The sad nature of Puerto Rico’s colonial status will become embarrassingly evident again in Thursday night’s televised debate among our three parties’ gubernatorial candidates. Two recently reported controversies have evidenced the alternating commonwealth and statehood leaders’ indistinguishable shallowness. One, rather trivial, involves the statehood party’s candidate for resident commissioner and the pro-commonwealth incumbent (who insists that the current arrangement is neither colonial nor territorial). The other controversy shamefully evidences the complicity of leaders of both colonial parties in the undemocratic deployment of Puerto Ricans for U.S. wars.
The first controversy entailed whether the U.S. government would eliminate or extend coverage for a few additional years of certain tax credits paid by Social Security funds (which Puerto Ricans also pay for) for families in Puerto Rico with three or more children. (STAR, Sept. 11) Because Puerto Ricans normally do not file federal income tax returns, the program is of limited impact, anyway. Of the two chattering colonials proud of the award-winning role of subservience in Congress one of them celebrated that, according to the STAR’s report, he had “received word that the U.S. Treasury Department was withdrawing its proposal to cancel the island’s participation in the child credit program.” The other rejoiced that “he received confirmations from the White House and the House Ways and Means Committee that the island would continue to receive the tax benefits.”
In this ideologically indistinguishable mind set, victory belongs to he who will first be told what the U.S. government will do to Puerto Rico -pathetically, without the consent of Puerto Ricans! Colonial experience shows that, after debates of interchangeable rhetoric, whether the winner goes on to sit in the governor’s mansion or in the U.S. Congress -where he might be allowed to vote so long as his vote does not count- he will become solicitously adulatory of American power.
The second controversy concerning our political subservience dramatizes a morbid sense of parity. More than 900 Army reservists from Puerto Rico were recently called up for duty as the death toll of Americans in Iraq also climbed above 900. (STAR, Sept. 11) Puerto Rico, with neither voice nor vote in federal decisions and a population only one tenth that of the most populous state, ranks fifth among U.S. jurisdictions in the number of reservists fighting the Bush war in Iraq.
The mobilization of Puerto Rican troops caused the resident commissioner and commonwealth party candidate for governor to reaffirm “moral support and solidarity” for the troops, but not to protest their deployment. And while he fantasizes that, in his performance as resident commissioner, he is in “complete control of the Washington operation,” (STAR, Sept. 14) his pro-statehood counterparts remain steadfastly loyal to the undemocratic overflow of blood taxing the colonial arrangement installed by the United States.
Moral outrage appears to have been expunged from the politically subservient psyche. During the Vietnam War when, like today, most of the international community massively demonstrated against U.S. imperial ventures, colonial groveling led Puerto Rico’s legislature, alone among U.S. jurisdictions, to support that moral aberration. A generation later, commonwealth and statehood party leaders in Puerto Rico continue to behave submissively. In their political cowardice, they have repeatedly refused to consider legislation introduced by the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) to condemn or even discuss torture and other human rights violations by American occupying forces in Iraq, and to demand the return of the Puerto Rican soldiers undemocratically deployed.
According to Jeffrey Farrow, the former White House advisor on Puerto Rico and current advisor to the Democratic standard bearer, John Kerry believes that Puerto Rico should choose among fully democratic alternatives, like independence, sovereign free association, or statehood. The present territorial arrangement is deemed acceptable, however, until Puerto Ricans make a final choice. (Sept. 11) Likewise, the Republican Party takes the position that, if Puerto Ricans vote to change the present commonwealth arrangement, the change should be towards a permanent, non-territorial, “constitutionally valid” alternative. (STAR, Sept. 1) But until then, colonialism prevails.
Clearly, both U.S. political parties acknowledge the undemocratic nature of the territorial arrangement and both recognize that Puerto Rico should enjoy a fully democratic status. Yet both are still willing to let sleeping colonials lie, and unwilling to exercise their responsibility to decolonize. Thus the anachronistic nature of Puerto Rico’s subordination remains the choice of the U.S. government by default.
So the question with which almost every college course in elementary logic starts off comes to mind: If God is all-powerful, could She create a rock so heavy that even She could not move? Leaving theological and feminist issues aside, the fallacy of the question was always in its contradictory premises -like the U.S. position on Puerto Rico- which two of the three candidates for governor will shamelessly defend in tonight’s televised debate!