The colonial status of Puerto Rico is the defining political issue in island politics and has been for over half a century. The decision still to be made rests upon three options, Statehood, Commonwealth, and Independence. Those of you who have followed my posts already know my preference for an Independent and Sovereign Puerto Rico.
Most among the academic/intellectual junta support the idea of independence, while most of the money elite supports statehood. While most unionized workers support the Commonwealth status. All else are roughly distributed among statehood and commonwealth, while many of our western Jibaro communities look to independence.
If we look at the numbers from affiliation to a political party we would find that independence hovers around the 5% rate while statehood and Commonwealth split the difference.
Many commonwealth voters are called "melones" (melons) presenting themselves as being pro-independence (with green party color), while voting pro-commonwealth (red party color). This means that while pro-independence may only garner 5% of the vote at most, it may actually command the allegiance of many who vote pro-commonwealth simply to oppose a pro statehood victory. Many others although they will not vote for statehood, would vote for statehood if their only other option were independence, due to fear for the believed instability it would bring to the island. The exact numbers however are impossible to garner.
So lets say that the melones constitutes about half of all pro-commonwealth voters, meaning that given a referendum pitting Statehood vs. Independence: support of each would be something like 70% and 30% respectively. This would not be however, lets remember, a representation of the people's wishes, but a result of choice manipulation.
This is the type of manipulation the pro statehood party, by way of Luis Fortuño, is trying to pull off in their support for House Bill 900 (H.R. 900). However the response to this manipulative legislation, House Bill 1230 (H.R.1230), doesn't propose any solution, but instead maintains the impasse among the political parties.
While the continuing impasse will definitely help to stave off statehood, it will not however solve the island's problems and will simply allow for further procrastination while the island continues to fall apart.
The problem is a lack of choices.
See, statehooders want economic stability and security above all, Independentistas want sovereignty and cultural security above all, while pro commonwealthers want both, the stability and security provided by the United States, and the cultural security that statehood threatens. Essentially the problem is one of perceptions and fears.
So is it possible that there is a fourth option? An alternative that still lies unexplored? Yes there are several, all of which disappear from the list of options if the issue is only seen from an American-centered point of view. If we step back, however there is another highly promising alternative for Puerto Rico; an option that provides all Puerto Ricans with everything they want and makes the fears vanish; The European Union.
The European Union is a conglomerate representative system of sovereign nations who maintain their individual character while acting through a solid economic block. It is also an integrationist system that seeks expansion, not through conquest, but through commonly shared economic and social goals. Allegiance with, and integration into, this system would guarantee all the Puerto Rican political parties their desires while eliminating their fears.
For statehooders membership into the European Union would provide the security inherent in the system without the American penchant for going to war. Economically, the money elite would have access to the world's most stable currency and the one of the most diverse and dynamic. While equally guaranteeing a democratic government in an independent Puerto Rico. As many members of the EU also do, if Puerto Rico chooses, it can retain the American military presense in the island, as many European nations have.
For independentistas membership would provide a sovereign government, with representation in all international bodies. These would include the UN, OAS, EUC, WTO, ect. It means that English would never be forced down Puerto RIcan throats by Congress, it means that local courts will not be overturned by a foreign court. It means that no Puerto Rican will be threatened with Capital Punishment as it is outlawed in Europe. More importantly it means that Puerto Rico will be able to protect its history and culture.
For Commonwealthers it would provide the best of both worlds without the risks of either statehood or independence.
The questions are then: Can Puerto Rico envision this possibility? And would it be welcomed by Europe. The answer is yes on both counts.
CAN PUERTO RICO ENVISION THIS POSSIBILITY?
Yes, if the political leadership of Puerto Rico sits down and discusses the idea, the result will be consensus, and if all three political parties can look past their ties to American interests and or regional movements, they will be able to present this as a welcomed solution to the people of Puerto Rico.
WOULD EUROPE WELCOME PUERTO RICO?
Yes, the European Union is neither dominated by a single ethnic group nor does it restrict membership to nations based upon arbitrary rules. Instead it practices a system of integration which is based on meeting certain social, economic, and political criteria. These are already met by Puerto Rico and in many ways surpasses the ratings of many aspiring members.
Puerto Rico also presents a number of opportunities that many interest groups throughout Europe would look favorably towards Puerto Rican integration. 1) Puerto Rico would serve as the only Spanish speaking member in the Caribbean, providing the EU greater influence in a region typically dominated by the United States, a domination many Europeans are looking forward to challenge. 2) Puerto Rico is a overwhelmingly Christian nation, around 98%, providing a balance to the increase of Muslim citizens in the Union and the upcoming membership of Turkey which many influential Christian interest groups oppose. 3)Puerto Rico's close relationship with the US will then be also an asset as European corporations will be able to look to the island as a bridge to the US, not just Latin America, as many others see turkey as a bridge to the Middle East. 4) The relative poverty of Puerto Rico in comparison to European nations, however would provide Europe with inexpensive labor within the Union and on the doorstep of the United States and Latin America, while the island also serves to restrain inflation in Europe. 5) While relatively poor, however the island is often regarded as the richest in the Caribbean, and is richer than most of the eastern European nations seeking membership. Its position in the Caribbean would also strengthen the economies of European dependencies in the region.
The final question is whether this opportunity to provide for Puerto Rico and to provide for Europe will be more than just thoughts on a blog.