The Agreeable Sounds of Hispanic Heritage Month are Fading
. . . as troublesome developments have come to the forefront of attention at two key spots in the Hispanic world: Puerto Rico, the U.S. outpost in the Caribbean, and, on the old continent, Catalonia.
Environment - Energy Wed, October 25, 2017 01:12 PM
Washington, DC - The wreckage of many parts of Puerto Rico’s physical infrastructure, its housing stock, and its vegetation and its utilities, is the now well known story of the ultra powerful storms that have swept across the Caribbean and largely crippled Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to name only the U.S. possessions in addition to the chain of principalities of the Eastern Caribbean, and Cuba. While there are springs of humanitarian concern for all these places – not to mention the areas of the continental U.S. that were battered a week earlier, by the double blows of storms that were surpassed in destructive power by the third, the Caribbean storm – there are also the legal and institutional ties that necessarily evoke a more direct and potent helping hand for the U.S.-related islands. Doubts are swirling around the funding and the logistical direction of the U.S. efforts in Puerto Rico. The population’s territorial status and the ups and down of the island economy as U.S. tax laws have switched on and off, have placed a moral obligation on the U.S. to bring an ample degree of recovery to the Commonwealth.
The burden is not to be lifted by reflecting on the alleged profligacy of the P.R. government in the long or the recent past. The mechanisms by which reconstruction and a prosperous economy can be fostered are sufficient subjects for calculation. First, the economically disabling indebtedness of the P.R. government has to be relieved by the U.S. Canceling of the debt (at least as to large institutional investors, who took their chances in extending high-interest-rate loans) has been recommended. We have suggested in letters to our Puerto Rican speakers a more complex route: refinancing the existing debt through very long term bonds (at current near-zero interest) held by the U.S. treasury, and a U.S. government guaranty for future borrowing on the world financial markets at very low interest rates — all combined with specific technical and logistical aid from the mainland in building a new physical infrastructure. At the immediate juncture, when elemental necessities are apparently still not at hand for all the portions of the affected island population, the ordinary persons in American society, without hands on the levers of official power, must inquire what they may do with their own quite different capabilities and obligations. The most obvious, and potent step is to direct their own resources, that is to say, funds, toward providing personnel, materials, utilities to the people destitute of urgently needed substance.
Catalonia — Catalunya, an ancient linguistic and political part of the Iberian peninsula, lying at the northeast corner of the region, near the French border, continues its age-old quest for meaningful independence from the successive kingdoms of Spain’s historic past and from the modern Spain under the Constitution of 1978 – the great national sigh of relief after the two score years of General Franco’s heavy-handed rule – which the country enacted, and by referendum ratified, as the basic organic law for the nation to be reformed, recognizably on enlightenment principles. The preamble refers to the indissoluble character of the national combine of historic districts and its array of slightly diverse resident cultures and dialects. The second sentence, as if to soften the stern declaration of the first, proclaims a regime of full autonomy and respect, to be enjoyed by each of the diverse subgroups constituting the kingdom of all the Spaniards. The subsequent history of the polity has been the struggle to regulate the relationships defined by the first and second of these sentences on the chess board of national politics. The contentions have again come to the critical near boiling point. The way forward is, at least to the eyes of an outside observer, uncertain and potentially dangerous. The economic questions – the puzzles of taxation and state investment quotas – are matters of numbers, which lie in a continuum and thus can be negotiated with a good deal of subtlety. The perhaps more powerful forces in the situation are those of a passionate nationalism, a regard for language and culture, which are surely subject to negotiation as well. The skill of outside mediators will be the key to any rational and profitable settlement of the hard feelings, which have profound and long historical roots, and which are charged by bitter, poisonous memories.