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Hatred, Lies, Fears Pollute Puerto Rico's Air

by Guillermo Moscoso

December 8, 1998
©Copyright 1998

Most people in Puerto Rico are sick and indignant of the relentless lies, hatred, fears, disinformation, venom and distortion of facts in the political campaign leading to the December 13 status consultation. They are equally indignant and sick of the constant drumbeat of orchestrated anger and attacks against Governor Rosselló and everything he says and does. To hate Rossello and to call for his punishment on December 13 is the order of the day, to say nothing about well-orchestrated and politically-motivated strikes.
I agree that there is something proper and patriotic about thoughtful opposition. And there is nothing more Puerto Rican than criticizing political leaders. But as it has been pointed out, what we have today in Puerto Rico is beyond that. It is a sickly cynicism encouraged by haranguers of the masses. The situation has gone beyond mere political opposition and has come close to anarchy. Speaking of the lies that pollute Puerto Rico's air today, what is being said about statehood being dead and impossible for Puerto Rico takes the prize! The misinformations, lies, fears and distortion of facts about statehood, compel me to remind the people of Puerto Rico what the late Senator Dennis Chávez (D-New Mexico) said, as follows, in a speech delivered in San Juan 28 years ago:
"At no time has it been the intention of the U.S. Congress to make the commonwealth status of Puerto Rico any other than a transitory government leading to eventual statehood or independence, and the Popular Democratic Party has been derelict in foisting on Puerto Rico a status that is entirely unpalatable. Puerto Rico as a state could contribute untold benefits as a leading link or stepping stone toward close ties with Latin America, and as an example for underdeveloped countries. The opponents of statehood argue that statehood would be disastrous for Puerto Rico. Not so. For Puerto Ricans themselves, statehood would bring incalculable benefits. Full-fledged citizenship on a par with citizens of the states of the Union would imply responsibilities, as well as privileges. These responsibilities, electing senators and representatives to Congress and paying taxes in support of the federal government, far from being burdensome, would put Puerto Rico on equal psychological footing with citizens of other states. We hear fervent arguments to the effect that the tax concessions which Puerto Rico can offer new investors are a decisive factor in attracting new industries to the island. I believe, on the contrary, that the sense of political insecurity growing out of the neither fish-nor-foul status of the island, is a major barrier to investment of capital in the island. It can be argued logically that among economic benefits under statehood, come the elimination of many restrictions of imports to the mainland, a larger share in defense contracts, through voice and vote in Congress, plus increased capital investments. These three factors should more than equal losses through federal taxation. In balance, I hold that the economic, cultural, psychological and strategic advantages weigh heavily in favor of Puerto Rico's statehood. Regarding independence, it would be the most disastrous step Puerto Rico could ever take". (end of quote).
It has been said that our Hispanic heritage, culture, and Spanish language disqualify Puerto Rico from becoming a state of the Union. No mention has been made, however, that in spite of multi cultural history and languages, other than English, several U.S. territories, such as New Mexico, California, Louisiana, Hawaii, Alaska and Colorado, were admitted as states of the Union. In 1868, when Colorado was a territory-like Puerto Rico is now-its territorial laws were published in English, Spanish and German. So were all public documents, governor's messages and codes of civil procedure. A few years ago, when Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroader, who opposed Colorado adopting English as the official language, came to Puerto Rico, she said that "people need not be told which language is official and which is not". This may explain why the U.S. Constitution and Congress never established a U.S. official language and left it to the states to decide this matter.
As to claims that under statehood we would lose our Hispanic heritage and Spanish language, the following was said in 1937 by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which actually represents U.S. policy: "Puerto Rico is a densely populated island. Many of its sons and daughters would seek economic opportunities on the mainland. They would be greatly handicapped if they had no command of the English language. It is obvious that they retain their Spanish culture and heritage. Clearly, there is no desire or intention to eliminate the enjoyment and usefulness of the rich legacy of Spanish culture of the people of Puerto Rico".
Also to be remembered are the following words of the late Senator Dennis Chávez: "It is my wish that Puerto Ricans learn English so they don't live on the fringes of our political, social and economic life. This, without losing an iota of the great values of Spanish civilization, including the Spanish language.".
In conclusion, statehood for Puerto Rico is not impossible, it is not dead, nor has it been defeated in the U.S. Congress because it is a legitimate decolonization status option (integration with sovereign state) approved by United Nations Resolution 1541 in 1960, of which the U.S. was signatory. Only Puerto Ricans can defeat statehood. So, it is imperative to show convincingly on December 13 that the majority of the people of Puerto Rico want statehood and, as much as possible, integration in the U.S. political, economic and social structures and patterns, without renouncing and turning their back to their basic heritage. It must be realized that there is a price to be paid for all good things in life. If we want full political rights under our U.S. citizenship, we must have statehood with all its privileges, benefits, as well as obligations, and forget about such trivialities as having and Olympic team and participating in Miss Universe contest as a separate nation.

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