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Please begin with an informative title:

This post is a response to Armando's earlier post about Puerto Rico.  I have worked on Puerto Rico's status issue since my teens, with my most well known work coming from serving as a National Adviser on Hispanic and Latino Issues for General Wesley Clark. During Clark's 2004 presidential campaign, I wrote his then groundbreaking Puerto Rico policy that was adopted by the Democrats on their party platform that year.  


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Armando states that, "there was significant support in Puerto Rico for statehood" in the early 1900s.  Significant?  Fewer than 20% of the population supported statehood at this time (if not less), and most of that support was centered on the territorial elite of the island.  Support for statehood in Puerto Rico would not hit 20% until the 1960s referendum.  And statehood was anathema enough among Puerto Ricans at the time that a rich Puerto Rican statehood supporter by the name of Luis Ferre was motivated to found the New Progressive Party to focus on solving Puerto Rico's socioeconomic problems first and creating good will for statehood in the process.

Armando also says that the "Foraker Act and its favoritism for American carpetbaggers, sparked the first real sparks for separation from the United States."  Again, not true.  There was a strong independence movement under the direction of Luis Munoz Rivera before the islands became a US possession.  The Grito de Lares was not some marginal event in Puerto Rican history; it almost resulted in Puerto Rico's independence from Spain.  The fact that an independence party wasn't legally constituted for many years after the United States took over has a simple reason: Being for independence in a Spanish or US military colony did not get you in the good graces of your leaders.

Armando then writes, "But not much interest from the United States."  Again, that's factually wrong.  Puerto Rico has a strategic location in the Caribbean, even to this date.  Puerto Rico is the closest northern hemispheric point to Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.  This is why the United States wanted to snatch it from Spain, and why Spain clung on to it for dear life.  This is also why all the great powers of Europe fought for Puerto Rico for many years, despite the fact that Puerto Rico has no significant natural resources to speak of (at least since the Spaniards extracted all of its gold).  It's also the reason why many US companies such as American Airlines used Puerto Rico as their hub and took aggressive measures to prevent competitors from making inroads there.  

This strategic interest naturally translated into interest by the United States to annex Puerto Rico and turn it into a US state, along with Cuba.  In fact, contrary to what Armando argues, the FDR administration first offered statehood to Puerto Rico along with Alaska and Hawaii. Why?  The same reason it did so to Hawaii; the pro-statehood sugar plantation owners wanted it to promote their trade interests with the United States. But Luis Munoz Marin, who was an independence supporter turned it down and asked for commonwealth instead, the idea being that Puerto Rico was not in a position to seek independence at the time for it was too poor and that commonwealth would provide a transitory path to self-sufficient independence.  Of course, the commonwealth status, like other statuses, has built interest groups along the way that now lobby to prevent any change in status, including the one Munoz Marin wanted towards independence. Without the specter of communism on the international scene, the United States would not have offered statehood or commonwealth to Puerto Rico, let alone Hawaii or Alaska.

Armando spends a lot of time talking about why the Republican Party is deadset against statehood. He states, for example, that H.R. 3024 is "one of many phony federal initiatives for determination of Puerto Rico's status, this one from Don Young of Alaska in 1997," presumably because a Republican was promoting it. Cynical and wrong. Part of the reason why the Young family of Alaska is pro-statehood is because it witnessed firsthand how the issue had affected Alaska.  Receiving contributions from the statehooders in turn reinforced that position.  And as long as I can remember, Republicans have had Puerto Rico statehood on their party platform, only English-only proponents who tend to hail from the old confederacy oppose it.

And Armando mentions that Washington, DC, has never seriously considered changing Puerto Rico's status.  There's a very simple reason for that.  Whereas statehooders and independence supporters spend millions lobbying the US govt to change the status, the anti-free-association wing of the commonwealth party spends equal amounts to prevent any such change.  Without that wing, the US government would have long ago taken action to change Puerto Rico's status.

Finally, Armando writes that, "the United States would be ready to grant Puerto Rico independence as soon as you please. The problem for independence supporters is that it is not supported by a significant number of Puerto Ricans."  If the US wanted to give Puerto Rico its independence, it could do so unilaterally right now.  It won't do it because, unlike what Armando wrongly argues, Puerto Rico still has strategic value for the US.  If it didn't, the US would not have fought tooth and nail to prevent the stoppage of the live bombing in Vieques, let alone the closing of their military base there.  There's a reason why every ship going to the Middle East to fight the War on Terror would stop in Puerto Rico along the way: Its strategic location.  Great place for fueling the US Navy, among other reasons.

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