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Puerto Russia?

“Puerto Rico,” wrote columnist Ralph Benko at Forbes,  “is in the terribly awkward position of territorial status.” Benko summarizes the awkwardness with a focus on the lack of representation of Puerto Rico in the Federal government.

The former aide to conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan goes on to note that: Puerto Ricans are seeking statehood; Federal funding has been approved for a plebiscite in the territory; and a conservative think tank said the insular government should pay for the vote (ignoring that it already held a plebiscite on its own in 2012, resulting in the petition for statehood).

So, Benko suggests — ‘tongue in cheek’ — that Puerto Rico would be giving up its ‘trump card’ by accepting Federal assistance for another plebiscite.

Obviously inspired by the new union between Russia and Crimea, he writes that Puerto Rico’s trump card now would be to go through the motions of discussing a union with Russia.

“If the leaders of the Puerto Rican statehood movement really wanted to galvanize America into making Puerto Rico the 51st state,” Benko playfully says, “they could seek a dialogue with Vladimir Putin.” Russia could help Puerto Rico out with its $70 billion debt and Puerto Rico could join the Russian Federation, he jokes.

Recalling that Reagan “warmly embraced Puerto Rican statehood,” Benko worries that, “Some conservatives inexplicably have drifted from Reagan’s position.”

Benko assures readers who might take what he wrote seriously on its face that he does not favor Puerto Rico joining Russia. He explains that the U.S. Government is not paying the attention that it should to the issue of Puerto Rico’s lack of democracy and is not treating “our fellow American citizens” with adequate respect. He made his attention-grabbing proposal to shake an “apathetic, out of touch, Washington, DC” out of complacency.

Other commenters from across the political spectrum have noted ironies in the contrasting positions of the U.S. regarding Crimea and Puerto Rico.  Website La Respuesta suggested that the history of Puerto Rico and the U.S.  parallels that of Crimea and Russia.

“As the U.S. denounces actions in Ukraine by Russia,” it writes,  “it ought to follow through with its own initiatives regarding Puerto Rico. This includes the Presidential Task Force, formed to offer recommendations to resolve Puerto Rico’s status.”

Cuba Inside the World reported that Russia’s Pravda compared Puerto Rico and Crimea, and contended that the U.S. Government, in spite of commitments to respect a Puerto Rican self-determination decision, has treated Puerto Rican plebiscites as polls rather than as really decisions.

While a columnist for Russia’s Pravda misunderstood the nature of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S., reasons that the U.S. Government’s stance on the Crimean referendum implies that the U.S. would not accept a declaration of independence from Puerto Rico, even if independence were to win an insular plebiscite.

The ability of people of vastly different political perspectives to see parallels between Puerto Rico and Crimea should be a sobering revelation to some in the United States.



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