First-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has unseated Joe Crowley (D-NY), a member of Democratic House leadership, who has been representing parts of the Bronx and Queens since the 20th century. Ocasio-Cortez is part of Puerto Rico’s diaspora, born in New York but still having family on the Island. She is the first candidate to challenge Crowley in a primary in 14 years.
Ocasio-Cortez has been clear about her positions on issues from Medicare to immigration, but what is her position on Puerto Rico’s status?
Tweets sent by Ocasio-Cortez show that she is concerned about Puerto Rico and aware of the problems that go along with the current territorial status:
My abuelo is in a nursing home in PR. No word. No action from Congress. And Puerto Ricans do not have the right to vote.
How would you feel?
10:48 PM · Sep 26, 2017
Puerto Ricans have been starved in this shameful FEMA response. Hospitals have gone without power, resulting in uncounted death tolls. The US gov has refused to ANY discussion of PR’s political status – whether that be statehood or independence. This is the result.
2:13 PM · Feb 6, 2018
Statehood and independence are the viable alternatives to continuing as an unincorporated territory.
Given the opportunity to speak up for either statehood or independence in a Reddit conversation, Ocasio-Cortez failed to make the choice.
Ocasio-Cortez said that she supports “Full civil rights for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. That means the right to vote.” Voting for president, senators, and congressional representatives would come automatically with statehood and is otherwise impossible for Puerto Rico as a territory. Voting rights is also a non-starter for an independent country, even one that is in Free Association with the U.S., such as Palau.
Ocasio-Cortez also said that “[i]f a plebiscite resulted in an independence vote, then I would support total repeal.” Independence has never received more than 5% of the vote in any plebiscite.
Vogue magazine published an interview with Ocasio-Cortez in which she described herself as “an organizer… an educator… an activist” dedicated to “democratic participation in our economic dignity.”
Puerto Rico’s status is not part of Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, but she does call for “Solidarity with Puerto Rico.”
“Our friends and family in Puerto Rico thus suffer the double humiliation of being denied disaster relief from their own government on the basis of their disenfranchisement. As a member of Congress, Alex commits to championing justice for Puerto Rico on the House floor,” her campaign website declares. The statement goes on to call for specific actions on behalf of Puerto Rico, including the end of both PROMESA and cancellation of the Islands “Wall Street” debt.
Photo credit: Jose Alvarado Jr.