Puerto Rico’s future should be clearer


Puerto Ricans have been second-class citizens for too long. Although they have participated as Americans both in war and as mainland citizens, island Puerto Ricans still can’t vote for the president of the United States.

For too many years now, the debate over Puerto Rico’s status has amounted to a three-ring circus that has done nothing to solve the territorial status of the Caribbean island, whose residents are U.S. citizens. The island, which has been a de facto colony for 115 years, deserves much better.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a recent hearing to address a nonbinding plebiscite that took place last November.

The hearing — which was attended by only three members of the committee — was built on the premise that the statehood option won 61 percent of the vote. But that result has been questioned because pro-commonwealth campaigners asked their constituents to leave their ballots blank in protest. If the blank votes were counted, statehood would have received only 45 percent of the votes.

What’s more, the plebiscite was written in an awkward two-part format designed to favor the statehood party, which expected to win re-election and consolidate its power. But Puerto Rican voters had tired of the statehood party’s repressive tactics and the failure of its privatization agenda, voting out the incumbent governor, Luis Fortuño, as well as overturning his party’s majority in both legislatures.

Yet in the hearing, the committee members validated the false notion that the island’s voters had chosen statehood. They badgered the flustered and inarticulate pro-commonwealth governor, Alejandro García Padilla, with questions about an “enhanced commonwealth” option, and were more supportive of Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the only ranking member of the statehood party still in office.

Pierluisi stated that the commonwealth status is no longer legitimate, and pushed for an “up or down” vote on status with only statehood or independence as the options. In the current cost-cutting and anti-Latino atmosphere of the Republican-dominated House, however, it would be unlikely that statehood would be approved.

The commonwealth status should eventually be eliminated, but statehood is not the answer for an island with a Latin American cultural identity.

Puerto Rico should be granted its independence, but with a period of dual citizenship, and a substantial financial package, including favorable trade terms. It should not be cut off and left to fend for itself in the shark-infested waters of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Puerto Rico does not need a three-ring circus to decide its fate. It needs a responsible U.S. policy to make up for centuries of colonial abuse by both Spain and America. Only then will it finally be free.

Ed Morales is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

© 2013, Ed Morales

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • The Beatles’ cry of freedom: ‘Money,’ 50 years later

    In early 1964, a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to hear the new Beatles album, With the Beatles. It had come out in Britain a couple of months before, but no one I knew had heard it, or for that matter heard of it. My friend’s father, an airplane pilot, had brought it back. It was just days after the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

  • It helps to have a hospital room with a view

    Hospitals are, by their nature, scary and depressing places. But they don’t have to be ugly as well — and there’s ample evidence that aesthetics matter to patient health.

  • I studied engineering, not English. I still can’t find a job.

    When I graduated from Penn State a year ago, I thought I was perfectly prepared to succeed in the business world. I’d worked hard, graduated at the top of my class in computer science and managed to acquire lots of experience with the sorts of industry software that I was sure hiring managers were looking for. I’d even chosen a STEM degree, which — according to just about everyone — is the smartest choice to plan for the future (eight out of the 10 fastest growing job occupations in the United States are STEM jobs).

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category