Sunday, March 18, 2012
PR Primary, Plebiscite, Statehood Petition. Mitt Romney won the Puerto Rico Republican primary today. Why is a territory that cannot vote for President allowed to have any input whatsoever in the determination of a candidate for President? That makes no sense.
Nor does the neither-nor status of Puerto Rico — neither statehood nor independence — make any sense. PR (a fully respectful abbreviation for Puerto Rico, from zip-code convention) is politically, psychologically, and economically paralyzed, stunted, by its indecision on status. It wastes enormous energy in an unending debate over what the island's relationship with the United States should be.
Investors from the U.S. and other countries cannot confidently pour millions of dollars into a territory that might, at any moment, declare independence and embark upon a Cuban-style reign of confiscatory nationalization of private property. (Cuba was once under U.S. jurisdiction, but was (stupidly) given independence, in that no one could foresee Cuba being taken over by anti-U.S. Communists either.) While some investors might think a paroxysm of nationalization in PR is extremely unlikely, it is also very unlikely that PR would unilaterally declare independence. So if PR were to be swept up in nationalistic fervor powerful enuf to produce a declaration of independence — which Congress and the President would almost certainly agree to, given anti-Puerto Rican bias in the ruling class of the mainland — the island might also embark upon a radical-nationalist program of confiscation of foreign-owned property.
A news report about the PR primary on the Huffington Post today says:
In Puerto Rico, the race was focused on the issue of statehood, and [Enrique Melendez, the Republican representative on the Puerto Rican State Electoral Commission] said, "This proves Gov. Romney's electability and his ability to reach out to Hispanics and minorities."Romney aggravated some Puerto Ricans in attacking Obama's appointment of Sonia Sotomayor as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Romney's attempt to claim that his hostility to Sotomayor was based on her judicial philosophy rather than her ethnicity did not persuade everyone.
Whether that's true or not, Romney told Puerto Ricans he would support statehood while Santorum said English would have to be the official language of the island if it were to join the United States – a statement that roiled residents.
"In Puerto Rico, we get along fine with both languages," said Francisco Rodriguez, a 76-year-old architect who supported Romney and hopes Puerto Rico becomes the nation's 51st state.
An opinion piece by Ishton W. Morton at the Cincinnati Examiner's website on March 16th says in part:
According to Kasie Hunt with the Associated Press Santorum while campaigning in San Juan, Puerto Rico said making English the official language for Puerto Ricans should be a 'condition' for granting statehood [to] Puerto Rico.The Presidential primary in PR is a waste of PR taxpayers' money. And PR is going to waste more taxpayer money and enormous political and emotional energy in November on yet another pointless, nonbinding referendum on status. Even the best result, a resounding vote for statehood, could not in itself make PR a State of the Union, because that is not within PR's gift but wholly up to Congress.
Santorum continues to say; “The Island will have to make sure English is spoken universally." ...
There is currently no law declaring an official language of the United States, though several attempts have been made to give English that designation. Thirty-one states have passed laws mandating English as their official language.
Since the U. S. Constitution makes no reference [to] a language test for territories or properties that wish to become states Santorum['s] continued position on this matter seems to be potentially bigoted in principle. * * *
However, Puerto Rico is set to hold a referendum on statehood in November. Whether to become the 51st state is the critical issue for this U. S. territory. Ne[i]ther Puerto Rico [n]or the U. S. Virgin Islands ha[s] full voting rights in Congress. Also, the idea of being able to vote in presidential primaries and not presidential elections is completely ridiculous.
Republican candidates for President since at least Bush the Elder keep saying they favor PR statehood, but then do absolutely nothing to make PR a state. The reality is that a lot of Republicans would vote against statehood for Puerto Rico on the most meanspirited basis: that Puerto Ricans would likely send Democrats to both houses of Congress, and vote Democratic for President! Former Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice was open about that in a Republican Governors meeting in PR in 1998. His stance (and surely that of other Republicans, who won't say so aloud) is that you have no right to vote if you don't vote "right". Thus the attempts by Republicans in various states to prevent large numbers of Democratically inclined citizens from voting with foto-ID legislation.
Santorum is open in opposing statehood on the basis of language, even tho it may have cost him heavily in the PR primary. Is Santorum using language as an excuse, when his actual opposition to PR statehood is the same as Fordice's, fear that a State of PR would send Democrats to Congress and add its electoral vote to the Democratic vote for President? I can't say. Plainly PR is not going to make English the (sole) official language of Puerto Rico — it is already co-official, with Spanish — so Santorum could cloak his opposition on the basis of how Puerto Ricans would likely vote, in the relatively respectable stance that all Americans should be able to speak and read English. A story on Bloomberg News says:
Santorum was hurt by comments he made to the Spanish-language newspaper Vocero that the territory, 99 percent Hispanic, needed to make English its main language if it was to become a state. There is no such federal requirement.Wikipedia says that "85 percent [of Puerto Ricans] reported that they did not speak English 'very well.'" What chance, then, is there that the government of Puerto Rico will make English the sole official language?
The widespread appearance of Spanish on ballots in many elections around the United States may be a direct result of the current relationship of the U.S. and PR, in that, since 1917, anyone born in PR has automatically gained U.S. citizenship even if they later learned not one word of English. So mainland areas that had significant Spanish-speaking populations were mandated to provide Spanish on ballots (even if their speakers of Spanish were NOT born in PR). Americans concerned that bilingualism produces social division would be happy to remove Spanish from election ballots, and thus may regard the present relationship between the U.S. and PR as an unreasonable imposition upon Americans. If PR is given independence, the mainland may be freed from the requirement that Spanish appear, and ballots might again be unilingual.
The current colonial condition of PR is also expensive to U.S. taxpayers. A few years ago, the cost was put at $11 billion a year!
On January 3rd, I placed the following petition on the SignOn.org website (a project of MoveOn.org) under the heading, "Statehood for Puerto Rico (including the USVI)".
To be delivered to: The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack ObamaUnfortunately, no one found this petition at that site, and there are only two signatures, both from the Expansionist Party of the United States. If you favor statehood for Puerto Rico, you might sign it too, and alert others to its existence.
End the second-class status of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by joining those two colonies into a single 51st State. If a ratifying plebiscite rejects statehood, whichever territory rejects it should be forced into independence, saving U.S. taxpayers money that can be spent on people who value U.S. citizenship.
There are four million "citizens" of the United States in two adjoining colonies in the Caribbean, the misnamed "Commonwealth" of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Real, first-class citizens have the right to vote for President and Congress, but 4 million Americans in the Caribbean have no such right.
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