Juan Negrón Ocasio

Desde la diáspora

Por Juan Negrón Ocasio
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A ridiculous plebiscite

After 119 years of Americanism, although sounds odd, on June 11th Puerto Ricans rejected statehood again. Although it received 97% of the votes, only 23% of eligible constituents took part of the referendum conducted by the statehood New Progressive Party (NPP). The NPP ran to the polling canvas alone. All other parties boycotted the plebiscite and 77% refused the poppycock. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) advised in April that the original ballot was confusing, and needed time to revise it. But statehooders went on their own anyway. It was the lowest turnout of all.

The other consultations took place in 1967, 1993, 1998, and 2012. The previous two show how voters viewed statehood: 2012 - 838,000 votes, and in 1998 - 728,000. In November 2016, seven months ago, the present governor received 566,000 votes. A week ago the ideology that he pursues received 503,000 votes. Although, the population in the island declined due to the financial crisis, there is 2.5 million registered voters. The present rejection of voters about statehood is undeniable. The DOJ informed that the plebiscite ballot needed revisions, and Federal funds were not approved. Nevertheless, the statehood Governor Ricardo Roselló and legislature shoved the islanders the plebiscite without US approval. On June 12th the Governor dropped off the results at the White House, but Sean Spicer, White House Spokesman said that, “Congress will work with the proper process”. On June 15th, Governor Roselló stubbornly took results to Congress. The Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Senator Rob Bishop (R-UT), ignored the results. Mr. Bishop stated that “the fiscal crisis is his priority”. La papa caliente is in Congress without a White House Task Force response to the useless results.

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the US since 1898. The American government enforced an “English Only System” without avail. Since 1948 English is a second language. That same year Puerto Ricans began electing governors. All others were Americans appointed by US Presidents. An inconvenience for US with the statehood is islanders don’t do away with their language and culture, more than 85% do not speak English, 15% are bilingual (Spanish-English), adding the 77% that disapproved it. Another major problem is the financial crisis the island is facing. During 65 years, governors did not develop an economic system to expand capital gains and depended solely on Federal funds. To worsen the situation, statehood Governors Carlos Romero Barceló (1976-1984), and Pedro Roselló (1992-200), father of present governor, pressed on eliminating Section 936. For 80 years these companies were Federal tax exempt, but generated work and financial stability to the island.

Other issues are the abandoned agriculture business, tourism industry is at its lowest, and impractical projects with political patronage and corruption. Numerous protests show unsatisfied residents on howgovernment spend money without dealing with the population’s basic needs. The government spent over $7 million on this plebiscite after shutting down 170 schools, cutting retiree’s pension check, reforming workers’ rights and benefits, 15% unemployment, 45% poverty, and hospitals are in jeopardy. Even though there is an Oversight Fiscal Board (OFB), mandated by Congress (HR 5278 Federal Law - PROMESA), unrealistic spending is still out of control. It is ridiculous that these expenses occur with the OFB in place and a $74 billion debt. The goal of the OFB is to control expenditures, and revive the island’s economy. Regardless, the governor and legislature contracted a Secretary of Education - $250,000, Secretary of Security - $248,000, and hired an Executive Director for the OFB - $650,000. These yearly salaries thrash any Senator in US Congress. Additionally, legislators allocated $25 million in contracts for legal and consultation services. PROMESA means promise. An invalid meaning for the governor, statehood promoters in legislature, and Congressional Oversight Board. It probably means irrational spending, and less contribution to US economy.

Seriously, Mr. Governor Ricardo Roselló, you truly believe Puerto Rico can become a state of US with such ridiculous plebiscite results?

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