In his Fourth of July remarks, Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said that the holiday celebrates the independence “of a sister nation.”
His characterization of the U.S. echoed his recent assertions that Puerto Rico is “a nation” and the U.S. is “another country.”
The insular government chief executive made the earlier claims in rejecting equality for Puerto Rico within the United States.
Contrary to a popular vote for statehood last November, he contended that, “Puerto Ricans don’t want to be a U.S. state.”
Garcia argued against statehood by saying that “We are a nation, not a province of another country. We want to keep being Puerto Ricans.” On another recent occasion, the Governor charged that equality for Puerto Rico within the U.S. would make Puerto Rico “a Latin American ghetto.”
He purported to support his projection of the ghettoization of Puerto Rico under statehood by guessing that the islands’ already severely distressed economy would fail if treated equally with the States and the District of Columbia in tax programs. he ignored the Federal tax programs that would provide the many low-income Puerto Ricans with billions of dollars of assistance as well as equally tax businesses and individuals from the States who use Puerto Rico to avoid Federal taxes.
Puerto Rico is not considered to be a nation under U.S. or international law. Instead, it is a possession of the U.S., a U.S. territory that is not fully a part of the U.S.
In the status plebiscite last November, Puerto Ricans rejected territory status by 54%. Garcia failed in leading the campaign to support territory status, even though he disagrees with the U.S. Government position that Puerto Rico is a territory.
The plebiscite also chose statehood among the alternatives by 61.2%.
The nationhood options, nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S. and full independence, polled 33.34% of 5.49% of the vote, respectively – contrary to Garcia’s suggestion that Puerto Ricans want nationhood.
The now governor opposed the nationhood options in the plebiscite, making his assertion now that Puerto Rico is a nation all the more surprising.
Garcia’s claim of nationhood for Puerto Rico is, however, somewhat consistent with his “commonwealth” party’s proposal for the territory’s status. Under it, Puerto Rico would be recognized as a nation. The United States would be bound to the islands and the “commonwealth” arrangement — a proposal that Federal officials have uniformly rejected and are certain to continue to reject.
Puerto Rico would also be able to enter into international agreements and organizations as if it were a sovereign nation.
But other parts of the proposal are inconsistent with nationhood. For example, U.S. laws would apply and U.S. courts would have jurisdiction even though Puerto Rico would be able to nullify the application of the laws and the court jurisdiction.
As of now, Puerto Rico is fully under U.S. sovereignty, it is a part of the U.S. for the purposes of many laws, and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. So, Garcia’s notion that the United States is another country is also curious.
The Governor’s explanation of opposition to statehood because Puerto Ricans want to keep being Puerto Ricans is another puzzling position. More than 4.9 million people of Puerto Rican origin live in the States, including 1.5 million who have moved themselves to obtain the benefits of equality under statehood. Garcia has said that he considers these people to be “Puerto Ricans.” In fact, statehood did not cause them to not be Puerto Ricans culturally.
More important, statehood for Puerto Rico would not require Puerto Ricans in the islands to stop being Puerto Ricans any more than U.S. territory status did. The islands would maintain their own identity and culture, particularly because they would be separated from the other States by thousands of miles of ocean, whether they are a State or a territory.
Garcia’s argument that statehood would impoverish Puerto Rico also defies logic. Statehood would inject billions of dollars a year into Puerto Rico’s real economy, primarily by assisting low-income Puerto Ricans. It offers the potential of more Federal spending in the islands than that since Puerto Rico would have greater political power than 21 States — compared with its almost total lack of political power in the Federal government now.
Additionally, the islands have been impoverished under their current political status. Forty-seven percent of the population lives in poverty. Only about two in five adults are in the workforce, compared with about three in five in the States. Even with this, the unemployment rate is 13.4%, versus 7.6% in the States – a differential that has been generally consistent over the years.
And millions of Puerto Ricans have moved to the States for opportunities and benefits equal to those of their fellow citizens in the States. Twenty-nine percent of all people born in Puerto Rico who are still alive have moved to the States.