[Column] This is weird
Last week, when Gov. Ricardo Rosselló swore in the two “senators” and five “representatives” the state of Puerto Rico would send to Congress, the Democracy Commission that will go to Washington and bring back statehood, what came to mind was: This is weird.
First, shouldn’t the Governor, the captain of a ship that is sinking, dedicate all his time to saving the people from drowning?
Didn’t Rosselló and the New Progressive Party (NPP) hold a status plebiscite on June 4th to get Puerto Rico’s people themselves to ask Congress for statehood? And it was a disastrous failure. With over 70 percent of the voters expected to vote, didn’t only 23 percent vote? Didn’t statehood get 332,000 fewer votes than in the 2012 plebiscite?
So didn’t the people instead cry out to the captain – attend to the sinking ship?
Now, didn’t the Governor create another group, the apolitical Frente por Puerto Rico, precisely to convince Congress to prevent the island from drowning? And to revive economic growth, isn’t it essential to restore Puerto Rico’s competitiveness? And to do this, isn’t it vital to restore the investment tax incentive the island lost, approving a substitute to Section 936?
But the chairman of the Democracy Commission is the Governor’s father and former Gov. Pedro Rosselló. And wasn’t he the one who in 1996 lobbied in Congress to eliminate Section 936?
And with him, former Gov. Carlos Romero Barceló. And isn’t he the one who has conducted a life-long crusade precisely against all forms of tax exemption incentives, beginning with 936? And didn’t he just publish a newspaper column saying that every single tax exemption granted by the Puerto Rico government in the past 50 years has been illegal, unconstitutional?
What are the possibilities that they will bring back statehood?
A recent national poll showed that only 32 percent of the American people support making Puerto Rico a state. Beyond that, there is economic reality. Statehooders, of course, don’t believe it, but the reality is that statehood is economically impossible.
The answer is none.
So Gov. Rosselló is sending to Washington a commission with an impossible mission, but that will weaken, if not nullify, the mission of the other group that is vital to prevent Puerto Rico from downing.
But if we do a little research, it gets weirder.
In 1973 Romero Barceló wrote a book titled “Statehood is for the Poor.” The thesis is that Puerto Rico is not a state because of a gigantic conspiracy. American corporations conspire with the Popular Democratic Party to make big profits on the island not paying federal taxes and paying lower salaries.
Thirty-four years later, 2007, after serving two terms as governor, Pedro Rosselló wrote a book expanding on the Romero Barceló theory, titled “The Triumvirate of Terror.” Rosselló adds other conspirators, the U.S. military, anti-Hispanic groups and other U.S. interests that have succeeded in getting the U.S. District Attorney and the FBI in Puerto Rico to “criminalize the statehood movement,” persecuting statehood leaders.
And he adds what he calls “the Creole economic elite”: Rich and powerful Puerto Rican “economic empires” that benefit greatly from Puerto Rico not being a state.
Now, Rosselló asks, isn’t it contradictory that the Puerto Rican elite would support and sustain “colonialism,” for him a form of slavery, if by doing so it denies itself fundamental political rights?
No, he writes. During slavery in the American South there were “house slaves” who were given privileges and served their white masters by sustaining the oppression of the “field slaves.” And, he continues, in the Nazi concentration camps, some prisoners were given privileges and in return served as “capos,” enablers and enforcers of their Nazi masters.
Rosselló names names: the Ferré-El Nuevo Día media empire, the Richard Carrión-Popular Bank conglomerate, Jaime Fonalledas-Plaza Las Américas and other businesses empires.
Is he really comparing them to “house slaves” and Nazi concentration camp “capos?” Yes, he is. Of course, he writes, there are differences, but “the components of the Creole economic elite fill the traditional role of the ‘house slaves’ and the ‘capos.’”
Isn’t this weird?
But why take these weird conspiracy theories seriously? Because for Romero Barceló and Rosselló, governors of Puerto Rico for 16 years, it was not theory. It was reality: Puerto Rico is not a state because of a monstrous conspiracy.
And this explains their policies and actions to remake the Puerto Rican economy compatible with statehood.
Puerto Rico’s crisis can be traced directly to these policies and actions by Rosselló as governor and Romero Barceló as resident commissioner in Congress between 1992-2000. By far the most damaging was killing Puerto Rico’s competitiveness when getting Congress to kill Section 936.
But they did a lot more damage. The government finances were ruined spending billions in projects without a repayment source, billions in white elephants like the Urban Train, the Health plan causing huge budget deficits, the law to unionize government employees.
And there was corruption.
If Rosselló dedicated a good part of his book to attack the Ferré enterprises, it was not surprising. He quotes El Nuevo Día’s founder and publisher, and, incidentally, who helped his father found the New Progressive Party, Antonio Luis Ferré, writing in 2000 that Rosselló’s eight years in office was “the most corrupt period in Puerto Rican history. In 100 years there has not been a government as corrupt as that of Pedro Rosselló.”
One can add something to this sentence. In 100 years no government has done more damage to Puerto Rico than that of Pedro Rosselló.
And no, there is no conspiracy. Puerto Rico is not a state because of economic reality.
But Rosselló and Romero Barceló are sent to Washington assuring the people of Puerto Rico that the Democracy Commission will bring statehood in five years.
–A.W. Maldonado was a reporter and columnist of The San Juan Star, executive editor of El Mundo, and publisher and editor of El Reportero.