The People of Puerto Rico Vote Again to Define Their Status

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Once again, the destiny of a people is in their hands at the ballet box. On November 6, 2012 when all of America will be casting votes for the U.S. presidency, Puerto Rican residents (who are U.S. citizens but cannot vote for its president) will vote to decide to remain a commonwealth, become a state, or an independent country.

This time, voters will have two questions. The first will ask residents if they want Puerto Rico to remain a U.S. territory. The second will pose three alternatives: independence, becoming a nation in free association with the United States, and statehood. The current status, “commonwealth” is a territorial status since it falls under the U.S. Constitution’s territorial clause.

Puerto Ricans for quite some time have not stood unified toward a collective political vision of their future. Today supporters of the commonwealth status would like to modify the status to one of a sovereign commonwealth, which pretty much enhances the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico with P.R. negotiating relations with the U.S. as a sovereign nation, but remain a free associated commonwealth.

To me, that’s basically commonwealth 2.0. I think the commonwealth status has had its day and it’s time to move on.

The only viable long term options are independence or statehood. I believe the island of my ancestors should seriously consider becoming an independent country or the 51st state of the union. Independence could work with the United State’s help and a 10 year transitional period. The U.S. during this time would assist with getting Puerto Rico on its independent feet and help prepare Puerto Ricans to fend for themselves.

Since I am not a resident of Puerto Rico I cannot vote on this issue on November 6, but if I was a resident and had to make a decision today I lean toward statehood. Since 1898 we have been dependent upon the U.S. and have operated like a part of the country. The people of Puerto Rico should get all benefits of U.S. citizenship like voting for the U.S. president and having two senators and at least one voting representative in the U.S. Congress.

On November 6, voter turnout will be high. Back in 2000, more than 80 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Puerto Rico residents vote at much higher rates than residents of the 50 states.

If it became a state, Puerto Rico would be like the Hawaii of the east coast. Poverty, crime, and unemployment are dismal in P.R. so the added U.S. support as a state would finally give residents a fighting chance of a better standard of living.

There are disadvantages and advantages to both statehood and independence. With statehood Puerto Rico would not be able to have its own Olympic Team or Miss Universe contestant, along with entries in other sporting and social events.

With independence Puerto Rico would need to enlist a military and craft a possible defense decree with the U.S. Puerto Rico would also have to boost its major exports, which according to the consists of  chemicals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates and medical equipment.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have both said they support the commonwealth’s right to self-determination. No matter the outcome of the November 6, 2012, vote on Puerto Rico’s status, hopefully it will highlight a clearer understanding of what lies ahead for the people of Puerto Rico.

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