Puerto Rican Government in Support of Another Plebiscite for Statehood for a Country That Doesn’t Care

M. M. Velez
Nov 27, 2018 · 4 min read

On November 23, 2018, the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration released a memo detailing Governor Rosselló’s support for a federally-sponsored plebiscite, where the public can vote whether Puerto Rico should be a state.

This is the memo:

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This quote caught my attention:

“‘In the last seven years, our people have twice rejected our colonial relationship with the united states and favored equal rights for the american citizens of Puerto Rico, voting overwhelmingly in support of statehood for Puerto Rico’,” said Governor Rosselló.

That is so incredibly misleading.

Only 23% of Puerto Rico’s population actually went out to vote in the last plebiscite because most major parties boycotted it. This resulted in statehood winning by 97%.

What was done by the U.S. government in response? Nothing.

Another line in the memo is: “‘Puerto Rico’s current colonial political status is not sustainable’”, and it’s is something I understand. The island is having a difficult time, but maybe instead of pushing for statehood, push to repeal the Jones Act, which is draining Puerto Rico economically and socially.

The Navigation Acts, a series of English laws that restricted colonial trade to England, created resentment in the American colonies and fueled the American Revolution. The United States despised being a colony, so they engaged in a war against the British and Loyalists for their liberation. Why is it that Americans realize that the Navigation Acts were strangling the colonies, however when it comes to the Jones Act, a law that states that “any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees and taxes”, they turn a blind eye.

Not even the U.S. Virgin Islands, another commonwealth of the U.S., are covered under the Jones Act.

According to a study conducted in 2012 by economists from the University of Puerto Rico, this law has caused a $17 billion loss to the island’s economy in between 1990 and 2010.

That’s an incredible amount of money. And, according to this study, if the Jones Act did not exist, neither would the public debt in Puerto Rico.

This Jones Act is strangling Puerto Rico’s economy, so much so that many are leaving the island for the mainland because it is so much easier and cheaper to live there. This is causing a huge brain drain, since educated individuals and privileged individuals can make the trip to accomplish the American dream.

Unfortunately, those who live off of minimum wage, those who did not finish school, those who do not have the funds for such an expensive excursion have to stay on the mainland.

If there are not academically advanced people on the island, then it becomes difficult to fill high level, high paying positions, which results in there being too many people for lower paying positions and not enough jobs. Lower paying jobs means that the population of Puerto Rico as a whole is not spending as much, which leads to less money circulation in Puerto Rico’s economy, and the economy slowly collapsing

This plebiscite is not going to fix Puerto Rico because the United States doesn’t care. They are reaping the benefits of the debt in Puerto Rico, and if it works for them, then why should they change it? The island is not their priority.

Take Hurricane Maria. There was clearly a different response to the destruction of Puerto Rico by President Trump, where he tweeted:

“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”, in comparison to his response to Hurricane Harvey destruction in Texas and the ruination in Florida, which he tweeted his support for the states and his wish to keep aid there for as long as they needed it.

Furthermore, with the current administration being Republican biased, there is no chance that Puerto Rico, an island that would most likely add “five more Democrats in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate”, could become a state. And so, even if the entire island had gone to vote for statehood, there is close to little chance that Puerto Rico would become a state.

There are so many better ways to go about making the United States treat Puerto Ricans like equals (i.e. repealing the Jones Act, pushing for Congress to allow our one representative to vote etc.).

M. M. Velez

Further Reading

How Trump Favored Texas Over Puerto Rico

The Jones Act: The Law Strangling Puerto Rico

Time to Repeal the Jones Act

23% of Puerto Ricans Vote in Referendum, 97% of Them for Statehood

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