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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
Commentary

Puerto Rico: A history of dependency

Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published:

Regarding “Puerto Rico inches toward No. 51” (Our Views, April 16):

I am from Puerto Rico, born in Ponce in 1952. I would suggest to every reader and every taxpayer of the Tampa Bay area and the United States to think about and ask the following: What would the 51st state of Puerto Rico contribute to the United States? I would submit that it would not contribute one iota. In fact, PR would be a poor state, even poorer than Mississippi, per the median household income data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Puerto Rico today has an unemployment level of more than 14.4 percent, with an overwhelming majority of islanders dependant on food stamps. The U.S. government contributes more than $1.5 billion in food stamp funding to Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans contribute zero dollars to the U.S. government except for Social Security.

Puerto Ricans have a longstanding history of dependency. For many years since 1952, the local government of Puerto Rico was structured politically along the same lines as many Latin American countries — social welfare states, managing telephone companies, etc.

Don’t let the media or any political party persuade you that admitting Puerto Rico to the nation is of benefit to the nation. Puerto Rico played an important military strategic role in the 1940s through the ’80s. Not anymore. The islanders kicked the Navy out. The Navy, of course, had a large base there that played a critical role in the protection of the mainland.

Puerto Rico today has a poor economic foundation. There’s no agriculture per se. There’s no major manufacturing capability left on the island due to a change in corporate taxation laws that occurred during the Clinton administration. There are some major pharmaceutical companies operating on the island, but they are too few to provide the employment capacity needed. The main source of income is tourism. It is a sad story.

Let us not rejoice in the fact that they are having another plebiscite to decide their future. You will see that those who live on the island prefer the status quo, and somehow they will figure out a way to stay that way. They have learned it’s best to stay an island dependant on the handouts provided by the U.S. with no responsibility to the country that supports them. The argument that the island contributes men and women to our armed forces is not a reason to give them statehood. These people volunteer out of necessity to escape the poverty on the island, unlike their forefathers, who were drafted beginning in 1917 after the U.S. imposed citizenship on the islanders by an act of Congress.

I believe that the majority of those living on the island don’t really want to be a state. They prefer the lifestyle they currently enjoy: “Give me those greenbacks and the U.S. passport.” Oh, and if they do decide that they want to become the 51st state, they will do so only if they can continue to use Spanish as their main language. Que dios los ilumine!


Angel E. (Hank) Cintron lives in Tampa.

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