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Puerto Rico: 51st State?
Shouldn't Have Option Of Remaining A Commonwealth
No Momentum Towards Statehood
The South Shall Rise Again?
Statehood Simply A Matter Of Votes?

Puerto Rico, 51st state?

By Jeffrey T. Kuhner

June 21, 2001
Copyright © 2001 WASHINGTON TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

     Puerto Rico has been in the news lately. Many congressional Republicans are furious over the Bush administration´s decision to abandon Vieques as a bombing site for the U.S. Navy by 2003. They blame Karl Rove, the president’s top political adviser, for putting politics above national strategic interests in abandoning the site. Republicans on Capitol Hill insist that the decision was made to appeal to the Hispanic vote. They’re right. Yet the administration would be wiser to maintain the U.S. military’s presence on Vieques, and court the important emerging Hispanic vote through another policy: embracing Puerto Rican statehood.

     Recently, Puerto Rico’s Senate Minority Leader Kenneth D. McClintock visited The Washington Times for a luncheon interview with editors and reporters to present his case that the tiny island become the 51st state in the Union. He was very convincing.

     Few issues divide conservatives as much as Puerto Rican statehood. National Review, for example, has even gone so far as to state that the United States should prepare San Juan for eventual independence. Other conservatives believe that Puerto Rico´s current Commonwealth status, which it acquired in 1952, suits the interests of both Puerto Ricans and mainland Americans. Hence, they argue, it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. The central argument made against statehood is that the United States has historically been unable to absorb alien cultures and societies. By allowing Puerto Rico´s nearly 4 million Spanish-speaking and predominantly Catholic residents into the union, the United States would create another Quebec scenario a distinct region in culture and language that may become a source of perpetual political instability and secessionist sentiment.

     Yet as Puerto Rico´s Mr. McClintock pointed out, the Quebec analogy does not apply to Puerto Rico. The French-speaking province is an industrial powerhouse, which along with Ontario dominates Canada’s economy. Moreover, Quebecers make up nearly 25 percent of Canada´s population, providing separatists with a critical mass to support the province´s drive for independence. During the past decade, opinion polls consistently demonstrate that Quebec separatism has the support of 40 percent to 50 percent of the population. By contrast, Puerto Rican independentistas rarely achieve 5 percent support.

     It is therefore erroneous to suggest that by entering the union an island with a population slightly over 1 percent of the total on the American mainland and a per-capita income of $9,800 would pose a secessionist threat to the greatest economic and military superpower in history. Furthermore, unlike most French-speaking Quebecers , most Puerto Ricans want to learn English as a second language. Should Puerto Rico become a state, the proper analogy is not Quebec but Hawaii. Despite being an island kingdom in the 19th century and possessing its own language and religion, Hawaii has become a full-fledged state while preserving its distinct cultural identity. The same would apply to Puerto Rico.

     Many conservatives do not realize that rather than being a liability, Puerto Rico´s well-entrenched Hispanic heritage presents a unique opportunity for Republicans. By embracing the issue of statehood the Bush administration can enhance its appeal to the largest minority voting bloc in the country. President Bush can recognize the reality of a multicultural America through the symbolic significance of supporting the creation of a predominantly Hispanic state. By championing Puerto Rico´s entry into the Union, Mr. Bush can send a clear message to Hispanics that his "compassionate conservatism" goes beyond speaking a few phrases in Spanish and making several high profile appointments.

     Many Republicans, however, fear that by granting statehood Puerto Rico will become a Democratic stronghold. They cite numerous reasons for their concern, icluding the island´s high unemployment, its heavy reliance on social welfare programs and the fact that nearly one-third of its work force is employed by the public sector. They believe that Puerto Rico will become the political equivalent of Hawaii: a hotbed of big government activism, which in the long run may tip the legislative balance of power in favor of the left.

     Yet, rather than being a liberal Democratic fiefdom, Puerto Rico will more likely be a swing state. Although the island´s residents tend to favor statism and lavish entitlement programs, they are also deeply Catholic and socially conservative. This renders them receptive to the Republicans´ message on abortion, family values and homosexual marriage. In fact, Puerto Rican statehood can help buttress the GOP against the onslaught of the forces of social liberalism, which have defeated the Republican Party on every cultural front for the past decade.

     It will also help advance Mr. Bush´s foreign policy agenda, especially his goal of a Western Hemispheric free-trade zone by 2005 and closer ties between the United States and Latin America. With its strategic location in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico can act as a vital stepping stone to the vast markets of Central and South America.

     More importantly, statehood will demonstrate to governments in Latin America, many of whom still view America as the ugly Gringo and resent the perceived legacy of belligerent imperialism, that the United States does not view Hispanic societies as inferior or second-class. As Mr. McClintock put it, admitting San Juan into the Union will show anti-American nationalists in the region that "Uncle Sam is no longer Uncle Bully."

     Obviously, the question of Puerto Rican statehood should be left to the residents of the island who have to live with the consequences of their decision. Thus far, Puerto Ricans have been content to keep their political status unchanged.

     However, successive referendums demonstrate that the statehood option has been rapidly gaining momentum. Opinion polls now show that a plurality of residents on the island favor becoming full-fledged Americans. It is only a matter of time before Puerto Rico enters the Union as the 51st state. Instead of resisting the inevitable, Republicans would be wise to embrace it.

     Jeffrey T. Kuhner is an assistant national editor at The Washington Times.


Puerto Rico Shouldn't Have Option Of Remaining A Commonwealth

June 22, 2001
Copyright © 2001 WASHINGTON TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

 I cannot agree with Jeffrey T. Kuhner, who, in the June 21 Op-Ed article "Puerto Rico, 51st state?" argues that "the question of Puerto Rican statehood should be left to the residents of the island." Yes, the people of Puerto Rico have the right to self-determination. They do not have the right, however, to force us to be colonialists.

     By all means, have a referendum to let them decide if they want to be independent or to become the 51st state. Commonwealth status, however, should no longer be an option.

     If Puerto Ricans were to vote for independence, I would bid them a sad farewell and wish them well. If they decided on statehood, I would welcome them with open arms.

Hollywood, Fla.


Puerto Rico - no mementum towards statehood

June 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 WASHINGTON TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

     Let me suggest that Jeffrey T. Kuhner come live here in San Juan for a year or so before rendering opinions such as "most Puerto Ricans want to learn English as a second language" and "successive referendums demonstrate that the statehood option has been rapidly gaining momentum" ("Puerto Rico, 51st state?" Op-Ed, June 21). On the contrary, anyone who watched Puerto Rico´s last election, in which the pro-statehood party was ousted from power, would be hard pressed to "spin" the results as building momentum for statehood.

     As for the language issue, a bill recently was debated in the Legislature here to make Spanish the official language. Mr. Kuhner would only have to live here a short time to realize that most Puerto Ricans do not want to learn English and that many of those who do know a little English speak it only begrudgingly. In short, there is a serious anti-American attitude in Puerto Rico.

     I moved to San Juan in April 1999, the same month an errant Navy bomb killed a civilian security guard at Camp Garcia. Since then, I have learned things I never would have known had I remained on the mainland. First, if there ever was a time when there was momentum for statehood, it was before April 1999. Since that time, momentum has been on the side of independence. Second, while Mr. Kuhner states that "•pinion polls now show that a plurality of residents on the island favor becoming full-fledged Americans," the key word is "plurality." There are three distinct political parties in Puerto Rico representing three distinct groups. The "commonwealth party," known locally as the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), should be called the "We Want to Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too, Party." Most, if not all, members of the PDP are at least sympathetic to the cause of the Independientistas. This is not to say that the "plurality" of Puerto Ricans that favor statehood are not sincere and as patriotic as any American. When it comes to the issue of independence, however, they are the minority.

     If Mr. Kuhner believes Puerto Rican Senate Minority Leader Kenneth D. McClintock´s assertion that making Puerto Rico a state "will show anti-American nationalists in the region that 'Uncle Sam is no longer Uncle Bully,´" then I have a bridge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to sell him. The Bush administration´s announcement that it intends to stop the bombing at the end of the current two-year agreement has been met here with nothing more than stepped-up rhetoric demanding an immediate end to the bombing. And the Navy isn´t really bombing anymore anyway they´re dropping inert shells. What do they really think about the United States? President Bush is right: They don´t want us here.

     Nonetheless, I do not believe Mr. Bush´s decision was right. And if it was done as a precursor to statehood, it was completely misguided. The Republicans who believe Puerto Rico will become "a liberal Democratic fiefdom" if it is granted statehood are correct. I can see little and possibly no political gain for the Republicans, even in the short term, if they make Puerto Rico a state.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico statehood - the South shall rise again?

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is right to acknowledge that statehood for Puerto Rico may be only a matter of time. However, the United States needs to invite more than just Puerto Rico into the Union ("Puerto Rico , 51st state?" Op-Ed, June 21).

There are, as Mr. Kuhner states, disagreements in the conservative camp as to whether incorporating a Spanish-language state into the United States is such a good idea. Presumably, there is fear of a clash of cultures between Anglos and Latinos.

President Bush and President Clinton - and many other leading figures in the nation during the past decade - are Southerners. This matters a great deal. It seems as if most Southerners think that social conservatism is more important than cultural conservatism. This ultimately could lead to the abandonment of the English language in the South and West because of unchecked immigration. Northerners still tend to think of America as a city upon a hill, and thus as an English-only country. Behind the seemingly innocent question of statehood for Puerto Rico , a cultural civil war is looming, and the South is winning.

The present situation cannot last. Historically and geopolitically, it was a great mistake not to take in Cuba as a state. Why repeat the mistake with Puerto Rico ?

The battle for Anglo America is lost. The South shall rise again, Version Bush 2.0.

Holeby, Denmark


Puerto Rico Statehood Simply A Matter Of Votes?

June 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 WASHINGTON TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

I could not disagree more with several points Jeffrey T. Kuhner made in his June 21 Op-Ed column, " Puerto Rico , 51st state?" The suggestion that Puerto Rico should alone decide the question of Puerto Rican statehood is clearly unreasonable, as Puerto Rican statehood affects the entire United States, not just Puerto Rico.

Such a decision would impact the United States financially and socially. Although Puerto Ricans should determine a majority stand, with at least 75 percent voting in favor, Congress should make the final decision.

I also was appalled to read that Mr. Kuhner believes President Bush should make his decision on Puerto Rico simply to get votes. To pretend that political decisions are not often made to curry votes would be naive, but to publicly endorse such blatant pandering on an issue that would have permanent implications to this country is irresponsible.

We should hear from the people of Puerto Rico, but we should also hear from citizens all over the United States. Puerto Rico is in Latin America and should not be swallowed up by the United States only because the politicians need more votes.

In the long run, we would create a situation far worse than Quebec; we would create a country within a country. In that event, the Puerto Rican separatists movement would gain momentum.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
U.S. English

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