February 4, 2005

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Público

Response to Iraq/Puerto Rico Comparison

I want to make some corrections on the piece comparing Iraq to Puerto Rico of January 28th of 2005. In her commentary Mrs. Hernandez makes two factual errors, a couple of omissions and in my opinion a few judgmental errors.

First, Mrs. Hernandez mentions that “… The US change the name of the island from Borinquen to ‘Porto Rico’”. This is factually incorrect. Boriken or Borinquen was the name given to the island by its native Taino indians. When Columbus claimed the island for the Spanish crown, he named it San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) and Puerto Rico was the name of the principal city. It wasn’t until later (1521) that the city and the island exchanged names. The US had nothing to do with this.

Mrs. Hernandez, also states correctly that PR is in fact one of the few remaining colonies but she supports this claim with inappropriate data. She states that “Puerto Rico cannot engage in international diplomacy and has no control over her land, natural resources, air or sea. Puerto Rico has little authority to conduct trade or commerce with the U.S. states or other countries”. In fact as a US territory PR behaves in many regards as a state of the union like Texas or California where there is state (in this case commonwealth) government with its respective jurisdiction and the federal government with its own respective jurisdiction. For perspective a state of the union like California has little authority to engage in international diplomacy or conduct trade with other countries as this is the jurisdiction of the federal government. Also like in California the court system has both a Local and a Federal court system, each with its own jurisdiction. And just like in California, there are private, state controlled and federally control natural resources. Does this mean that there is no democracy in California? The answer is obviously No.

The current colonial status of Puerto Rico is complicated and needs to be understood before comparisons to it can be intelligently made. Everyone born in Puerto Rico is by birth right a US citizen. All US citizens living in PR do have certain political limitations but these limitations are independent of where that citizen was born. They apply to any US citizen residing in PR. Some of these limitations Mrs. Hernandez explained, like not voting for the President of the US or have a bona fide legislative delegation to the senate and congress are true. But on the other side US citizens living in PR pay no federal income taxes, even do many of them receive federal benefits paid with Federal income tax funds. In essence, it is really a trade off. The fact that Puerto Rico remains a colony has nothing to do with an imposed “democracy” but it has everything to do with being a beneficial economic status for many of its residents. Puerto Ricans periodically have “democratic” popular referendums to choose the future form of the island’s political status. We choose for personal reasons to stay a colony. This is not the fault of the US nor does it mean PR is not a democracy.

Mrs. Hernandez referring to the status options available to PR writes “… or should revert back to its status of 1897 and become a politically autonomous and independent nation”. It is a matter of fact that PR was never and independent nation although it did gain some autonomous powers from the Spanish court in 1897 not unlike the ones it currently enjoys under US jurisdiction.

In summary, the Puerto Rican political status issues and the current political situation of Iraq have very little if nothing in common. Puerto Rico may not be a sovereign state but it certainly is a democracy.

Gustavo J. Perez
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico


Keep up the good jale

Tu papiro esta ATM con excepción de una destateada que tuviste no hace mucho. Adelante hermano otro Indio del Chuco y ysleta TX/.

Keep up the good jale Un lector suyo

Carlos Collins

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