Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned march on Washington?
“New Progressive Rep. José Aponte opined Sunday that the United States hasn’t felt pressure to grant statehood to Puerto Rico and that he will begin initiatives in Washington with that firm objective.
Aponte announced that he will lead a march on Congress on March 2, as well as on the White House, to ‘commemorate the American citizenship (of Puerto Ricans) and demand equality,’ following the message by voters in the plebiscite conducted on November 6.
According to Aponte, the history of the United States ‘is clear and the fact is [the United States] responds to situations of pressure,’ so it is important to intensify efforts so that Congress responds and directs actions to recognize the full annexation of Puerto Rico to the American nation.”
Notwithstanding my independentista leanings, I actually support Rep. Aponte’s planned march on Washington. I don’t support the main goal of the demonstration, of course, but I do support its secondary aim to pressure Congress into taking some action concerning the political status of its largest and oldest colony.
As a supporter of a free and independent Puerto Rico, I don’t view statehood as diametrically opposed to independence. On the contrary, statehood would be exponentially better than the current status of the island and its people, who are Americans in name only. (What other “Americans” do you know that can’t vote for the president and members of Congress?)
The colonial status might offer Puerto Rico certain benefits — Puerto Ricans aren’t required to pay federal income taxes, for one — but the costs of its relationship far outweigh the benefits.
Puerto Ricans pay a tribute to the United States (in the form of other federal taxes), which totaled $3.7 billion in 2009. And while Puerto Ricans are eligible for the Social Security program they pay into, the island doesn’t receive nearly as much in benefits that it would receive were it a state.
This only addresses the issue of economic disparity between mainlanders and islanders. The vast political disparity between the two — that is, Puerto Rico’s inability to vote for its own leaders in the federal government — means that Puerto Ricans enjoy only a drastically diluted version of American citizenship. In fact, calling Puerto Ricans “citizens” of the United States is a cruel farce and commits slander against the word.
Seeing Puerto Rico become the 51 state in the Union after over a century of marginalization and abuse by the same Union would sting, but at least Puerto Ricans would finally be guaranteed their natural rights as human beings and citizens of a republic.
Whether they pressure Congress for statehood or independence, Puerto Ricans must pressure the federal government to do something.
Because, in the end, Puerto Rico being half independent and half state only means it’s neither. And whether it becomes a state or gains independence, I’d much rather say “Puerto Rico was a colony” than say “it is a colony.”