On the anniversary of the adoption of Puerto Rico’s constitution, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, spoke up for statehood for Puerto Rico on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Puerto Rico’s territorial constitution is 65 years old today. An act of Congress authorized the island’s people to pass a charter of the local government,” Gonzalez Colon began. “It did not, however, eliminate Federal authority to govern Puerto Rico in local matters. The island’s constitution names the territorial government a “freely associated State” in Spanish, but we are not a freely associated State because we are not a sovereign nation.”
The name mentioned by Gonzalez Colon has caused a great deal of confusion. A Free Associated State is an independent nation with a negotiated special relationship with the United States. This relationship is designed to change over time, and either side of the association can freely choose not to participate at any time. Neither nation can limit the freedom of that association or bind the other nation to any specific terms.
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and is not a Free Associated State. However, some members of the “commonwealth” party continue to believe that they can create a new relationship which is neither a territory nor a nation nor a state. The federal government has repeatedly said that this is not an option.
“Under the U.S. Constitution,” Gonzalez Colon continued, “Puerto Rico remains subject to a territorial clause until it becomes a State. Proof of that power is PROMESA, which installed Federal appointees to make final decisions on Puerto Rico’s fiscal matters.”
PROMESA, along with Supreme Court decisions stating that Puerto Rico has no sovereignty of its own, made it clear to most political leaders in Puerto Rico that the federal government would not accept notions of “enhanced commonwealth.”
Gonzalez Colon completed her floor speech, “The Americans I represent want to exercise self-government in local matters once again; but, more importantly, want to fully possess that power as the States do.”