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THE SO FL SUN-SENTINEL
Options Must Be Made Clear: "Undemocratic And Anti-Hispanic?"
By Herbert W. Brown III
January 19, 2004
Recently, a Puerto Rican "commonwealth" party politician said that there could be "nothing more undemocratic or anti-Hispanic" than not offering the island's current political status as an option for its ultimate status. Yet, how democratic would it be for Puerto Rico to maintain its current "commonwealth" status and its people remain citizens who do not have voting representation in the government that makes their national laws? All people are entitled to democratic governance, right?
To recognize either option, statehood or independence, as undemocratic and anti-Hispanic is erroneous and misguided.
Statehood would ensure that economic and social policies for the nation be fitting for an additional 3.9 million Hispanics. Furthermore, it would presumably mean two Hispanics in the U.S. Senate, six more in the House of Representatives, and eight Hispanic votes in the Electoral College. It would be the greatest addition to Hispanic political power in our nation's history!
Nationhood would also empower these 3.9 million Hispanics in influencing legislation or lead to self-government. Not an anti-Hispanic development at all.
What is undemocratic is the status the "commonwealth" party continues to support.
In 1998, the "commonwealth" party adopted a new proposal for status out of what it perceived to be a "need to end the present undemocratic arrangement" of the status quo. "Commonwealth" party officials support Puerto Rico being recognized as a nation in a permanent union with the U.S., allowing Puerto Rico to determine the application of federal laws and enter into binding agreements with foreign countries, while retaining U.S. citizenship and all federal funding now granted to Puerto Ricans.
Aside from its undemocratic nature, it is neither fair nor just for politicians to misguide the same 3.9 million Hispanics into believing this option is remotely possible.
Furthermore, a point needs to be clarified. Many seem to think that in 1998, islanders opted for the status quo and that Puerto Ricans do not want something new. This is incorrect. The results of the election, where the current commonwealth status won only 0.06 percent of the vote, demonstrate that the "islanders" want change. Thus, "commonwealth" politicians suffer a great disconnect with the people they claim to represent.
A politician from that party stated "people who don't know Puerto Rico saying what is available and what is not is an invitation to disaster." This was a misguided interpretation of the recently announced President's Task Force On Puerto Rico Status. As the task force executive order notes, Puerto Ricans have been asking the federal government for years to clarify their options and the process for obtaining a new status -- recommendations the executive order requires to be reached by working with Puerto Rico's leaders and the Congress. Voting Puerto Ricans on the island, in a fair and effective process of self-determination, will make the ultimate decision.
The only "disaster" that will be had is if Puerto Rican politicians try to decide what federal policies will be and ask Puerto Ricans to vote without the benefit of federal positions or clear understanding of real options.
The current relationship has lasted 105 years. Intentional misguidance at the hand of politicians will only lead to further discord, delay, disappointment and frustration.
Herbert W. Brown, III is a Puerto Rican attorney and President of the Citizens' Educational Foundation-US, a non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Puerto Rico's Self-Determination.