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Puerto Rico Cannot Afford Confrontation

May 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

In his April 18 column, Puerto Rico's undivided loyalty, Raúl Duany details the contents of a letter from Puerto Rico's resident commissioner in Washington, D.C., and its secretary of economic development in which they take issue with a National Geographic article, True Colors: Divided Loyalties in Puerto Rico.

That column apparently brought to light the animosity generated by the Puerto Rican governor's insistence that the U.S. Navy relinquish Vieques as its training site. This two-year confrontation and the governor's assertion that if elected she would drive the U.S. Navy out of Vieques within 60 days became her rallying cry during her 2000 campaign.

However, the column fails to disclose that Puerto Rico has no natural resources or significant wealth. It does have a population problem: There are three million island residents and three million on the mainland. Economic activity is mostly from tax incentives offered to mainland companies that relocate in Puerto Rico. These companies bring in raw materials needed to manufacture their products, which are returned to the mainland. This creates jobs, which can be at risk with the animosity against everything American espoused by the governor.

The column mentions that more than 40,000 Puerto Ricans have joined the U.S. armed forces, perhaps intimating that this is another area where Puerto Rico contributes to the mainland's well-being. With a de facto unemployment rate of almost 25 percent in Puerto Rico, enlisting in the armed forces becomes the primary goal for many Puerto Ricans.

The column further states that Puerto Rico has a readily available bilingual workforce. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but most of them do not speak English. This failure to learn English is ensconced in Puerto Rico's constitutional mandate that public instruction be in Spanish as well as the result of the governor's political party's policies that discourage the use of English.

Attempts to portray Puerto Rico as an economic dynamo providing economic benefits in excess of what it receives from the mainland are far from reality. Puerto Rico can ill afford the loss of federal jobs and financial assistance that will result from this policy of confrontation.

Pembroke Pines

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