SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Thursday September 3, 2015 – As Puerto Rico staggers under the burden of US$72 billion of public debt and double-digit unemployment, a novel way of handling its economic woes may be gaining ground: Break off from the United States and re-join Spain.
The Reunification of Puerto Rico with Spain movement, founded in 2013 by 43-year-old Jose Nieves Seise, is based on a blend of nostalgia, frustration and alternative history, with Nieves Seise pointing to what he calls a “flawed depiction” of Puerto Rico as a colony of Spain.
“In reality it was an integral part of Spain. The US invaded us in 1898 and they separated us against our will,” he insisted.
The split was superficial, he added, highlighting the similarities that endure between Spain and Puerto Rico to this day.
“Puerto Ricans love the Spanish people; we’re Spanish. We want to return to the country to which we belong,” he said.
Nieves Seise’s strategy for solving his country’s problems relies on successfully contesting the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which laid out the framework for the island to change from Spanish to American hands.
So far the group has met with Spanish officials at the consulate in Puerto Rico, and this month plans to send a letter to Spanish King Felipe VI, introducing the monarch to the movement.
Frustration factored into the formation of the movement after repeated calls to address Puerto Rico’s status were ignored by the US. A 2012 referendum found 54 percent of the island’s 3.5 million inhabitants favored changing the island’s current territorial status, which complicates something as simple as bankruptcy filings.
The financial crisis has also revitalized the campaigns pushing for American statehood for Puerto Rico, as well as and those pushing for independence.
Nieves Seise opposed these campaigns and rejected claims by critics who argued that Puerto Rico would have fewer freedoms under Spanish rule.
Instead, he said, the island would be afforded political rights currently denied them by the United States.
“Right now, we can’t vote for the president of the United States, we have limited representation,” he pointed out.
Stressing the economic advantages of joining Spain, Nieves Seise argued that benefits such as coming under the European Union umbrella would allow Puerto Rico to move forward after nearly a decade of economic stagnation.
“By returning to Spain, we’ll have autonomy,” he said. “With autonomy Puerto Rico could have sufficient powers to boost the economy and attract foreign investment.”
The Guardian reports that the group has already managed to secure some backing in Spain, with a handful of support groups appearing in recent years in the cities of Málaga and Granada.
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