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opportunities that it may offer. Our citizenship entails obligations and loyalties that Puerto Ricans have shown time and again they are willing to assume even at the highest personal cost. The dignification of American citizenship, in our view, requires an unquestioned allegiance to one nation that thrives on freedom and diversity; loyalty to only one republic. Allegiance that is true to the concept of E Pluribus Unum. As Americans we would do well to ask ourselves what rational basis can exist to request a legacy of citizenship to future generations while seeking to remain unequal forever.
The world will watch us closely. Democracy beckons,' and a government of the people, by the people and for the people must ultimately result from this initiative. Give the people of Puerto Rico the chance to make a clear choice; to come to grips with their destiny, to allow this Daughter of the Sea to become one with the Land of the Free.
Mr. KENNEDY. [Presiding] Mr. Pietri.
STATEMENT OF IVAR PIETRI, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO Mr. PIETRI. Good afternoon, Chairman Young, Ranking Member Miller, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Underwood and Mr. Romero-Barceló.
My name is Ivar Pietri. I appear before you as a private citizen that has, for 25 years, been a close analyst of the economy of Puerto Rico. For 15 years, I have served as an investment banker based in San Juan with a major international firm; and I helped raise over $20 billion in bond issues for borrowers in Puerto Rico. I am here to share with the Committee my insights into the economy of Puerto Rico as it relates to the political status issue. I am submitting for the record a more detailed presentation with economic charts.
I want to preface my comments by stating for the record that I am proud to be a U.S. citizen and that I believe that the United States of America, our country, is the greatest in the history of mankind. I want to ensure that U.S. citizenship for myself and for my four children. I want full rights as a citizen, and I am most willing to assume all the responsibilities, and I believe firmly that the only way to attain that goal is for Puerto Rico to be admitted as the 51st State.
Mr. Chairman, Puerto Rico is not and has never been an economic miracle. The economy of Puerto Rico has completely stagnated for 25 years. For decades, the local administrations, led by commonwealth advocates, purposely and irresponsibly pursued a one-dimensional development strategy, neglecting other initiatives and policies in order to foster dependency on Section 936 to sustain their political goals.
As we know, there are many conflicting views about the economic impact of statehood. Section and U.S. taxes have been the center of the economic arguments against statehood. There have been several studies that supposedly analyze the economic viability of statehood for Puerto Rico. However, they all share the same critical flaw: They are a static analysis that superimpose the U.S. tax system on our economy, remove Section 936, and then assume that nothing else changes. Well, that is not statehood; that is commonwealth with U.S. taxes and without 936. And, obviously, that would be negative.
These studies completely ignore the most important benefits of statehood: full integration to a U.S. economy, political power, credibility, permanence and the broad comprehension around the world of what it is. The benefits of statehood are definitely tangible, and they are concrete, and they will have an extremely positive impact.
Historically, territories have had a lower economic level than the States. Upon admission into the Union, full integration to a U.S. economy, they experience accelerated growth that allow them to converge with the national economy. Mr. Chairman, statehood is a precondition to Puerto Rico's economic growth not vice versa.
The opponents of statehood have used the notion that predevelopment must come before Puerto Rico is ready for statehood to distort the historical fact that statehood leads to economic growth, and we have 50 examples of that. It is easy to use faulty analysis to pretend you can prove statehood would ruin our economy and would be more costly to the U.S. than the other options.
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To believe some faulty logic defies logic and turns a blind eye to certain key facts. Why have the other 50 States been so successful, especially Alaska and Hawaii, the most recent States? And why can Puerto Rico not enjoy such success as part of the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth? After all, let us not forget that at the turn of the century the U.S. had five great offshore territories. Alaska and Hawaii became States, and they have prospered. Cuba and the Philippines chose independence, and we all know how much they have prospered.
Puerto Rico is still a territory, and it has marched along this entire century showing potential that will never be fulfilled until we become a State. To believe we cannot achieve more progress as a full partner in the Nation is to have a very cynical view of what it means to be a part of this great Nation, and it also takes a very dim view of our capabilities as Puerto Ricans to compete in the global economy and to contribute to our Nation.
This is the same view that held that the people of Puerto Rico are welfare basket cases and will all migrate to the mainland to go on welfare if the Congress made changes to Section 936. Have we not all heard that before? The enemies of statehood put our own people down to confuse us, to confuse the Congress and to confuse the Nation about the potential of Puerto Rico as a State. And I will say unequivocally to this Committee that if the people of Puerto Rico were welfare hounds, we would have moved to the mainland a long time ago. Those of us that moved in the past did so in search of opportunity, not welfare.
Mr. Chairman, the people of Puerto Rico are industrious, hard working and devoted to family. Those that rely on welfare do so only because the present political status has not provided them with the opportunities they aspire to. Puerto Rico has many competitive advantages and only as a State can the potential of these advantages be maximized. As a State, we can truly become the economic crossroads of the Americas.
Before I close, I would like to urge the Committee not to listen to the siren calls of those who insist on a level playing field between alternative forms of status. The playing field can never be level. Each status alternative is inherently different.
What the advocates of the level playing field want is to confuse the people of Puerto Rico into believing that the benefits of statehood are available under other forms of status. Mr. Chairman, as we all know, that is not the case. There is no substitute for statehood.
The opponents of statehood have used the level playing field concept to confuse our people. To have the benefits of statehood without the responsibilities would not only be unfair to all the other citizens of the Nation but, in some aspects, may well be unconstitutional.
No matter how many of those benefits Congress would concede them, however, no one could ever provide them with the most important ones of all: full integration into the U.S. economy, stability, permanence, dignity and the political power of statehood.
I urge the Committee not to accept definition changes to status alternatives that could lead to recreating the fiasco of the 1993 plebiscite. I strongly urge Congress to pass H.R. 856.
Thank you very much.