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Opinion: Holding a Plebiscite in Puerto Rico Now Is a Fool’s Errand

Image: Puerto Rico Struggles With Impending Debt Crisis
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The French have a saying – vider son sac – which in loose terms means empty her bag, or unload. This is what I intend to do here.

It's hard to believe that the newly minted administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló — while grappling with a financial control board, a $72 billion dollar debt crisis and the continuing exodus of the educated and professional class that defies that of the Great Depression - called for a plebiscite to elucidate our future.

This year’s plebiscite threatens to take place on the 11th of June. While officials say it could cost around $2.5 million, some analysts say it could cost up to $5 million. For those not familiar with it, the plebiscite is a vote to find out what the majority of Puerto Ricans would prefer — statehood or independence. The current commonwealth status, to the chagrin of many, has been left out; the island's current administration advocates for statehood.

In case you forgot, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory — so the outcome of the plebiscite ultimately has to be acted on by the U.S., regardless of what islanders would prefer.

RELATED: Puerto Rico's New Governor Vows Immediate Push for Statehood

The word plebiscite comes from the Latin plebis scitum – or a law decided by the people. But as in past plebiscites, the intended beneficiary is not the people of Puerto Rico, but the party in power. It's not very democratic and a nice piece of bullying at the hands of the players presently at bat.

Since 1967, the island has suffered four plebiscites, and none have amounted to a hill of beans. Expecting anything from this vote is like asking the main character in a Victorian memento mori to get up and walk.

The definition of insanity is the insistence on doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

This exercise has nothing to do with salvaging the capsizing national ship; it is more the perfidy of colonial politics.

Puerto Rico's Debt: Why Bankruptcy Isn't an Option 2:04

The burning question is, why a plebiscite now? Why now, when Puerto Rico is teetering at the edge of the abyss?

The federal control board mandated by Congress to oversee Puerto Rico's financial restructuring warned that the island faces massive cuts in an already severely strained system. The board's measures include a proposal to cut $300 million from the University of Puerto Rico's budget.

RELATED: Puerto Rico to See Painful Budget Measures, Warns Federal Control Board Head

The island government has to submit their fiscal plan, no easy feat.

The reality is that the economic crisis has stripped away the veneer of “the showcase of the Caribbean” and revealed a decaying political system, run by a corrupt and less than erudite political class. And the people be damned.

Our house is falling apart, the walls are crumbling, the larder is about to be bare and we are spending our time looking at color swatches for some new curtains to hide the glare of truth. What color goes best with Total Catastrophe: Blue for statehood? Green for independence? Red for the Commonwealth option? What an ossified bag of tricks and political chicanery. What a fool’s errand.

Moreover, to believe that President Trump’s America will answer the results of this costly plebiscite shows the government is truly unable or too arrogant to read the tea leaves. The cavalry is not coming. It never was. It never even got saddled.

Puerto Rico’s fate lies in our hands. The thing to be done is to fix the economy and strengthen the institutions on the island, specifically education, including the University of Puerto Rico. We need to begin real nation building. Then, and only then, will we have a chance to become all that we can be.

Let’s be done with the juvenile and prehistoric partisan politics, which are more to blame for what ails Puerto Rico than anything that can come from Capitol Hill. They smack of age-old soap operas, where men ride horses while women stay home and clean.

There are many who would say that Puerto Rico is lost, that there is no future. That it is a done deal, finished.

But I still believe that Puerto Rico could be facing its finest hour. If only we grew up and took control of our own destiny and had the courage and conviction to do the right thing. Let's get rid of the anachronistic politicians, parties and ideologies and focus on a solid path to build a better future.

The time has come to put the architecture of a real nation in place. Let’s stop doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results. Let’s do away with recalcitrant politics. They are a Fool’s Errand.

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