Carlos E. Beck wrote a book called Puerto Rico: Paradise in Limbo. In it, he argued that the people of Puerto Rico want stability. Some cling to ELA, the current territorial status, because it seems to them to be a source of stability, but in fact statehood will provide that stability.
“With statehood,” wrote Beck, “Puerto Rico loses nothing — language, culture — but gains political sovereignty and equality in a union of states that has been stable for 200 years and a source of liberty and progress.”
The current status is temporary. Congress can change it at any time. Congress has governed Puerto Rico under the Territory Clause for more than a century. In 1952, Puerto Rico achieved local governance and a change of name, but nothing more. After more than 60 years, ELA continues to be an undesirable territorial, even colonial relationship.
“Since commonwealth is not a final status,” Beck writes, “it is inherently less stable than statehood.” With less stability comes less willingness to invest in the Island. Major U.S. corporations may have a presence in the Island, but they are less willing to invest in the infrastructure, buildings, and workers because they can’t be sure that Puerto Rico will continue to be a part of the United States in the future.
Young people expect that they may be forced by lack of opportunity to leave the Island. They, too, hesitate to invest in a business or a profession in Puerto Rico because the future seems too uncertain.
“In Puerto Rico, the constant political argument as to what Puerto Rico’s political status should be also hurts,” Beck points out, “because it is a point of uncertainty and creates instability and people — the best asset — leave.”
Beck writes that imagination keeps the United States and Puerto Rico from committing to a permanent relationship, since nostalgia and fantasy cause unrealistic hopes. He invites readers to use their imaginations instead to think about what life might be like under the possible status options.
Beck asks readers to think about the amount of influence a Republic of Puerto Rico would have as a member of the United Nations… or as a sovereign state of the United States with input into the U.S. massage. “Would Puerto Rico have more muscle as a state than as an independent or an associated republic?”
“Can Puerto Rico as a foreign nation obtain a better deal for itself in the world we live in than it can as a state of the United States?” Ruben Berrios Martinez, president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, said in a congressional hearing that a congressman from the state of Puerto Rico would have more power than the president of a republic of Puerto Rico. This comes from someone who clearly favors independence, but is also realistic and informed.
Sovereignty as a state would be a more powerful position than sovereignty as a nation.
“What the people of Puerto Rico want is stability, progress, growth, peace, and prosperity for themselves and their children,” Beck writes. He holds that statehood is the way to accomplish these things.
Beck does not specify how to reach statehood; his book is designed to inform Puerto Ricans that statehood will be beneficial, since it will bring economic, political, and practical advantages without threatening the language and culture of the Island.
But Congress must admit Puerto Rico. Right now there is a bill in the House, HR8393, that will ask voters in Puerto Rico once again to make a decision about their status. The difference is that this will be a binding vote, without the possibility of keeping Puerto Rico in the position of a territory. Passing HR8393 will end the colonial relationship and move Puerto Rico toward the stability Beck favors. Please reach out to your congressional representatives, especially if you live in a state. Make sure they understand what is at stake.
Do you have friends and family in the states? Please ask them to reach out, too.