There has been much talk regarding the transparency of the non-binding referendum held on Nov. 6 of this year in Puerto Rico. Most recently, the singer and actor Ricky Martin suggested the last referendum election doesn’t reflect public sentiment. This statement comes as no surprise considering 54 percent of the population voted against Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) leader Luis Fortuño, a statehood supporter.
According to Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, the economic downturn in the island and a shrinking population is to be blamed for the residents support for statehood. Nevertheless, it seems as though the presence of drug cartels and overwhelming wave of violence are contributing to the support for statehood. This support comes at a time when Puerto Ricans are questioning the island’s border relationship with the United States.
As a commonwealth, Boricuas are to share a common defense, market, and currency with the United States. But when the island receives a disproportionately low share of federal agents and money, even as its murder rate has climbed to six times the national average, in favor of a heavy focus on the Mexican border and southern Florida, the island’s security (or lack thereof) is suspect. Today, it’s impossible to open a local newspaper or turn on the radio without news about the sheer volume of crime in the country. Puerto Ricans are rightfully outraged, and it’s become increasingly voiced among the community how statehood will represent a ceasefire.
Skeptics on the other side of the political spectrum highly doubt that becoming the 51st state will change anything in the island, mainly because drugs coming out from Colombia and Venezuela are entering Puerto Rico as a stop en route to states like Florida and New York. In a letter to the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, Fortuño wrote, “When American lives are in danger, we have a moral obligation to protect them wherever they may be. I know you share my belief. And I need your commitment to act on this principle.”
Will statehood end the drug war in Puerto Rico? How can statehood benefit the Island on other matters? While these problems may appear to be local in nature, the truth is we are witnessing major economic and violence issues across the globe. Therefore, why would a change in status make things better? Should Puerto Ricans compromise their flag, their anthem, their individuality for some imagined sense of inclusivity? Is it even the right time? Follow me next week as I explore the process and implication of statehood for Puerto Rico.
By Leslie Pesante, contributor