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Puerto Rico Herald

"End Game" for Puerto Rico: More Of The Same Old, Same Old

BY Ricardo Aponte, Esq.

June 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Puerto Rico Herald. All rights reserved. 

Puerto Rico Herald

To the Editor:

"End Game" for Puerto Rico: More Of The Same Old, Same Old

The Puerto Rico Herald has published installments of former governor Rafael Hernandez Colón’s political status "End Game" for Puerto Rico. RHC claims to be proposing a new status resolution process, but it is the same formula he offered at a Yale conference on status a few years ago, and really throughout his political life.

Once again RHC wants his fellow U.S. citizens to join together to ask Congress if it can somehow convert the present territorial commonwealth into a non-territorial permanent status, including a binding local power of consent over application of U.S. law. In RHC’s mind, Congressional acceptance or rejection of that enhanced commonwealth formula is a necessary element of the status resolution process.  

However, the 32 other U.S. territories that became states, as well as the one U.S. territory that became a separate nation, did so without asking Congress if there was a third status that combined features of both statehood and independence.   Only Puerto Rico's commonwealth party leaders assert that Congress must reject their "have it both ways" formula in order to get on with status resolution.

RHC's strategy of delay will leave Puerto Rico stuck with commonwealth, whether it can be enhanced or not.   RHC feels justified in this, based on the false premise that the enhanced commonwealth formula "won" locally sponsored status votes in the past.   His accusation that statehooders killed commonwealth in congress betrays his inability to truly meet the other parties on common ground. He "forgets" the pro-statehood Governor and Legislative Assembly petitioned Congress to implement the 1993 commonwealth definition after it won a small plurality but less than a majority of the vote. Congress refused to even consider that formula, because it is not true free association, true nationhood, or even true territorial status.

RHC also makes a pathetic and desperate attempt to rehabilitate the discredited report of the Cold War era status commission of 1966, and the 1967 local vote as a model for status resolution. Are we really going to turn the clock back almost 40 years to begin an "end game" in the new century? Talk about repeating the mistakes of history!

For fifty years Congress has been ignoring status proposals it views as unconstitutional or unrealistic, waiting for the local political process to produce a collective realization that independence or statehood are the only options for a constitutionally defined permanent status. The attitude in Washington is clear. If we can’t figure out that the choice is between territorial colonialism (no matter how we enhance it), or sovereignty and equality through statehood or independence, then we are not ready for prime time and deserve to remain in political, social and economic limbo.

Puerto Rico is the last territory with the geographic size, population and economic potential to make status resolution through statehood feasible at this time. Yet, RHC does not define statehood for what it is, but only as a repudiation of commonwealth. That is wrong, because statehood will bring decolonization, equality, full enfranchisement and self-government at the national level. There is no tax gimmick or substitute form of government by consent that can compensate for second class citizenship under the separatist model. If we are to remain U.S. citizens, equal rights and responsibilities with all other U.S. citizens is both morally imperative and historically inevitable.

The lesson of history is that there are those in each territory who oppose statehood as long as they can exploit and profit from territorial status. They call for autonomy and warn about the burdens of statehood, and get away with it until the voters realize they are being had. Then the statehood movement reaches critical mass and Congress eventually responds to the undeniable demand for equality. Only the Philippines went the other way, and made commonwealth a halfway house to independence.

RHC is opposed to statehood because he has told his followers for years the U.S. is too racist to ever admit Puerto Rico to the union. He never believed Hispanics would achieve full dignity in America, and now that they have he can’t admit he was wrong.   Maybe he should just cast his lot with the "chicken nationalists" who use the label of free association to pursue a modified territorial status with U.S. citizenship, as well as the ambiguities of an illusory nationhood never realized.

The problem with that, of course, is that a bilateral pact of free association does not define a status at all. A compact of free association merely defines relations between two separate nations with separate constitutional systems.   It is an association that can be terminated at will in favor of independence by either nation. Sorry if that is a little too much reality for the PROELA "nationalists."

RHC can’t really help himself. He seems to be sincere about wanting a process that will resolve status one way or the other, but the price of admission is to agree that commonwealth is an option with equal dignity with statehood or independence, and that is just not true.

Ricardo Aponte, Esq.

Young Republican Federation Of Puerto Rico

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