To argue on Puerto Rican Independence, Commonwealth, or Statehood, we must first learn of the history of Puerto Rico. Growing up I was very ignorant about Puerto Rico. It wasnt till I was in the Navy and got stationed in Puerto Rico did I really find out the small Caribbean island. Although Puerto Rico has an extensive history, I will only give a brief synopsis of it: In November 1493 Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Puerto Rico for the country of Spain. It remained a colonization of Spain until 1898 when Spain ceded the island to the United States after the Spanish-American war.In 1917 Puerto Ricans became U.S. Citizens, but only 24% consider themselves as American (2000 census).Puerto Rico was also granted its own government and constitution, however, it had to be approved by the U.S. congress. Also Puerto Rico must obey our federal laws. In 1952 Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth associated with the United States. Puerto Rico does not pay any federal income tax and yet still receive federal benefits. To make for this, they cannot vote in presidential elections and have no voting representation in congress.
Puerto Rican Statehood has been a hot issue for several years. Currently, there are three views on this issue: Statehood (New Progressive Party or NPP), Commonwealth (Popular Democratic Party or PDP) and Independence (Puerto Rican Independence Party or PIP). In this report, I hope to show each view clearly and back it up with documentation.
VIEW OF STATEHOOD
Statehood supporters “see the United States as a union of 50 sovereign states united to give their citizens the best opportunity to succeed in life. “They believe that Puerto Rico is in a unique position to join this union and partake of the benefits, and responsibilities, of being an integral part of the United States of America. There are economic, social, and political advantages to becoming the 51st state.”
PROS OF STATEHOOD
In the economics of Puerto Rico, statehood has many pros. The first is that Puerto Rico will receive taxes from their citizens to build the infrastructure of the state. They will have an open market to trade with all nations that are in alliance with the U.S. With becoming a state, Puerto Rico will enjoy the benefits of America’s high per capita income and low unemployment rates.
“Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States has been directly responsible for Puerto Rico having one of the highest standard of living of Central, South America, and the Caribbean. However, the American citizens of Puerto Rico are still very far from attaining the same level of economic prosperity other American citizens enjoy in the other 50 states. Becoming a state would give Puerto Rico the opportunity of improving its economic situation.”
Politically, there are several advantages to becoming a state. The first is that Puerto Rico will have a voice in the Congress with at least seven represenatives and two senators. Currently, Puerto Rico only has a resident commissioner in Congress. He has a voice, but no vote. Puerto Rico has no electoral votes in the Presidential elections. Becoming a State would remove Puerto Rico form under the Territorial “claws” of the U.S. Constitution, and would put Puerto Rico on the same political footing as the other 50 states. This is the single most compelling argument for Puerto Rican statehood that Puerto Ricans have.
CONS OF STATEHOOD
There are several economic reasons that can be argued against Puerto Rico becoming a state.First, the current unemployment rate is 11.7%, which would rank the highest in the nation. Puerto Rico has the lowest per capita income at around $7000, half of the poorest U.S. state (Mississippi). Thus it would cost the U.S. Government approximately 3-4 billion a year for 10 years to get Puerto Rico up to par with the other states. The 936 tax code, which grants U.S. companies federal tax exemptions for their operations in Puerto Rico, would also be repealed. Most likely forcing U.S. pharmaceutical companies and other large corporations out of Puerto Rico to less expensive countries.
There are several arguments against statehood on the social structure of Puerto Rico. The first is that Puerto will no longer have a representative in their Miss Universe Pageant, which they have won on four occasions. Also, they would not be recognized as an individual nation in the Olympic games. “These international representations would be curbed under Statehood, as Puerto Rico would be required to participate in the same manner as the other 50 states, and to compete to represent the United States collectively, and not Puerto Rico individually, in these international events.”
Language and culture are some other social factors that statehood might threaten. Puerto Ricos language and culture started over a hundred years before the Pilgrims ever landed on Plymouth Rock. Puerto Ricans are very proud of their culture and their language and fear that if they become a state, it will be wiped out. Personally I think that happened a long time ago. Puerto Rico is almost like any city in the U.S. except a change in architecture and a few other minor differences. There are strip malls, restaurants, and shopping malls are identical to the ones here. Even at Blockbuster or the movie theaters, the movies are American and in English. The culture is very Americanized except for some holidays and traditions, whether they want to believe it or not. Language on the other hand is a different story. Officially they say 85% of Puerto Rico speaks English. That figure is a little misleading since only 15% of the population is fluent in English.
VIEW OF COMMONWEALTH STATUS
The view of the continuance of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is the most popular position with 69.4% of US Puerto Ricans support. Voters cast a 48.6% decision in favor of remaining a commonwealth of the United States. Of the commonwealth proponents 71.4% are first generation Americans, 24% are second generation, and 4.5% are third generation. The political ideologies of commonwealth proponents are 27% liberal, 26.5% moderate, and 46.5 conservative. The language ability is as follows: Only English 2%, better in English 26.3%, no difference 25.5%, better in Spanish 38.1% and only in Spanish 8.1% .
PROS OF COMMONWEALTH CONTINUENCE
One man in San Juan said, “I believe we should stay the way we are. It’s worked for about 50 years already. We get the best of both worlds. ” What is the best of both worlds? Currently, Puerto Rico receives the protection of the United States in time of war. They also receive the benefits of being U.S. citizens without having to pay taxes to the U.S. government. The citizens of Puerto Rico do pay Social Security and do have the benefits of Medicare.
VIEW OF INDEPENDENCE
The view of independence says that Puerto Rico should and does have the right to become a sovereign nation. “After nearly 495 years of foreign domination, first by Spain and then by the United States, it’s about time for us to say . . . ‘Viva Puerto Rico Libre y Soberano!'”. Three point five percent of Puerto Ricans living in the United States are in favor for independence. The breakdown of this belief is 34.1% of first generation, 30.5% of second generation, and 35.5% of third generation are in favor of independence.
Liberal Puerto Ricans are in favor of independence by 55.6%, moderate by 11.3% and conservative by 33.2%. The language breakdown is, only English 13.9%, better in English 51.7%, no difference 13.8%, better in Spanish 11.9% and only in Spanish 8.8% .
PROS OF INDEPENDENCE
“Puerto Rico’s culture is a rich mix of Spanish, Taino Indian, African and American influences. The resulting blend is unique, both in Latin America and the world. However, some people in Puerto Rico contend that the Puerto Rican culture is under attack by the United States, and that Statehood would in effect sign the death sentence of the Puerto Rican culture. ”
The economic pros of independence are that Puerto Rico will be able to enter into trade agreements with other free nations as it so chooses. Chris Dodd, Bill Bradley, Pat Moynihan, and various members of the CBO, of Yale University and Harvard University, and others comment on the Independence economic model in very favorable terms. Every major financial analyst and economist in both the academic and federal sectors have expressed appreciation and approval to the economic strategy as being fair, equitable and workable.
In a worse case scenario, Puerto Rico will operate under a combined budget of six billion dollars. Puerto Rico would receive revenue from sources such as customs, parks, excise taxes, user-paid tolls, and service fess. That is what several other small, independent nations are doing right now.
Allen, R.E. The Dialogues of Plato, Volume II. London: Yale University Press Publisher,
Grant, Michael. Cicero, Selected Works. Blatimore: Penguin Books Publisher, 1960.
Dolan, John P. The Essentials Erasmus. New York: The new American Library Publisher, 1964
Internet. Plato (circa 428-C.-347 B.C) Plato Page. http://www.connect.net/ron/plato.html.
Hare, R.M. Plato. London: Oxford University Press, 1892