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On Visit, I Took Pulse Of Puerto Rico
BY Pedro A. Cortes
June 3, 2001
I have just returned from my annual visit to my beautiful homeland, Puerto Rico. It's a shame what island and outside politicians are doing there.
As always, I spent some time at Bayamon, my hometown, and at Cupey, my wife's old residence, reminiscing and discussing the various successes and problems of the island. On both sides, I was able to feel the pulse of my people.
Regardless of the media madness about Vieques, according to the people on the streets, there are other problems facing the island that are far more important.
The people I spoke with included pro-statehood and pro-commonwealth voters. There were no pro-independence voters I could find. Most everyone dislikes the "outsiders" who have flown to the island with the sole purpose of trying to advance their political agendas. The Al Sharptons, Charlie Rangels, et al., are not really welcome except by some island politicians. Sharpton even had the gall to compare himself to Nelson Mandela! Those of us who have lived in New York will never forget the Tawana Brawley fraud, of which "the Rev. Sharpton" was one of the principal perpetrators.
A very big hand of applause for Judge Jose Fuste, who gave those intruders the "days" they deserved.
It is hardly mentioned by the media, but there is a pro-Navy group that claims to have a document with more than 5,000 signatures. One of its concerns is the many anti-Navy fanatics who have moved or are planning to move to Vieques with the sole intention of voting in the upcoming referendum. The group wants safeguards that are slow in coming.
More important than Vieques, my friends and I agree, are unemployment and education. They blame both major parties for these troubles.
On unemployment, they blame the pro-statehood party, New Progressive, that was in power at the time for not fighting in Congress for the extension of the tax relief known as "the 936." The termination by Congress of the tax relief for factories and plants in Puerto Rico caused many of these to be closed and moved elsewhere. Thousands of jobs have been lost. A lot of those unemployed do not appear as statistics because they have moved to the United States -- some right here to Central Florida.
The education issue is blamed entirely on the Popular Democratic Party, the one in power now. People remember when Don Luis Munoz Marin was governor. In the late 1950s, he started to ease up on the teaching of English. But Rafael Hernandez Colon was the governor who almost eliminated English from public schools. Now some high-school and even college graduates are at a disadvantage when job hunting.
I am older than 60, and so are most of those to whom I spoke on the island. Besides being Puerto Ricans, we have one more thing in common: Although not perfectly, we all can write, read and speak English.
Pedro A. Cortes lives in Orlando. He retired as a member of the Bronx, N.Y., Supreme Court.