BETTER OFF AS AN SOVEREIGN FREE ASSOCIATION MEANING A INDEPENDENT COUNTRY BUT HAVING NEGOCIATIONS WITH UNITED STATES
Are you saying the colonial status is eternal? Nothing is eternal and certainly, not the political status of PR… But reading your article makes me want to work harder for statehood.
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Albizus Campos was right in everything he said. He was the voice of truth. When I hear or read his speechs a sadness reaches my heart for he was “The voice crying in the wilderness”
Dear Mr. Nelson and company. Hank Paulson is obviously conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign in PR and New York City. Nobody chooses his parents. Your father was kidnapped and murdered by the FBI. People are dying in a Huge Racket called homeless shelters as a consequence of Paulson’s campaign. You are portraying LMM as a victim of substance abuse. The devil made him do it did not work at the Nuremberg Trials. You have resurrected and tried to make relevant charlatans like Mr. Franco. I advice you not to play club house politics on an issue as serious as the one you are writing about in your book. El que juega con candela se quema las manos y el que juega con niños se caga las manos. Like you, I did not choose my father. He was a Nacionalista. You are not saying anything new to people like me. However, you are making a great contribution by educating the boricua diaspora.
I am old timer and know most of the players in PR and the Diaspora in NYC. I would read the Art of War very carefully if I were you. Paulson is perhaps the best naval strategist the US has had in the 20th century. He is also a specialist on economic warfare. I hope you know what Vida y Hacienda means. The war is real my friend. The dye has been cast. David is confronting Goliath.
Many years ago a Profesor of mine explained it to me in a simple, blunt way. Statehood for Puerto Rico is a choice of the U.S. Congress. The same people who will have to give away 7 seats to accommodate the representatives of Puerto Rico. Can you see the congressmen of other states giving away their seats to others?
And they are the same people who will simply fear to have the 6 or 7 congressmen from Puerto Rico allied to those already in New York, Chicago, Florida become political allies with their hispanic counterparts in California, Arizona and Texas. A new “Minority/Mayority” in congress. Too big change for the “Balance of Power”…
Thank you for the heads up, Luis. I greatly appreciate it.
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That perfect alignment is very close. Actually, 3 of the 4 and Jed wraps that up even more than Hillary who would be too conveniently busy to deal with Puerto Rico’s status because she already has the Latino vote.
The Tea Party Right wing congress is going to change soon. No Wall Street Lobbyist has enough money to buy those new congressmen or congresswomen because they would risk losing their seats.
Ann and Don, we love you and keep talking trash because you are inspiring our Latino brothers to register and vote.
And Rubén, well, has always been one the leading actor’s at el teatro of whether “Puerto Rico should be the 51st state of the United States”
When Barack Obama became President in 2009, he had all reasons, 2. thru 4., met: Congress and the President were Democrat majorities. It could happen again; my glass is always half-full. Don’t look back; it ain’t pretty. A true progressive always looks forward to achieve tangible results without the spill of blood.
Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
Their gut reaction will be: “Hell, no”!! Puerto Rico will remain a colony (commonwealth is a cover up) for the continued benefit of “vested interests” and the inescapable detriment of Puerto Ricans. Our sad reality …. We are “mongrels, drunks, uneducated, spineless people” incapable of self-government.
The “empire” has made sure that we remain as described.
Denis.I read the book in two days.
Solo.queria mencionarle referente a la pagina donde ustd escribió acerca de la escuela Josefa Pastrana .La persona no pudo haber estudiado en dicha escuela en el municipio de aguas buenas porque no existia para la epoca que se menciona.Es un pequeño detalle.La escuela Josefa Pastrana es algo reciente.No existia en el.1926.Se inaguro en 1976 aprox.toda la fam de mi esposa nacieron se criaron y aun viven bien cerca de la escuela
Tambien hay un error de proof reading cuando menciona a Moncho y varias oraciones despùes lo menciona como.Mondo.