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Puerto Rico Herald
Did Jim Hansen Apologize?
March 28, 2002
To the editor:
I just began following the controversial statements that my congressman, Jim Hansen made last June. I first ran across the comments on an internet newsgroup. He reportedly said, "They sit down there on welfare, and very few of them paying taxes, got a sweet-heart deal,"
I understand that he said this in the context of being frustrated about President Bush's decision to stop using part of the island of Vieques as abombing range.
I think that his statement sounds like the same kind of overgeneralization that results in prejudice. He used the word "They" to refer to Puerto Ricans as a group as if they are all the same. He talked about Puerto Ricans not paying taxes, but didn't say that if you compare the territorial tax to the average state and federal rates that they are comparable. It is true that the average income in Puerto Rico is only half of that of the poorest state, Mississippi, so I suppose that fewer people would pay taxes.
There is truth in the fact that although the federal government doesn't collect much in taxes from Puerto Rico, it does give subsidies to Puerto Rico. I think that instead of finding the people of Puerto Rico guilty for accepting money, he should look to his colleagues in the house and senate. Puerto Rico doesn't even have any representation in the house or senate except for a non-voting commissioner in the house.
I have read in many places Congressman Hansen's remarks and how they were found to be offensive by many people and I read that initially, he and a spokesman refused to apologize, but I read from one source that he then did apologize. Did he apologize? Did your paper report it? If not, why not? What was the exact wording of his apology?
The issue of using Vieques as a bombing range and the issue of aid to Puerto Rico are two separate issues. Has the issue of Vieques been settled? I believe that there was a clause in President Bush's promise to vacate Vieques that if no other facility could be found, then the US Navy could continue to use Vieques.
I have read that the island is contaminated with toxic waste and cancer-causing agents. If this is true, perhaps the US federal government should offer to purchase the properties of all residents of Vieques who choose to leave. Would this be acceptable to the residents of Vieques?