Following its president, Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth” party Sunday afternoon brushed aside the proposal of its last president that it seek Federal authorization for islanders to vote on statehood for the territory.
Then party president and House of Representatives Minority Leader Hector Ferrer called for such a Federal authorization in congressional hearings in 2009 and 2010. His call was echoed in the 2009 hearing by Senate Minority Leader Jose Dalmau.
“…why not propose a straight yes-or-no vote on statehood?” Ferrer asked the U.S. Senate committee on the status of territories in 2010. ”
“… put in the bill, statehood, yes or no” Dalmau said.
In 2009, the two were arguing against a bill by Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government, Pedro Pierluisi, for a plebiscite like that held by Puerto Rico on its own last November. The plebiscite included a vote on the islands’ current status as a U.S. territory and a choice among the possible alternatives: statehood; independence; and nationhood in an association with the United States that either nation could end.
In last November’s plebiscite, voters rejected territory status by 54% and choose statehood among the possible alternatives by 61.2%, with nationhood in an association with the U.S. getting 33.3% and independence 5.5%.
In the 2010 hearing, Ferrer was arguing for the party against a U.S. House of Representatives-passed bill that would have authorized a plebiscite on the current territory status and on all of Puerto Rico’s status options: a continuation of territory status as well as statehood, independence, and nationhood in association with the U.S.
To win Federal action on the statehood petition of Puerto Rico’s plebiscite, Resident Commissioner Pierluisi and 119 other members of the U.S. House have now introduced the bill that Ferrer and the “Commonwealth” party sought in 2009 and ‘10. It would authorize a vote in the territory on statehood and require the president of the United States to submit a statehood transition bill to Congress if the vote is in favor. It would also pledge that Congress would pass a transition bill.
Instead of supporting the bill, however, Gov. Garcia has led the “Commonwealth” party in vociferously objecting to it.
One of his main arguments against the bill is an assertion that a majority of Puerto Ricans opposes equality within their country.
If that were the case, one would think that Garcia would want an up or down vote on statehood — as Ferrer still does. It would bury Puerto Rico’s statehood option if Puerto Ricans were to vote against statehood.
But Garcia does not want a vote on statehood.
The Governor and other party leaders fear that statehood would win a “Yes” or “No” vote on the status.
They are also afraid that the margin of victory would be greater if Congress authorizes the vote.
This is because congressional authorization would eliminate one of their most effective arguments to Puerto Ricans against statehood: a bigoted United States will not accept Puerto Rico as a State because of who Puerto Ricans are.
Puerto Ricans are told to not embarrass themselves and their islands by seeking equality within the country and being denied it.
The “Commonwealth” party leaders do not explain how the States can now be home to 1.5 million people born in Puerto Rico and a total of 4.9 million people of Puerto Rican origin if the States would not accept Puerto Rico as an equal State.