Why Puerto Rico needs its independence
Benefits and advantages
I have decided to write this article in English so people from both the United States of America and the international community understand that, in order for Puerto Rico to overcome its economic burden and the ordeal due to the crisis as a consequence of its lack of options to get better at this time, it needs its independence.
Yes, I support independence for my island. Independence is the only thing that will finally allow Puerto Rico to trade with other countries without the current restrictions imposed by the USA as per the Jones Act, and it is also the only real option we have to get a chance to collect enough money to reorganize/restructure the 70 billion debt that is sinking our credit.
We all know (well, at least those of us who can see beyond the intentions if the federal government) that the USA is not interested in giving Puerto Rico that status of a state. Time and time again the Congress has shown no interest, in spite of all the referenda asking for change of the current status, including the last one in which statehood was the one with the most votes, in giving the island such status. The current status, loosely translated into "Commonwealth", but certainly a territorial/colonial status, has proven to fail without any chance of improvement. There are talks and plans for a Fiscal Control Board, but it is really a board in charge of making sure that bondholders (including, of course, stockholders at Wall Street) receive their payments, even threatening our most valuable treasure: our land. They would also recommend lowering the minimum wages to little less than $5, which promises to sink the economic situation even deeper.
What are the true intentions of the US Federal Government to, basically, make sure things in Puerto Rico get worse? It is known already to the world that many Puerto Ricans are fleeing our tropical paradise to the USA for jobs and stability. The Fiscal Control Board or the continuation of our failed system ensure that things get worse, and there must be a reason. For me, personally, I believe USA is pushing Puerto Rico to ask for its independence so they can get rid of the current burden that currently affects them, too. It is understandable that they are tired of the corruption that plagues our government, and that the people in the island keep voting for the same wicked politicians who have sunk Puerto Rico to its current situation. But if the USA is not willing to create a true fiscal control board that basically ensure all money is distributed to keep basic services functioning as well as create a structure to pay bondholders, and instead creates one that even makes environmental laws second to economic development, something is wrong.
So, now that we know the USA wishes to get rid of Puerto Rico, what's so threatening about independence? Most Puerto Ricans are deadly scared of becoming our own country. We have become so dependent of the USA- especially the federal aid programs- that even after President Obama spends three days in Cuba to talk about the potential of the island country while he only spent a few hours in Puerto Rico and talked to none outside some government officials, therefore showing an undeniable interest of the neighboring island over Puerto Rico, people here still beg the attention of the USA. It is really humiliating and pathetic, but this is how dependent we have become. They hear the word independence as a synonym to final atonement, the apocalypse, the "Judgment Day" for Puerto Rico. They can't think that independence brings a degree of freedom that it has never experienced, which includes getting rid of one of the most terrible limitations we have: being unable to trade with other nations.
In addition to this, we have let go of some local businesses in favor of foreign ones. Most supermarkets remain local businesses but restaurants, grocery stores, clothing stores and other types of business come mostly from the United States, and a few from Europe and Mexico. People who possess enough money prefer to spend money in foreign-based stores, whereas local businesses (especially those found in urban areas of rural municipalities) are empty most of the time. Lack of sufficient parking and selling at higher prices than stores from overseas do not help the local economy. The government is doing nothing to prevent this- they even offer subsidies to many foreign business chains while keep on hunting down local businesses which do not pay the increased taxes that are sinking them, harming the economy even more.
It is like everything is rigged in favor of destroying Puerto Rico, and what saddens me is that people are not waking up to reality. Many people in the United States do not even know that our island is a territory of the USA. For many businesses (including those which have their headquarters in the USA but have offices worldwide) Puerto Rico is treated as a country, preventing its people to enjoy benefits that people from the 50 states have. It is now that the federal government is beginning to pay attention to the island- and not in a good way.
Let me be clear that many of the problems we are facing right now are to blame on Puerto Ricans, not the federal government. After we were granted citizenship in exchange of military service, we eventually forced the military to leave the island (although in reality the US Army, Navy and Air Force have evolved in such a way that they do not need as many bases as before, so they don't really need to be present in Puerto Rico anymore) and currently we are not essential to the needs of the US government. I am not afraid of accepting this fact and this is one of the reasons why I support independence.
Let's be reasonable. Most places in the world are located in independent nations. Very few places remain as territories, most of them small islands. All countries in the world who declared independence had a hard time in the beginning, including the United States. I have heard and read so many buts for our independence but I fail to see what options do we have. Statehood will never be granted, the current colonial status has utterly failed, and the Fiscal Control Board is designed to make Puerto Ricans wish to be independent. Therefore, the only road to a solution is independence.
What are the benefits of independence?
I am not going to skip the risks of becoming independent, but I will not go deeper into them because most of he risks rest in the shoulders of our people. It is known we have a corrupt government, so if they are to stay in their positions, we are certainly in trouble, so it is obvious we need new people to govern he new island nation. I am not going to deny that there is a tendency of being corrupt among powerful people in Puerto Rico (not that it is any different in the rest of the world), not only when it comes to government but also with private entities. Our education and health systems are fragile and our justice system is a joke. Most people will be so afraid of people like the ones we have giving public service to stay in their positions that they will flee the island, decreasing the population to as low as 2 million, almost half of what we had when our population peaked in the mid 2000's. But this also shows an opportunity to better control our resources. Less people means more space and less competition of jobs and more resources for the ones who stay. In reality many people that will flee include those who do not compose anything to a better society. Many corrupt politicians from the past currently reside in the United States, and some of them, like ex-governor Luis G. Fortuño, belong to a political entity in the nation. So, not all people who will flee will be the ones who could make our island better.
In the other hand, many people who love my island deeply will stay and try hard to fix our economy. Many of these could create a government that focuses on the realistic positives instead of the pessimistic and unrealistic negatives that abound around statehooders and many colonialists. So, it is better to think about the possibilities we have if we become independent.
1. Independent does not mean being Anti-American. Most of the world, except perhaps maybe the United Kingdom and Israel, are not fans of the US federal government. The USA is a very expensive country with the most strict laws in the world, and undoubtedly has a reputation of arresting people for the slightest flaw, including protests and strikes which are supposed supported by the Constitution and is part of a democracy- a system in which the people are the ones who have the final word, not the government. But, this does not mean Puerto Rico will not be able to trade with the USA. Being independent we could, if law allowed it, to renegotiate the debt by getting more money from trading with many nations and paying part of the earnings to such debt. We could also trade resources to the USA without feeing them as payment for the debt until it is paid off or it lowers to an acceptable amount. Keep in mind that businesses in the island will most likely remain here and, having their headquarters in the USA means that some of their earnings will go to the IRS. The USA will still make lots of millions from independent Puerto Rico, but our island will also make millions trading with Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa (in addition to the USA and maybe China and Japan).
2. We currently have an excellent network of roads, meaning that we do not have to spend too much on transportation infrastructure- maybe only on rehabilitation and completing roads like PR-22 to Aguadilla, PR-10 between Adjuntas and Utuado, and PR-53 between Guayama and Yabucoa. Other roads like PR-3 between Río Grande and Fajardo may be converted to controlled-access highways, and the rest would probably go on paving deteriorated roads. If the population declines, some roads could be removed in favor of other projects including lands for harvesting and growing crops. We also possess a very good airport that currently handles international flights.
3. Obviously the industries that will have to be prioritized are tourism and agriculture. But Puerto Rico is not that small, and pharmaceuticals, factories and technological centers can still remain here- and more can come. Not all areas in the island are suitable for agriculture, so these can be used for other industries.
4. Municipalities need to be shortened to a much lesser number. When transportation was on foot and on horses/chariots it was logical to have 78 municipalities- from one to another it took hours, and going from west to east would have taken as much as today's time from California to Florida by car. But today we have cars, trains and rapid transportation that do not justify so many mayor's offices. Everyone in Puerto Rico knows where Boquerón, La Parguera, Santurce and Río Piedras are, and none of these places are municipalities. We can have as much as 15 municipalities or provinces. This would save millions of dollars and together with the boosting of the agriculture and tourism sectors, and especially the freedom to trade with other countries including the USA, means, maybe, billions of dollars every year. Taxes could be lowered again to what they were, or even eliminated in favor of the tax we had on the ports, considering much more products will be imported.
5. Strengthening our ties with Latin America. Our language is Spanish, and most people here do not speak or write in English properly. While it is always good that we keep our school curricula to teach English (contrary to mediocre popular opinion, English is the world business language due to it becoming widely spoken as a consequence of Britain's empire and not because it is the de facto language in the USA), we can finally cement our governmental and social structure in Spanish and strengthen ties with Latin America. We can dispose of the Imperial System of Units and join most of the world, as we currently use some of it, for example, distance in our highways are written in kilometers, not miles. We can trade products from Central and South America, which due to their close distance, will not be too expensive. We can even use our location as an advantage to those ships which will pass through the Panama Canal, since products coming from Europe will pass very close by our island in their route to the canal.
6. Natural and human resources. Due to the americanization of our people we have grown indoctrinated that we need the USA. Yet, lots of professionals who work in the NASA, Silicon Valley, the Federal Government and even overseas are graduated from our universities. Puerto Rico possesses people with the potential of hard work and talent. We provide people for almost all careers to the international market. We also possess a variety of soils and natural sceneries that are excellent for both agriculture and tourism. We have flatlands, white sand beaches, caverns, rivers, cliffs, mountains, a dry forest, a rain forest, savannas, valleys, all in a place that can traveled in a couple of hours from all point in the island. Space for tourism is huge, and we can grow almost all types of fruits and vegetables.
In spite of what people say and what media, in search of ratings and publicity say, we are a relatively safe place. Yes, crime is high, but most people who are victims of crime are the ones already doing drugs and criminal stuff. We have carjackings, home burglaries and some massacres, but we still are safer than the United States when it comes to psychopaths who shoot randomly at people because they are angry with the world. We haven't had yet a massacre like the ones in schools and colleges, we haven't have killings of tens of people at the movies or anyone has shot random people in the malls. Our cops are not as abusive and it is unlikely you will be victim of a crime unless you deal with criminals, sell drugs or do any kind of illicit thing.
Therefore, in conclusion, all risks concerning our independence lie on us. We urgently need to be better educated. We can be a great country or we can be a terrible country, that depends on us. We can survive without being a USA territory and certainly, since statehood will never be granted, we must try our best to forget about it.