EDITOR’S NOTE: While organizations such as The Heritage Foundation tell the American press that Puerto Rico needs to worry about is own problems, many real voices from Puerto Rico would beg to differ. Here is another perspective.
Puerto Rico faces the most serious threat to its continued existence as a functional society in nearly a hundred years. The dire situation created by decades of fiscal malfeasance by both Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and New Progressive Part (PNP) governments has destroyed economic growth and caused a huge population flight that is eroding what’s left of the island’s tax base. There have been repeated calls from many quarters for a coalition strategy—concertación in Spanish—transcending party lines to face the threat. It is highly unlikely, however, that such a strategy will eventuate.
The island is a house divided by two conflicting visions of its future. The PPD stands for the existence of a separate Puerto Rican nation entitled to the benefits of its association with the United States while at the same time expanding its autonomy to the greatest degree, including sovereign association. The PNP, on the other hand, proposes the complete integration of Puerto Rico into the Union as a state coequal in benefits, dignity and political power to the other states rejecting the notion of separate Puerto Rican nationhood as antithetic to the island’s inhabitants US citizenship. Can these visions be reconciled? It is very hard to imagine this: the ultimate triumph of one vision demands the obliteration of the other.
These mutually exclusive visions pose an insurmountable material predicament to the concertación. Assuming that the two parties implement the coalition, consensus at the negotiating table would be a practical impossibility. The PPD would propose tactics based on its purported fiscal autonomy and an increment of its autonomy vis-à-vis<?em> the federal government as its strategy. The PNP would offer statehood with its increased economic benefits and integration into the Union’s political network as its solution. The diverging proposals would fly past each other without possibility of accord. Unity of forces in the face of the existential threat to Puerto Rico is desirable; however, there exists no common foundation upon which to build such unity.
The impossibility of reaching a working consensus among the local parties in the face of the coming disaster demands an American solution. The federal government alone has the ability to pave the way for the final showdown between the conflicting visions of Puerto Rico’s future. There is no excuse to continue the facile historic posture of “let them decide and come here with their decision.” Puerto Rico has been a U.S. colony since 1898; the colony doesn’t work and is about to go irredeemably broke. It is high time for the United States to step up and empower Puerto Rico to brace against the storm as a house finally united.
Jorge Galva lives in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. You can follow him @JorgeEGalvaR.