Friday, November 24, 2017

[Editorial] The Status Farce this Time

By on January 20, 2017

editorial-philipe-schoeneThe New Year kicked off, much as expected, with the great fanfare of transitions at La Fortaleza and on Capitol Hill masquerading as the harbingers of hope betraying the true despair of “we the people.” Right out of the gate in Washington, D.C., we had a “Kodak moment” of the charades to come with the filing of a bill now titled “The Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2017” (House Resolution 260) that pretends to enable either statehood or independence for Puerto Rico.

Karl Marx was right when he wrote in the XIII Brumarie of Louis Bonaparte that history tends to repeat itself the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. A perfect case in point is the upstart Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González pressing the U.S. Congress to rid Puerto Rico of its colonial status by presenting a bill rife with delusions that ignore the realities on Capitol Hill.

Both referendums, propelled by the pro-statehood Gov. Pedro Rosselló, led to largely divided results that reflected the people’s preference for estatus quietus—pseudo Latin for “keep the Commonwealth.”

For starters, González is counting on advisers tied to the Clinton administration to help shepherd HR 260 through. These consultants made their living in an era when Puerto Rico’s affairs were dealt with through the Interagency Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status. In those days, Jeffrey Farrow competently ran point on Puerto Rico’s affairs. Although he had Puerto Rico issues on President Clinton’s radar screen, the two plebiscites on Puerto Rico status held in 1993 and 1998 led to nothing.

Both referendums, propelled by the pro-statehood Gov. Pedro Rosselló, led to largely divided results that reflected the people’s preference for estatus quietus—pseudo Latin for “keep the Commonwealth.”

The commonwealth option prevailed in 1993 and the public voted for “none of the above” in 1998 as a protest vote by the people against then-Gov. Rosselló, who is the father of now-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. The patriarch insisted on holding the referendum in November 1998 on an island that was in tatters after the devastating crossing of Hurricane Georges. Those who believed there was no better time to tout the values of federal assistance did not understand that people without roofs over their heads were in no mood for a consultation on status.

Puerto Rico cannot hire the same people involved in those status referenda and expect a different result. To begin with, we have no idea how the White House, under President-elect Donald Trump, will handle Puerto Rico affairs. The Interagency Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status that dealt with the island’s broad issues under the Clinton presidency in the 1990s became the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, focused more on status, under President George W. Bush.

In its most recent incarnation under former President Barrack Obama, the White House Task Force examined economic development issues in Puerto Rico that led to the filing of a report, which included, among other things, a recommendation that the island should capitalize on the harvesting of sugarcane—por favor. And the status issue?—bien, gracias.

The White House largely ignored the results of a referendum held in 2012 because the statehood movement obtained some 46% of the total votes cast; more than 400,000 voters left their ballots blank. The observers of that contest read the result as a skewed protest vote.

Now, the resident commissioner has filed a bill that pretends to include in the process the same task force that has behaved as a perfunctory committee dealing with our nagging affairs.

Putting this process in the hands of a task force that may change shape again is a mistake. Soon after the election of Trump as the next president of the United States, there were people on the Hill who contemplated putting Puerto Rico under the purview of the U.S. Department of the Interior. All it takes is the stroke of the president’s pen. Mucho ojo.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (File)

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (File)

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