Puerto Rico statehood supporters have recently changed their narrative and are seeking a consolation “prize” rather than full statehood: they’re vying for the “supersized colony” of the incorporated territory.
This reflects a desperate attempt in getting whatever they can while in power, after spending millions of dollars in statehood lobbying —at the expense of Puerto Rico’s neglected poor— and having nothing to show for it. The last chapter of this defeatist turn is Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González’s new political status bill that is being made public on Tuesday.
With no Puerto Rican or Congressional support for statehood, its advocates are essentially appealing to a “taxation without representation” plea as a solution to the 121-year old colonial status of Puerto Rico. They are now advocating for Puerto Rican people and businesses to pay federal taxes with no other change in the current unequal and untenable relationship with the U.S.
The incorporated territory step has never offered a real or meaningful solution to the question of Puerto Rico. Not only has the push for statehood lost adherents in the past two decades, but the consequences of it would be economically and politically disastrous.
Economically, federal taxes under the incorporated territory would effectively crumble the efforts of local small and mid-sized businesses, young farmers, valiant community leaders and local social entrepreneurs that have been filling the void left by the federal government, especially after the onslaught of Hurricane María. Politically, the Trump Administration and Congress know that this change would create a nightmare for the United States and the region since deep down, the nature of the problem of the Puerto Rican question is that of how the E Pluribus Unum would absorb a distinct, vibrant and separate nationality like Puerto Rico’s.
It is now clearer than ever that the current state of affairs between Washington and its long-standing colonial possession has provided fertile ground for the emergence of a depressed, bankrupt economy in the midst of an ever more prosperous Caribbean region. With the approval of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) in 2016 and the imposition of the Fiscal Oversight Management Board (FOMB), Puerto Rico ranks third in global socioeconomic inequality indexes, according to the World Bank.
Americans hold dear the right to freedom, enshrined in the birth of the American nation. Consequently, they should reject the idea of the United States keeping Puerto Rico under the Territorial Clause of the Constitution, in any of its forms. After 121 years under U.S. rule, Puerto Rico is more socioeconomically disenfranchised than ever. Instead of complicating matters more through a cynical incorporation, Washington should put Puerto Rico in a path towards economic self-sufficiency, accountability through political sovereignty, and real progress through nationhood.