- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2001

Let me suggest that Jeffrey T. Kuhner come live here in San Juan for a year or so before rendering opinions such as “most Puerto Ricans want to learn English as a second language” and “successive referendums demonstrate that the statehood option has been rapidly gaining momentum” (“Puerto Rico, 51st state?” Op-Ed, June 21). On the contrary, anyone who watched Puerto Rico´s last election, in which the pro-statehood party was ousted from power, would be hard pressed to “spin” the results as building momentum for statehood.

As for the language issue, a bill recently was debated in the Legislature here to make Spanish the official language. Mr. Kuhner would only have to live here a short time to realize that most Puerto Ricans do not want to learn English and that many of those who do know a little English speak it only begrudgingly. In short, there is a serious anti-American attitude in Puerto Rico.

I moved to San Juan in April 1999, the same month an errant Navy bomb killed a civilian security guard at Camp Garcia. Since then, I have learned things I never would have known had I remained on the mainland. First, if there ever was a time when there was momentum for statehood, it was before April 1999. Since that time, momentum has been on the side of independence. Second, while Mr. Kuhner states that “•pinion polls now show that a plurality of residents on the island favor becoming full-fledged Americans,” the key word is “plurality.” There are three distinct political parties in Puerto Rico representing three distinct groups. The “commonwealth party,” known locally as the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), should be called the “We Want to Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too, Party.” Most, if not all, members of the PDP are at least sympathetic to the cause of the Independientistas. This is not to say that the “plurality” of Puerto Ricans that favor statehood are not sincere and as patriotic as any American. When it comes to the issue of independence, however, they are the minority.

If Mr. Kuhner believes Puerto Rican Senate Minority Leader Kenneth D. McClintock´s assertion that making Puerto Rico a state “will show anti-American nationalists in the region that Uncle Sam is no longer Uncle Bully,´” then I have a bridge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to sell him. The Bush administration´s announcement that it intends to stop the bombing at the end of the current two-year agreement has been met here with nothing more than stepped-up rhetoric demanding an immediate end to the bombing. And the Navy isn´t really bombing anymore anyway they´re dropping inert shells. What do they really think about the United States? President Bush is right: They don´t want us here.

Nonetheless, I do not believe Mr. Bush´s decision was right. And if it was done as a precursor to statehood, it was completely misguided. The Republicans who believe Puerto Rico will become “a liberal Democratic fiefdom” if it is granted statehood are correct. I can see little and possibly no political gain for the Republicans, even in the short term, if they make Puerto Rico a state.


BRIAN GERAGHTY

San Juan, Puerto Rico

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