Este informe no está disponible en español.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
A Political Fault Line
Jose E. Aponte
May 7, 2001
Much has been said and much has been written concerning the Vieques Island naval controversy. However, what has been conspicuously left out of this debate is the root of the problem -- namely the unresolved nature of Puerto Rico 's political status. The present impasse between the current government of Puerto Rico and the Navy has been a public relations nightmare for the people of Puerto Rico . It has created the perception that the nearly 4 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico are an unpatriotic bunch, irrespective of the fact that Puerto Ricans have participated in this nation's wars in higher numbers than the residents of many states.
Recently, The Washington Post reported on yet another naval controversy. It seems that the Navy is trying to defend its use of 25 miles of the Potomac River south of Dahlgren, Va., as a testing range for its long-range ammunition. These practices are not setting well with residents of various communities along the river. They allege that naval activity is damaging homes in their community and they complain about the high noise levels.
I wonder whether the residents of these communities will be considered unpatriotic? Will members of Congress threaten them with budget cuts? One of the solutions proposed in Puerto Rico is stripping Vieques from Puerto Rico 's jurisdiction and making it a separate territory. I wonder how residents of Charles County, Md., would react if members of Congress proposed the same solution for their situation?
It will be interesting to observe what differences, if any, there will be in the way the Navy deals with the U.S. citizens of Cobb Island, Md., and the U.S. citizens of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico . My suspicion is that there will probably be major differences in the way both disputes are handled and settled.
Unlike Puerto Rico , Maryland has long resolved its political status with the United States. As one of the original 13 colonies that formed this nation, Maryland shares an important niche in world history. Puerto Rico , on the other hand, is currently a territory of the United States with no voice in the national government. Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections and have no voting representation in Congress, even though they do pay federal taxes, with the exception of income tax. In Maryland, the Navy has to answer to its two senators and its eight members of Congress. In Puerto Rico , it is accountable to no one.
Hence, the root of the problem here is neither naval activity nor Puerto Rican loyalty to the United States. The root of the problem will once again prove to be that, under its current status, Puerto Rico lacks the necessary sovereignty to resolve this problem.
Puerto Ricans must first be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination by presenting them valid de-colonization options. We must first allow Puerto Rico to choose either to become a state of the union with all the benefits and responsibilities that status would entail, or become an independent and sovereign republic. Until then, the U.S. will have to continue to struggle with situations, such as Vieques , caused when a significant number of its citizens are disenfranchised. The electoral difficulties experienced in Florida during the last general election pale in comparison to the institutionalized disenfranchisement inherent in the colonial political relationship that Puerto Rico 's residents must endure each and every day.
The author is executive director of Citizens' Educational Foundation-US, which promotes self-determination for Puerto Rico .