Puerto Rico’s Political Situation Explained in the New York Times

My boss (who would’ve thunk it?) pointed me to an interesting article in today’s New York Times which explains my island’s current political situation, while also providing some insight into the reasons Puerto Rico will play such an important role in the presidential primaries.

And while it is not all bad, some of Mr. Janeway’s information is not entirely correct:

  • “…nor will its 2.5 million registered voters cast ballots for president in November.” – I’m not sure if this number is accurate or not – it may actually only reflect the number of Puerto Ricans registered as Democrats or Republicans expected to turn out for the primaries. Voting in Puerto Rico is serious business, and the island typically becomes paralyzed on election days: no work, no school, nothing non-essential happens. And everybody that can vote, does. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for the presidential primaries.
  • “And until mid-century, sporadic outbursts of violent nationalism haunted the scene.” – The Puerto Rican nationalist movement is alive and well. The EPB (Ejercito Popular Boricua, AKA “Los Macheteros”) is clearly present and active on the island – except the movement rarely receives the press coverage it deserves. And while Puerto Rican nationalism are mostly non-violent now, the same cannot be said for the FBI’s attempts to squash the movement (read more about Filiberto here). Janeway’s assertion that Puerto Ricans want to be Americans is a half-truth – perhaps it is propaganda? Since the United States frowns on the pro-independence movement and discourages its participants every chance it gets (see some of my previous posts), rooting for independence is always a bad proposition politically. I believe that a large number of Puerto Ricans are very much like Muñoz Marin, who wished for independence but then took a more pragmatic approach.
  • “Puerto Ricans elect their own Legislature, along with the governor. They enjoy entitlements like Social Security, but they do not pay federal income taxes… They have been citizens since 1917, but they have no vote in Congress or for the presidency.” – This makes it sound like we don’t get screwed on our taxes like every other tax-paying American. A middle class Puerto-Rican will still have to give up a third of his or her income to the government, except that it goes to the state rather than the federal government. And while we do not have a vote in Congress, we do get a single chair – and we have a dude that sits in it and watches. But he gets no say in anything.
  • “Since 1967, public support on the island has seesawed inconclusively between statehood and enhanced autonomy — a better version of the deal they already have.” – Liar, liar, pants on fire! The choice has always been STATEHOOD or STATUS QUO. Short of Congress deciding to grant us said “enhanced autonomy” (why would they do that?), Puerto Rico’s choices are to stay the same or fight for statehood. The status quo is not a pretty picture and I take offense when anyone tries to paint it as such.

And last but not least, there is this little nugget about the writer:

“Michael Janeway, a former editor of The Boston Globe and a professor of journalism and arts at Columbia, is writing a history of the United States and Puerto Rico in the 20th century.”

He’s writing a history of United States and Puerto Rico in the 20th century? God help us all.


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