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Reiterating The Risks To Puerto Rico’s Political And Economic Stability

by Arturo J. Guzmán

Viewpoint, The San Juan Star

November 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 SAN JUAN STAR. All rights reserved. 

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two column series.

On March 22, 1990 I held a news conference during which I brought to public attention two urgent risks to Puerto Rico’s political and economic stability if the congressionally sponsored plebiscite supported and proposed by President George Bush, Sr. was to be postponed until 1991 as was being suggested at the time by Ron de Lugo, acting chairman of the ranking House Insular Affairs Sub-Committee.

The first risk, which I labeled "The Fifth Option" (not to be confused with "The None of the Above" fifth column included in the 1998 local plebiscite), would be resulting from the fact that if none of the four alternatives included in the plebiscite proposal were to receive a majority vote, or if the Congress failed in enacting the plebiscite bill into law, the people of Puerto Rico would be subjected to a political-economic relationship further weakened by a plebiscite process that had made all-too-evident the frail and impermanent nature of the true juridical status of the Island and the statutory and equally impermanent nature of our U.S. nationality and citizenship.

In 1991 the House finally did manage to pass a version of the plebiscite bill, but the U.S. Senate "killed it" when the White House withdrew its support due to the fact that most of the definitions approved by the House proved inaccurate or unconstitutional as a result of the actions of local politicians who proved all too willing to compromise and get a bill at all costs only for the purpose of enhancing their local electoral ambitions and opportunities.

That failed 1991 effort, the inconclusive 1993 locally held plebiscite, the full process leading leading to the enactment of the "Young Bill", the 1998 local plebiscite, and subsequent hearings on "Enhancements to Commonwealth" held in 1992 by Congressman Doolittle, leave little doubt that my 1990 warning has come to pass, and that in fact Puerto Rico has been left to be ruled by a relationship weakened to the point of loosing the consent of the overwhelming majority of its people.

Despite 50 years of P.D.P. brainwashing, denial and outright lies, the undeniable fact acknowledged by the U.S. Congress is that the accurate congressionally-defined juridical status of Puerto Rico, has less than one percent support of the total population. At no time since 1898, has Puerto Rico’s situation been so impermanent, vulnerable, and subject to Congressional action that could unilaterally grant the Island its independence due to political and national economic considerations.

The second risk I described in that 1990 news conference was economic in nature, and it has also come to pass. I described that there was rare consensus in admitting that Puerto Rico’s economic model was obsolete and exhausted, but that it could not be changed or fundamentally altered due to the fact that it was an integral part of the political status model. I also forecasted that tax advantages given Puerto Rico under Section 936 of the internal Revenue code, would be eliminated by the Congress as a result of a national budgetary deficit.

While addressing the economic risks I also issued a strong warning that Puerto Rico had not taken advantage of the elimination of Cuba as a regional competitive factor to diversify its economy, nor that any studies or planning were being conducted to try and prepare for the effects that would be caused to the local economy when Cuba re-entered and resumed its predominant regional competitiveness.

I stressed that contrary to propaganda and general popular belief, the decade during which Puerto Rico experienced its greatest and most radical economic growth was not the period following the colonial name change, nor the enactment of a constitution and limited internal government, nor "Operation Bootstrap". Instead a review of all leading economic indicators would reveal that the 1960-1970 decade was the golden period that brought Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans fully into the twentieth century.

The dominating event that made that decade so important to local economic growth was precisely the "loss of Cuba" not only as a dominating regional economic power, but also in the need to instantly create new markets for American products to replace those lost, to replace tourist destinations, and to seek low labor manufacturing costs for marginal labor-intensive industries. In addition, there was an overwhelming political and ideological imperative for the United States to provide a dramatic comparison between two neighboring geo-political entities (one under totalitarian communism, the other enjoying the benefits of freedom, democracy and capitalism), if it was to be successful in preventing communism from spreading to other Caribbean countries and to Latin America.

In my next column I will continue reviewing the chronological record of events and the reciprocal economic effects that can be expected by Puerto Rico when Cuba resumes its competitive role, as well as the dangers posed by present efforts on the part of the Calderon regime to try and position Puerto Rico in what they term as an advantageous role.

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