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The Stanford Daily Takes on Puerto Rico’s Status

A recent debate on Puerto Rico’s status in the Stanford Daily highlighted the new appreciation of the importance of this issue not only for Puerto Rico but for the United States as a whole.

Student writer Matthew Cohen wrote, “Puerto Rican statehood? Not so fast…” He made two main claims:

  • Puerto Rico doesn’t really want statehood.
  • The U.S. can’t afford to give Puerto Rico statehood.

His claim that Puerto Rico doesn’t want statehood rests on the 20th century plebiscites, and on the fact that Spanish is widely spoken in Puerto Rico.

“Advocates for statehood will point to the results of the 2012 Puerto Rican referendum as evidence that Puerto Ricans want statehood,” Cohen acknowledges. “In that referendum, by a vote of 54 to 46, the people of Puerto Rico expressed their disapproval in Puerto Rico’s current status as a territory.”

Cohen goes on to affirm that, when asked which nonterritorial option they would prefer, “Only 60 percent supported statehood; 33 percent supported free association and the rest voted for independence.”  From this result, Cohen concludes that “[u]ntil there is a majority that supports one option  – statehood, territorial status, independence – the status quo should remain in place.”

Cohen does not address why or how the status quo should continue when it was rejected by 54% of the voters or that the 61.2% (based on the official record) supporting statehood represented a majority.


Cohen also asserts that “Puerto Rico needs to improve its economic outlook before the U.S. considers adding it as a state.”  Puerto Rico belongs to the U.S. now, and the U.S. is responsible for Puerto Rico.  Cohen does not specify how this situation would be markedly different with Puerto Rico as a state as opposed to a territory.

If Puerto Rico follows the pattern of other states, including those that entered the Union in the 20th century, the increased economic strength that follows statehood will be good for the U.S. economy as a whole, in a way that Puerto Rico’s current fiscal weakness cannot.

On the other side, student writer Johnathan Bowes says, “¡Admisión ya!”

“Slowly but surely, the people of Puerto Rico are realizing that the colonial Commonwealth cannot continue, and statehood must replace it as soon as possible,” says Bowes, referring to the rising numbers of votes for statehood over the history of the referenda on the subject. “More than any singular politician or administration, that colonial status quo has forced my ancestral homeland down the path to ruin.”

The economic issue is important to Bowes. “The GAO found last year that the admission of Puerto Rico as a state would likely cause federal tax revenues to increase by $7 billion,” he says. “In the same report, the GAO predicted that estadidad would cause $10 billion to find its way into the island’s economy.”

But Bowes also sees positive political changes ahead. Puerto Rico as a state would have eight votes in the electoral college, but Bowes points out that the political parties on the island, no longer having to focus on the status question, would be able to take on other issues.

Finally, Bowes points to the question of “spirit.” Speaking as a U.S. citizen, Bowes says, “We as a nation must return to the values of freedom and republican rule that first compelled our Founders to throw off our own colonization as a nation. Doing so means rejecting our own experiment as colonial masters.”

3 thoughts on “The Stanford Daily Takes on Puerto Rico’s Status”

  1. Cohen sounds like a paid “Commonwealth” spokesperson. Either that or Cohen sr. (The lawyer) lobbies for the “commonwealth” party. THIS “COHEN” may be a Puerto Rican Cohen defending the “commonwealth” and its tax exempt bonds and sales &Income .

    Its IMPOSSIBLE for Cohen (If he’s not Puerto Rican) to repeat Populist Democrat (“commonwealth”)party by pure coincidence.
    1. Puerto Ricans didn’t votes a statehood majority. WHAT THE HELL IS 61% then?
    2. PR must become economically ready for statehood.
    This is a classic “commonwealth” party line. As we all see, the “commonwealth” party is true to that statement as they destroy Puerto Rico’s economy to AVOID STATEHOOD.
    3. Puerto Ricans prefer the Commonwealth. Really?
    54% rejection at the ballot is not a majority against it?

    4. US can’t afford Puerto Rico as a state. Yet the “commonwealth” hipocrytes want an independent republic in free association that won’t be called “independent”. They call it “sovereign Commonwealth”.
    This “sovereign commonwealth” will be completely outside the authority of Congress. The “Sovereign commonwealth” has…
    * Power over its own immigration.
    *Power to grant Radio and TV licensing. (FCC get out)
    * Power to enter world treaties.
    * Veto over US laws. (Why?, Isn’t “sovereign” PR already outside congressional reach?)
    * US citizenship au sangris in birthright- Despite the fact PR is OUTSIDE the reach of CONGRESS. How can Congress safeguard the well being of US citizens in PR if PR is again… OUTSIDE THE REACH OF CONGRESS?
    * Full federal funding at statehood level. ( Now why the hell would Congress send funds at statehood levels to a new foreign country it has no control over? DID’NT THE “COMMONWEALTH” PARTY SAY “STATEHOOD TOO COSTLY FOR US”? That’s WITH the island paying Federal taxes. YET MIRACULOUSLY CONGRESS WILL SPEND ALL THAT AND MORE ON A FREE ASSOCIATED REPUBLIC.????? Ridiculous!

    The commonwealth party spent over 60 years claiming (falsely) that PR was a “nation in free association” when its really just an unincorporated Territory.

    Now they seek an independence they will disguise as “sovereign Commonwealth.” Problem is……Uncle Sam isn’t going along!! Thank god for that!!

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