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Wake Up Silent Majority

By Manuel A. Casiano

December 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

You are being taken on a joyride to independence from the U.S. and you don’t realize it.

The 8% or 9% of the people who actually believe Puerto Rico should be an independent country know they can never obtain independence in the voting booth.

They’ve realized that every year there are fewer people who believe in independence for the island. More than 40 years ago, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) received about 20% of the votes. Today, the PIP receives at most 5% of the votes in each election and has a hard time maintaining its electoral franchise as a registered political party. Although there’s actually another 3% to 4% true independentistas, years ago they started to vote for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

However, out of the political leadership of the three main parties, PIP leaders are the cleverest. Over the past eight years, they have been able to effectively take over the PDP leadership simply because the PDP wouldn’t be able to win an election without the independentistas. The PIP received less than 3% of the vote in this past election. Where has the other 5% or 6% gone over the past years? To the PDP. And, even with most of the pro-independence voters now voting for the PDP, if that party ends up winning the elections this year it will be by a margin of less than two-tenths of 1%, out of 2 million votes, over the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP).

The days of the PDP winning an election with just commonwealth sympathizers’ votes ended years ago. The PDP now owes a big debt to the independentistas. One they are obligated to pay.

In 2000, Gov. Sila Calderon couldn’t have won the election without thousands of independentistas abandoning the PIP and voting with the PDP. That PIP crossover to the PDP was even more obvious this year. If PDP gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila becomes governor, there is no question it will have happened because the independentistas saved the PDP again.

And what does that mean for the PDP? Simply that the small minority of hard-core independentistas who truly believe Puerto Rico should be an independent republic have the PDP in their grip.

What happened when Sila Calderon won the governorship in 2000? For the first few weeks all the meetings at La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion, were with independence leaders. The result was that many of the government agencies’ heads and top agency officials were named from suggestions submitted by PIP leaders. The top echelon of today’s PDP-controlled government and the party itself is heavily staffed with hard-core independence sympathizers. Not the commonwealthers or enhanced commonwealthers of Luis Muñoz Marin’s or Rafael Hernandez Colon’s days.

Witness the events at the Women’s Advocate Office where the director Maria Dolores Fernos removed the American flag from the lobby where for years both the Puerto Rican and American flags had stood together. Never mind that almost 30% of the funds of that agency are U.S. federal funds. Witness the efforts by PDP leader and Senate president Antonio Fas Alzamora who has wanted and attempted throughout the past four years to eliminate English as one of Puerto Rico’s two official languages. Witness the destruction of federal property in Vieques the day the Navy left during Sila Calderon’s administration. That day, American flags were burned and U.S. government property destroyed amid violent demonstrations right in front of Gov. Calderon, with no action being taken against the perpetrators by the local police, which she controlled. It was U.S. military police under a barrage of rocks and bottles from the aggressors that had to stop the destruction and arrest the perpetrators. And then it was the federal court here that had to prosecute the terrorists. Some of them are still serving time in federal jails.

The higher echelon of the PDP leadership is now riddled with fully pledged independentistas. They are a small minority, but they control the party. Since the PDP wouldn’t be able to win an election without this minority, they have to treat the independentistas with kid gloves.

The PDP now has become a coalition of commonwealth and independence supporters. While most of the rank-and-file populares are happy to be Americans, they are part of the silent majority that is being taken to independence without realizing it.

How is that happening? Through a very simple and very clever strategy of the independentista minority in Puerto Rico.

Since they can’t achieve independence in the voting booths, their strategy for years has been to antagonize, insult, and spit at Americans, burn American flags, and do everything possible to give the impression to national and international media that Puerto Ricans want independence.

Extreme independence supporters have done a lot over the years to antagonize and insult the U.S. In the ‘50s, there was the shooting up of the U.S. Congress while in session. Subsequently, the attempt to assassinate President Truman at Blair House right across the street from the White House. Then, there was the bomb that killed several people at Francis Tavern on Wall Street also years ago. In the ‘70s, there was the terrorist bombing and destruction of several U.S. National Guard planes at the National Guard airbase in San Juan. There was also the killing of several Navy men in an official Navy bus from the local Sabana Seca Naval Base. But those attacks were always by a few terrorists and statesiders thought of them as a small group of leftist radicals. They have extreme violent radicals in the States also, so they never gave those attacks by a few, lasting importance.

Vieques, however, changed all that. What started out as a legitimate Stop-the-Bombing movement by the government and people of Puerto Rico, long before the World Trade Center disaster or the Iraq war, was turned very cleverly by pro-independence leaders into a highly publicized broad-based anti-American, anti-Navy movement.

Many in the silent majority stupidly and unwittingly got involved emotionally with the demonstrations, bringing the crowds up to the tens of thousands. Vieques was a great victory for the independentistas. The leaders of that movement made sure members of the national and international press could see the burning of American flags and of the effigies of the American president, and the insults to the U.S. government and the Navy that took place in the emotional heat of the demonstrations. This wasn’t a few radicals but massive demonstrations led by independentistas cleverly made to appear as if all Puerto Ricans are anti-American. At the time, the top Independence Party leaders said, "Today, it’s Vieques; tomorrow, it will be Puerto Rico."

Now, the diehard independentistas led the bandwagon again against the federal courts, not so much because of the elections, but because it’s another great issue to poke their thumbs in the Americans’ eye and get press coverage. And the PDP, that wanted to make sure its candidate is elected governor, inflated the demonstrators’ ranks into thousands, all shouting and yelling against and insulting the U.S. federal judges, the federal court, and the federal government.

What the silent majority isn’t aware of is the effect this is having on the White House, the U.S. Congress, and the American public in general. We now definitely are being viewed as anti-American, as a large mass of people who want independence. Now, it isn’t a few radicals. The independentistas have learned how to turn an emotional issue into massive demonstrations that give the impression of a massive anti-American movement by all Puerto Ricans, not the 8% or 9 % who really want independence.

Unfortunately, the perception now is that most people in Puerto Rico want independence and that we want the Americans out! In fact, President Bush a few years ago said, in reference to Vieques, "They don’t want us there." But his thinking went farther than just Vieques. In fact, the thinking of others in the White House and in Congress is just that.

The U.S. has much bigger problems to deal with right now than Puerto Rico. But little by little, that perception is growing and, from the White House on down, they are someday going to say: "Wait a minute. We don’t need Puerto Rico anymore! We gave up the Ramey Air Force Base, Navy operations in Culebra, Sabana Seca Base, Vieques, Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, the U.S. Army South Headquarters in San Juan. In fact, all we have in Puerto Rico is the Coast Guard working to try and stop massive drug smuggling into Puerto Rico and thousands of foreign immigrants from illegally entering the island every month; and a small Army operation at Fort Buchanan that is really not a military base so much as a convenience post for American veterans. If we remove the few Coast Guard personnel and vessels in Puerto Rico, who are here to prevent the entry of illegal drugs and immigrants, these problems then become Puerto Rico’s problems. We just have to see that the drugs and illegal immigrants don’t enter the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico. That wouldn’t be too hard for us to control since Puerto Rico is 1,000 miles away over the ocean from the U.S. mainland."

The bottom line is that the silent majority of Puerto Ricans–easily 85% who are very happy and proud to be both American and Puerto Rican–are being taken for a ride to independence.

All the U.S. has to do when it finally gets fed up with those "ungrateful Puerto Ricans" who receive $17 billion net a year from the federal government, from taxes paid by stateside Americans, is to declare us independent. The U.S. can do that unilaterally.

What would you do if you were a stateside American, not Puerto Rican, and were being insulted and your flag was being burned continuously? What if you were being pushed out despite the fact that you are sending $17 billion of your tax dollars down here to "ungrateful people" who hate you? What if you didn’t need them anymore for strategic military defense reasons?

Having been born and raised in the States, having served in the U.S. Marines for four years with men and women from all over the country, and having dealt for years with many city, state, and federal officials in government, in Congress and right up to the White House, I know one thing. Americans are an easy-going people, a very generous and benevolent people. But they will be pushed only so far. When they say "enough," they are the most powerful people in the world and will do what has to be done.

Independentistas know that and are counting on it to bring independence to Puerto Rico.

If the silent majority here doesn’t wake up soon we won’t need a plebiscite to decide the status issue. It will be decided for us and it will be too late to reverse that decision in Washington.

If the silent majority stays silent, we’ll find out soon enough.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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