Should Puerto Rico Become a State?

by Maximilian Eyle

Puerto Rico has a confusing relationship with the rest of the United States. It is classified as an unincorporated territory, not a state. While this offers certain advantages, it also comes with a high cost. For example, Puerto Ricans do not have to pay federal income tax. However, they can only vote in presidential primaries – not in general elections for the federal government. This means that they do not have voting representation in congress. But because Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they can vote if they move and become residents of a U.S. state.

There is currently a bill in congress to make Puerto Rico a state, introduced by Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez – Colon, Puerto Rico’s non-voting federal representative. About half of Americans agree that Puerto Rico should be made a state. This number grew after Hurricane Maria due to increased sympathy for the island. Unfortunately, a similar percentage of Americans do not even know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

Many of Puerto Rico’s political leaders, including the governor, support statehood. Many federal representatives from around the United States do as well, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi. However, the people of Puerto Rico are more divided. A recent poll showed that only about half support statehood, though it is the most popular option. The remaining half is divided between remaining a territory, achieving independence, and simply not having an opinion.

The discussion about PR’s future as a state or a territory remains controversial and may not be resolved soon. What we can agree on is that the current relationship between the island and the federal government is a problematic one. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria proved that. Whether or not Puerto Rico becomes a state, it is imperative that we strengthen the bond between the island and the rest of the U.S.

What do you think? Write in with your opinions to maxeyle@gmail.com

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.

The Wall – The Bone of Contention

by Jose Enrique Perez

For the last two months, we have been hearing about the shutdown and how employees of the federal government have not been receiving their paychecks. What is the reason? Trump’s wall.

President Trump has said that he wants the wall to control the illegal immigration flow. He decided to go into a shutdown of the federal government because he was not receiving the funding of the wall. However, he said more than 1,000 times that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. So, I am confused: Why we shut down the federal government for not getting the money for a wall that Mexico was going to pay?

Before Christmas, Trump decided not to reach an agreement with the democrats to keep the government open. However, on January 25, 2019, he caved, and the shutdown ended after 35 days. The agreement reached did not include one dime for Trump’s wall.

The fact that we are getting the government open and workers back to their jobs does not mean that this is over. The government has been reopened only until February 15, 2019. We are very likely to experience a new shutdown again on that day. The government is only reopening for three weeks and the fight over Trump’s wall is far from over.

Now, he has threatened to declare a national emergency to build his wall. Really? There is no national emergency at the border. All government agencies agree that the border is more secure than ever. Almost nobody is able to cross the border without detection.

President Trump spent 35 days pushing a million federal workers to the wall, but not his wall, and forced to go to Welfare and receive food stamps while not being able to receive paychecks for almost two months. He is forcing the nation to make us choose between federal workers and the immigrant communities. The government never needed to shut down, and the stress felt by federal workers, their families, and the fear of the immigrant communities was not necessary.

We have to make sure not to politicize the issue of immigration. It is not immigrant against the United States. It is not about nativists against people who look different. This is not about Republicans against Democrats. This is a nation of immigrants and it will always be despite Trump. We don’t need a wall. We need to continue fighting for a comprehensive immigration reform. We need a just, humane, legal approach to immigration and not a racist, divisive agenda.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about the new immigration policies. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with representation before immigration courts, USCIS or ICE. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case or potential case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the March edition.

Changes in the Political Axis of Latin America and its effects

by Juan Carlos Salcedo, Internationalist

In the last 20 years, Latin America as a region has experienced substantial political changes within it, which have generated a new dynamic in regional and global relations.

Having changed the political axis of the region, Mexico and Brazil are recent examples, the question arises, what are the new challenges and opportunities for bilateral and multilateral relations in this period of transition, and how does it affect the region? Dr. Jose Ayala Lasso, 3 times Foreign Affairs Minister of Ecuador and the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, answers our questions about the changes from a period of apogee of the so-called Socialism of the 21st Century to one that reflects its decline. This is the interview:

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Donald Trump in the North Country

by Miguel Balbuena

The novel idea of Spaceship Earth was relaunched by United States Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson when he spoke at this forum in 1965. The notion rapidly gained traction so much so that, in the short span of three years thereafter, the term had already been the subject of three influential book chapters or full books written by prominent thinkers: “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth” by Kenneth Boulding, “Spaceship Earth” by Barbara Ward, and “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” by Buckminster Fuller.

As Spaceship Earth just completed its 2,018th anno Domini-based ritualistic voyage around its favorite star, it’s the perfect time to pick the best political event of this past year for both the Spaceship Earth’s Republican and Democrat crews in upstate New York.

The final tally of a straw poll that I conducted among Republicans and Democrats had the arrival of Air Force One to upstate as the top vote-getter for this event. The presidential aircraft landed not once, but twice, in this region, and on the same date, August 13. First, at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, a site in Jefferson County, and, afterwards, at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, in Oneida County. These were the maiden occasions that this airplane has touched on upstate during the administration of Donald Trump.

The Commander-in-Chief came to Fort Drum to sign the National Defense Authorization Act, and, in passing, to boost the ballot of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, who is the incumbent in the 21nd Congressional District of New York. Then, the president took off to Rome on his way to Utica. This time the promotion of the Grand Old Party local candidate was not a side issue as Trump starred at a fundraiser at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Utica for the re-election of U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, who is the delegate of the 22nd Congressional District of this same state.

Both the signing ceremony at Fort Drum and the fundraiser in Utica were closed to the general public. This didn’t deter local citizens from expressing their views in public regarding the policies pursued by the head of the executive branch whether taking a glimpse of him or not. In fact, four rallies took place: two pro-Trump, in Rome and Utica; two anti-Trump, in Utica and Watertown, a city abutting Fort Drum.

For the Republican base in the upstate area, the drought without a Trump sighting was officially over on August 13. Between April 12 and April 18, 2017, The Donald crisscrossed this land mass, swinging by eight of its largest cities. Not only his partisan base had to wait with bated breath for 482 days but also politically independent people deeply immersed in the celebrity culture so pervasive in America. The wow factor came into play as the former reality television show host has been on the A-list of celebrities for decades now.

Red wave supporters and their blue wave counterparts agreed that the president’s visit to upstate was beneficial for their respective parties. For both it afforded the chance to kick into high gear their campaigns in the lead-up to the November’s midterm elections. The visit galvanized their bases pro and con the policies followed by the Queens-born billionaire in fields such as taxation, education, health care, immigration, trade and foreign policy.

I had originally planned to attend all four of the aforementioned demonstrations – which would have been the ideal – in order to be “fair and balanced” as per Fox News’ former slogan. Nonetheless, logistical problems prevented me from leaving Watertown in time to reach Rome and Utica to report on the rest of them.

As a journalist I have to strive to remain as objective as possible, which didn’t prevent me from carpooling up from Syracuse to Watertown with activists from the Peace Council and Veterans for Peace (VFP), namely Ronald Van Norstrand, Askar Salikhov, Carol Baum, Peter Swords and his wife Diane, in the same vein that reporters travel all the time with Trump aboard Air Force One.

In Watertown Van Norstrand rendezvoused with two other VFP members: Roland Van Deusen, from Clayton, N.Y., and Christopher Jamison, from Henderson, N.Y., who came to listen his speech at the protest against Trump.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary
fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

Drug Policy Doublethink

The great contradiction of our drug policy
by Maximilian Eyle

Whether or not one supports the disease model of addiction, it seems remarkable that the government is admitting in no uncertain terms that they are criminalizing the very people they claim are ill.

In the face of a growing opioid epidemic, the U.S. Government has defined its position on addiction. Visit the website for The National Institute of Health’s information service MedlinePlus and you will see that they define addiction as a medical problem; specifically, “a chronic disease”. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) seconds this analysis, stating:

“Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will.”1

The government’s language here is striking because despite these statements, the United States continues to treat drug use as a criminal issue, rather than as a public health issue. They agree that drug use is not a moral failing, yet there were over 1.6 million drug arrests in 2017. Make no mistake – more than 85% of these arrests were for possession alone. The idea that law enforcement is only targeting illegal drug manufacturers and dealers is a myth. Most victims of America’s War on Drugs are the users themselves, many of whom suffer from addiction.

There is a complex and ongoing debate as to whether drug addiction qualifies as a disease. Regardless of your position on that issue, both sides should be able to agree that the nation’s current drug policy landscape is fraught with contradictions. The policy of arresting people for drug offenses clearly has no impact on overdose prevention. On the contrary, The American Journal of Public Health reported that recently released inmates are 40 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the average person.2 When we compare the amount of annual drug arrests with the amount of annual drug overdose fatalities, we can clearly see that the incarceration of drug users is worsening the opioid epidemic – not helping it.

The contradiction between the rhetoric of the government and the actions of law enforcement must be rectified. If the U.S. Government truly regards the opioid epidemic as a public health concern, they should start investing their resources into public health resources and harm reduction initiatives rather than punitive measures.

Sources:
1. https://medlineplus.gov/opioidabuseandaddiction.html
2. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304514?journalCode=ajph
3. https://www.drugwarfacts.org/table/annual-drug-arrests

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.

Why nations fail?

by Juan Carlos “Pocho” Salcedo, Internacionalista

There is a question that we often ask ourselves that in some way by origin or by the language we are connected with Latin America.

Today we will try to answer a question that we have inevitably asked many times because some countries are poor and others are rich, and it will be like in the case of Latin America because our background in which we were born as a nation was after Spanish colonialism? Moreover, on the other hand, the United States developed from an early age under the colonial system of Great Britain, and that favored them? Maybe we just became poor because others became rich at the expense of us and our resources? Are we condemned to a system of perpetual underdeveloped t? How to get out of that almost infinite walk? What is in the fabric of our nations that has not allowed us a higher level of influence and wealth in the concert of nations? What are the origins of Power, prosperity, and poverty?

To answer these and other questions, we have invited Dr. Daron Acemoglu one of the 110 most quoted economists in the world; this was our recent dialogue.

Click here for the video

A New Hope for Syracuse?

by Maximilian Eyle

If crime is an indicator of the health of a city, then Syracuse has seen better days. Chief of Police Frank Fowler was appointed by Mayor Stephanie Miner in 2009, and now – nearly ten years later, he is making his exit. As we reflect on his legacy, there is not a lot to celebrate. While crime did drop by about 15% during his term, this is in line with the national crime rate and does not suggest any special change in our community. Furthermore, 2016 made headlines as the deadliest year in Syracuse history, with a record 30 homicides taking place. Gang violence continues to be a problem, and the relationship between the community and the police remains tense.

I am a native of Syracuse and have chosen to return and make it my home after leaving to earn my degree. Our city has a lot to be proud of. We boast a rich history, a thriving music community, a number of museums and theaters, great restaurants, and a growing downtown. All this nestled within the gorgeous landscape of Central New York. Yet public safety continues to burden our community and tarnish our reputation. Scandals with police brutality have cost the city millions of dollars in the past few years, with Chief Fowler showing little remorse or interest in departmental change. In a recent court testimony, he was asked if it is acceptable for police officers to beat someone who is already handcuffed. “It might be,” Chief Fowler responded. This attitude from our law enforcement leadership is atrocious and unforgivable.

Finally, change is upon us. On November 2nd, Mayor Ben Walsh announced that Kenton Buckner will be the new Chief of Police in Syracuse. Prior to this appointment, Buckner has been the chief in Little Rock, Arkansas – a similarly sized city to Syracuse. In his recent press conferences, he has affirmed his commitment to improving the diversity of our police force, and to focusing on rehabilitation and second chances rather than just punishment. Much about his history, character, and rhetoric gives us hope. Only time will tell if his approach will be successful. In the meantime, we as a community must do our best to hold our leadership accountable to their promises.

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.