Top 5 Reasons to Support NO from the Diaspora
By Javier A. Hernández*
1. Diaspora Puerto Ricans Care About Puerto Rico’s Future:
On May 16th 2020, Puerto Rico’s unelected and appointed pro-statehood governor signed a law authorizing another non-binding status referendum vote (Statehood: Yes or No?) to be held concurrently with the November 3rd General Elections. Puerto Ricans in the diaspora, like those in Puerto Rico, care deeply about Puerto Rico’s future status and destiny as a nation. Remember, the majority of Puerto Ricans in the world reside in the diaspora and make up almost 6 million Boricuas. Many Puerto Ricans are in the diaspora precisely because of Puerto Rico’s colonial status, past colonial abuses, political persecution, and the lack of opportunities inherent to a corrupt colonial rule led by pro-statehood and pro-commonwealth governments. For over a century freedom loving Puerto Ricans have been arrested, and discriminated against by the corrupt statehooders and colonialists in Puerto Rico with the blessing and active support of the Federal Government.
Although statehooders wish to silence the voices of patriotic diaspora Puerto Ricans, we will ensure that they are heard in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. Having lived in the U.S. and understanding U.S. history and race relations, diaspora Puerto Ricans know that statehood would severely limit Puerto Rico’s economy and our right to exist as a nation. We will ensure that those who are eligible to vote NO on Statehood, including family and friends, do so. All Boricuas should have a say in Puerto Rico’s future, not just those chosen by the corrupt and pro-statehood New Progressive Party (“PNP,” in Spanish).
2. Statehood would economically cripple Puerto Rico’s prospects for long-term development and sustainability:
Aside from the cultural, linguistic, and national identity implications of statehood, annexation as a U.S. state would financially cripple Puerto Rico and solidify the foundations of the colonial dependent economy. If Puerto Rico were a state, the federal government would be collecting $5 billion dollars in corporate taxes from Puerto Rican businesses, $2 billion dollars in income taxes from Puerto Rican individuals, and the island would still be under the Jones Act, shelling out over $1.5 billion dollars a year to subsidize the aging and expensive cargo fleet of the U.S. Merchant Marine, costs that increase the price of many imported products by 20%.
While all these funds and capital wealth leave the Puerto Rican economy, the statehooders count on a yet to be confirmed $10 billion dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money to be sent to Puerto Rico to subsidize the ever growing welfare and nutritional assistance programs (los cupones), thus creating more dependency and not wealth. As a state, Puerto Rico would not be allowed to develop its own maritime and shipping industries, to protect Puerto Rican products from cheap American imports (Commerce Clause), to control its own borders, to engage foreign nations and attract investments, to help Puerto Rican businesses export and source foreign markets, and to develop its own foreign policy and economic development policies fitting of a Latin American and Caribbean island nation.
As a state, instead of being the largest diversified economy of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico will be a small, poor, and dependent economy and captive market, funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Instead of having a national economy for Puerto Ricans, statehood would create an economy (like Hawai'i) where Americans and foreigners own the largest corporations and assets, while the Puerto Ricans bring them martinis poolside. While statehood would turn Puerto Rico into the proverbial “welfare state” with a non-productive economy, sovereignty would give Puerto Rico not just its freedom, but real democratic institutions, global connectivity, and access to global markets, foreign investments, and a chance to become the economic and financial hub of the Caribbean and Latin America.
3. Past plebiscites show that Statehood is not supported by the majority of Puerto Ricans:
Statehood has failed to produce a majority of support by Puerto Rican voters every time it has been on the ballot in 1967, 1993, 1998, 2012 and in the most recent 2017 plebiscite, the statehooders obtained their lowest voter turnout since 1967: a whopping 23%. As we speak, the majority of Puerto Ricans and various groups who oppose statehood are already organizing a massive “No” vote that will surely defeat statehood again. Diaspora Boricuas need to understand that the statehood party has a long history of corruption, clientelism, colonial collaboration, extremism, violent mobs (“turbas”), and cronyism. That party has supported assimilationist policies and cruel repression of its political opposition especially when their opponents advocate sovereignty.
In the 2012 plebiscite, the Sovereignty options of independence and free association combined garnered 39% of the vote, a good showing for a movement that was persecuted for decades. In fact, many Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are descendants of workers and farmers (jíbaros) pushed out of Puerto Rico by the colonial economic policies of Luis Muñoz Marín and thousands of pro-independence patriots were exiled by the colonial regime. Ironic how the statehooders don’t want those descendants of exiled Boricuas to have a say in the future of our nation, Puerto Rico. Despite these statehooder attempts to silence us, our voices will be heard.
4. Recent studies show that Statehood would harm Puerto Rico & the United States:
In 2014, the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) published a report detailing how costly and adverse statehood would be for Puerto Rico and the United States. Those in Puerto Rico that advocate for the island to be incorporated as the 51st State of the U.S., do so to increase dependency and have access to more food stamps and federal funds ($10 billion) while directly telling the people in the island they will never have to assimilate and become Americans, claims that actual Americans find incomprehensible. Statehood is a non-starter for the United States and has never been on the table regarding Puerto Rico’s future. Sovereignty would allow Puerto Rico to finally decolonize, develop its economy, access global markets, protect our language and culture, establish democratic institutions, and forge our own nation and prosperity. As a sovereign country, Puerto Rico would be a U.S. ally and establish diplomatic relations with the nations of the world. Although the statehooders want to separate Puerto Rico from the world and cage us forever in the U.S. political basement, sovereignty would free us and unite us with the world.
5. Historically, diasporas haven proven to be important in the decolonization process and liberation struggles of many nations:
All nations that have struggled for freedom have counted on external backing by patriotic diasporas to support their pro-sovereignty movements. Puerto Rico is no different. Dr. Ramón E. Betances, launched the Grito de Lares in 1868 from the Dominican Republic, aiming to free Puerto Rico from Spanish rule. The Puerto Rican flag was designed and adopted in New York City in 1895 by patriotic diaspora Boricuas. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, while studying in the U.S., supported not only Puerto Rico’s independence movement, but also that of Ireland’s. While many statehooders despise patriotic diaspora Puerto Ricans and seek to limit their rights and voices, they do not seem to mind when statehooders and Americans in the U.S. support statehood and the destruction of the Puerto Rican nation.
Diasporas are essential in all freedom movements. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was a diaspora American living and working abroad in London and Paris advocating for and supporting American interests and independence. If Benjamin Franklin could support and advocate for his country’s freedom from faraway London and Paris, so can you support and advocate for Puerto Rico’s freedom from D.C., New York, Chicago or Orlando.
* Javier A. Hernández is the author of “PREXIT: Forging Puerto Rico’s Path to Sovereignty.” He is a Puerto Rican writer, linguist, and small business owner based in New Jersey. He specializes in international relations and security, decolonization issues, nation-building strategies, and diplomacy of small states, and can be followed on Twitter @PRexitBook, Facebook, and at: PRexitBook.com.