- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Puerto Rico’s status II

Your recent editorial, “Puerto Rico and statehood” from Sunday is yet another example of the lack of understanding of the realities of what exactly is occurring in that island possession of the United States and what it all means for the upwards of 3.5 million native-born Americans that reside there, as well as for the rest of our nation.

Contrary to what is expressed in your editorial, commonwealth is no longer beneficial to anyone, not to residents of the island nor to our country as a whole. And the everyday Puerto Ricans residing there know it irrespective of their political ideology. By asserting that the present status of the Island is acceptable The Washington Times has joined a very meager minority. Simply stated, almost no one in Puerto Rico wants to remain a commonwealth; witness the fact that the Commonwealth Party itself no longer supports their own creation and now talk of “enhancing” it. This “enhancement,” by the way, means total and complete autonomy from Federal laws they disapprove of, the ability to enter into treaties with other countries and several other elements that together will give the island “sovereignty” from the United States but still receive a not-so-inconsequential, as you suggest, amount of federal assistance which exceeds $34 billion per year.

Lest the rapacity of this proposal escape you, they are also asking that this amount be significantly increased. And what do they offer in return? Paying federal taxes, for instance? Guess again.

Puerto Rico, as you mentioned, is in the grips of a terrible financial crisis that threatens to shut down the government; its bonds are rated one notch over “junk” and the word is that a further lowering of even that very low rating is not far away. Yet you say that commonwealth status has been beneficial to Puerto Ricans, perhaps in the past but most assuredly not now.

Puerto Ricans deserve better from our nation; they deserve either full citizenship with all its rights and obligations, or they deserve to be set free.


Former Ambassador to Costa Rica

Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler

Falls Church

It is hypocritical that while TheWashingtonTimes strongly supports President Bush’s efforts to bring democracy to Iraq and enfranchise its people, it editorializes to deny enfranchisement of the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico (“Puerto Rico and statehood,” Editorial, Sunday).

As long as Puerto Rico retains its current territorial status, Puerto Ricans will remain second-class, disenfranchised American citizens. Puerto Ricans lack voting representation in Congress and cannot vote for the president of the United States.

Yet the legislative and executive branches of the federal government have plenary powers to make decisions that impact the island. Even more shameful is that thousands of Puerto Ricans have proudly fought and died in wars defending our freedoms, yet they cannot vote for the commander in chief who orders them into battle. More than 50 Puerto Rican soldiers have paid the ultimate price for their voluntary participation in the war against terrorism; hundreds of others areonactivedutyin Afghanistan and Iraq.

Your editorial also makes false assumptions about the political orientation of Puerto Rico’s congressional delegation if it were a state — an old scare tactic used by commonwealth supporters.

Luis Fortuno, the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, is not only a proud and active Republican but arguably is the island’s most popular politician.

Ultimately, the need to address Puerto Rico’s political status stands on moral grounds, not political ones. It is our nation’s responsibility to ensure that after 108 years living under colonial status, the people of Puerto Rico are given the opportunity to vote, through a congressionally mandated process, between becoming permanent members of the union or becoming an independent republic. The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status sets forth a reasonable plan that deserves support.



Foreign workers and the economy

Patrice Hill refers to immigrants “liberally spending the wages they earn on a host of items, from food to cars to clothing” (“How immigrants make economy grow, Page 1, Monday).

I would like to see the statistics on how much of the money they earn is sent back home and not spent here. If the majority of their funds are sent home, it benefits the Mexican economy, not ours.

With regard to immigrant workers taking the place of the dwindling number of baby boomers, what about the legal immigrants and the children of those baby boomers who will be staffing the workforce and paying into Social Security?

Slow growth of the native-born worker force will cut funding of Medicare and Social Security benefits? I suspect if we were to cut off these and other benefits to the illegals, there would be considerably more money in both pots.

The reference to difficulty finding workers after September 11 because of delays on legal immigration was just. I can’t believe that so many people already have forgotten what happened on September 11 and why we were (and hopefully still are) more cautious in many areas after that horrendous day.

The educational argument has holes in it, too. If colleges and universities offered more financial assistance to Americans, perhaps more could afford to attend.

“Jobs Americans won’t do” is the most ridiculous statement of this entire issue. There are a couple of ways to encourage Americans to take these “menial jobs” — by raising the wages to a decent level for entry into the workforce and by requiring welfare recipients to take whatever job is available to them and matches their skills — or curtailing their benefits.

The article does not specify whether the reference to “immigrants” refers to those who are legally here and going through the citizenship process properly or those who are breaking the law by being here illegally. There is a huge difference and it should have been more specific.


Port St. Lucie, Fla.

The lost generation

Randolph Schmid, author of the article “Lost generation can’t find states with map or wits” (Page 1, yesterday) evinced surprise that so many young Americans are ignorant of geography.

Well I’m surprised.

I’m surprised the results were not worse than reported inasmuch as the schools stopped teaching geography — as well as history and civics — a long time ago.

The schools also have gotten rid of most geography textbooks, so it’s a wonder any recent graduate of an American school knows any geography.

People who went to school before the 1960s might be surprised to learn that the courses on geography, history and civics that they took have been replaced with an amalgamation of the three subjects, called social studies.

The result is that children receive a hodgepodge of information on the subjects, the accuracy and coherence of which depends on the quality of the teacher, and few teachers are good enough to wing it on their own.

American schools will never produce graduates who really know geography, history and civics until they get rid of social studies and go back to the old approach.

However, that is unlikely to happen with the American Federation of Teachers included in the group that has been formed to solve the problem. The AFT helped create social studies in the first place, and it almost certainly will fight any effort to do away with it.



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