How Puerto Rico became a Game Changer of the USA Political Landscape!
By Franklin D. López
Former United Press International and The Associated Press Journalist
www.franklindelanolopez.com @trueblue51 Facebook/FuerzaEstadista
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“Observing, reading and listening are arts that many failed to treasure and learn!”
She came in the darkness of night with a heavy blanket of rains and destructive winds on September 19,2017. For twelve long hours and packed with historical amounts of rains and winds gust up to 200 miles per hour, she destroyed the financially beleaguered U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Maria classified as one of the ten most destructive and powerful hurricanes in recorded history showed the “all powerful” Wall Street and Washington establishments who is finally in charge! The post hurricane effects of María became a “game changer” of the USA political landscape, especially in the up-coming 2018 and 2020 elections.
The November 2017 elections results, in battleground states like Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey proves that the influx of American citizens from Puerto Rico are changing the political panorama. The elections of Vi Lyles, as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, Ralph S. Northam as governor of Virginia with 54% of the votes and Phillip Murphy in New Jersey, who received 85% of the Hispanic votes shows that the American political landscape is changing. The 2017 election results was a referendum of the Donald J. Trump abysmal presidency.
This week President Donald J. Trump gave an audience to the Governor of the territory of Puerto Rico, Dr. Ricardo Rosselló in the Oval Office with a nationally broadcast press conference. The first time, that a territorial governor receives the “imperial treatment” given to head of states. In an interview with a Florida radio network I was asked about this generous presidential treatment. I responded, “the political landscape in key battleground states was changed by hurricane María. There is no free lunch in Washington.”
Governor Rick Scott revealed in a press release that from October 3 to 17, in two airports of the four that flies from Puerto Rico to Florida, Miami and Orlando, 58,000 Puerto Ricans came with a one-way ticket. This is a milestone in American demography! Governor Scott, a very shrewd politician, opened two offices, on at the Orlando airport and the other one in Miami, welcoming them and offering counseling, housing, job applications and assistance. Why? Well, there is no free lunch either in Florida! Governor Scott is running for the U.S. Senate and he clearly knows that in a close election every vote counts.
How this massive population exodus began? The spark that started the fire happened on January 2, 2001 during the inauguration of Puerto Rico’s first female governor, Sila María Calderón. Present at the event was Commander Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. Puerto Ricans reject any political figure with ties to the Castro brothers communist regime in Cuba. The next event that swept the Puerto Rican archipelago with a chilling effect was a press conference of President George W. Bush and his comment when asked about the U.S. Navy used of Vieques Island with live shelling in military exercises. “Our neighbor down there, don’t like us!” The effect of Bush comments spread like wild fire and triggered a rise in the population exodus.
Immediately, I warned the White House in a letter to Bush and national security advisor Condoleeza Rice. “This will have a significant impact in the presidential election by changing the political demographics, especially in Florida.” I received a letter from Deputy Assistant to President Bush, Ruben Barrales acknowledging receipt. In August 2004 The Washington Post published on page A-3 the following headline, “Influx of Puerto Ricans to Florida Impacting Presidential Election.”
Puerto Rico’s first elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marin called the massive exodus of population from the archipelago “the escape valve.” From 1950 to 1959 more than 446,693 left the so-called “commonwealth” of Puerto Rico seeking a better life and the “American dream.” The “commonwealth” name was a label given to Law 600 that gave the American citizens in the territory to write a constitution. The adoption of the constitution was sold as “final” solution of it’s political status. Triple tax exemption to investors attracted manufacturing plants including pharmaceuticals. But the “new” status was not able to reduce unemployment, which averages 10% plus, neither poverty with 60% living under the national poverty level.
From 2014 to 2016 there was a strong debate over the possible pardon of Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican accused of conspiracy and sedition of terrorist acts. That debate had a profound impact on population shift to the United States. In December 2016, President Barack Obama pardoned Oscar López-Rivera, convicted of seditious conspiracy, as well as attempted robbery, explosives and vehicle-theft charges. His participation was central in the conspiracy to place 130 bombs that killed six and injured dozens of innocent citizens. That presidential pardon also had a considerable impact in promoting a growth in population exodus. From 2014 to 2016 approximately 220,000 left the archipelago.
It was a black Monday for the municipal bond market. On May 2, 2016, Governor Alejandro García Padilla announced that Puerto Rico was going to default on the $72 billions public debt. The statement created a demographic panic on the Island. It was estimated and published in the press that between 72,000 to 120,000 left the Island to the U.S.A.. Washington’s joint creation with Governor Muñoz Marín of the “estado libre asociado” and it’s Caribbean show case collapsed! Nobel Prize winner, economist James Tobin warned, in December 1975, Governor Rafael Hernández Colon that urgent austerity measures like budget and spending cuts were needed or Puerto Rico would default and collapse.
Now comes hurricane Maria’s visit and changes everything, socially, economically and politically. The staggering number made public by the governor of Florida of 58,000 arriving only at two airports does not include the other 49 states. That number, is estimated by demographer to have reached 100,000 since Maria’s visit. A local newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, published a story that indicated that 500,000 Puerto Ricans will leave to the United States within the next 6 months. The catastrophic devastation and the absence of basic services like electricity and water will trigger this exodus further.
The Congressional and presidential landscape for the 2018 and 2020 election has been change by nature or “an act of God.” Sergio Bendixen a pollster in Florida release the results of a public opinion study that revealed that 65% of American citizens from Puerto Rico that moved to Central Florida identified themselves a democrats. That is a “game changer.” Senator Marco Rubio addressing the GOP Senatorial Caucus said “if we don’t deal correctly with the Puerto Rico crisis Florida will be a blue state in 2020.”
Rubio is a very smart and political strategic thinker. Just look at the percentages of the ten states in the presidential election of 2016 that shows how important to the political eco system the massive exodus from Puerto Rico:
List of 10 States Decided by less than 4% in the Presidential Election of 2016
- Michigan 0.3 percent
Trump 47.6 percent, Clinton 47.3 percent
Difference: 13,080 votes
- New Hampshire 0.4 percent
Clinton 47.6 percent, Trump 47.2 percent
Difference: 2,701 votes
- Wisconsin 1 percent
Trump 47.9 percent, Clinton 46.9 percent
Difference: 27,257 votes
- Pennsylvania 1.2 percent
Trump 48.8 percent, Clinton 47.6 percent
Difference: 68,236 votes (99 percent reporting)
- Florida 1.2 percent
Trump 49 percent, Clinton 47.8 percent
Difference: 114,455 votes
- Minnesota 1.5 percent
Clinton 46.4 percent, Trump 44.9 percent
Difference: 44,470 votes
- Nevada 2.4 percent
Clinton 47.9 percent, Trump 45.5 percent
Difference: 26,434 votes
- Maine 2.7 percent
Clinton 47.9 percent, Trump 45.2 percent
Difference: 19,995 votes
- North Carolina 3.8 percent
Trump 49.9 percent, Clinton 46.1 percent
Difference: 177,009 votes
- Arizona 3.9 percent
Trump 49.3 percent, Clinton 45.4 percent
Difference: 91,682 votes
The states preferred by Puerto Ricans to move into are: Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. For example, the GOP knows that without Florida and Pennsylvania they cannot re-elect or elect a Republican candidate. Some GOP strategy may be thinking the extraordinary impact to the national political scene of getting 500,000 additional American citizens of which 325,000 will register as democrats!
The statements made by President Trump that “Puerto Rico is costing a lot” minimizing the catastrophic damages to the American territory has helped in skyrocketing the numbers of massive migration. It took a category 5 hurricane in order for 40% of Americans to know that Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth. It took an extraordinary natural event to put the colonial regime and the discriminatory treatment given by Washington for more than 119 years in the global stage and Puerto Rico back in the National agenda. The events caused by Maria in Puerto Rico will be felt in the political landscape in 2018 and 2020 like 9 points earthquake changing Washington political scenery!
Polls made by the Gallup organization have shown that if Puerto Rico is given independence or associated republic 92% of the population will move to the United States. Conservatives, in both the Republican and Democratic party should take notice that the cost of providing government services, at all levels, is 2.7 times higher than the cost in Puerto Rico. Only making Puerto Rico a state will bring back it’s population and will guarantee an unprecedented social and economic revival as experienced by the 50th state of the Union, the archipelago of Hawaii. It is equality in Puerto Rico or equality in the Union!