Letter to President-Elect Joe Biden from Puerto Rican Organizations

Joe Biden has been officially certified as the next president and will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021. In an effort to keep Puerto Rico on his radar and that of Congress, a group of Puerto Rican organizations joined together to send a letter to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.  A separate, identical letter was sent to congressional leaders.

The letter begins with a clear statement of the federal government’s responsibility toward Puerto Rico:

“We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, urge the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to respect the will of the majority of Puerto Rico’s voters who have requested admission as a state of the Union. Last month, for the first time in history, voters on the island were asked whether ‘Puerto Rico should be immediately admitted into the Union as a state’ and 52 percent of voters, over 620,000, said ‘YES.’ Now that Puerto Rico has spoken, Congress must begin acting on that mandate immediately.”

The authors go on to remind readers of the historical context:

“Puerto Rico has lived under the U.S. flag for over 120 years, and for over 100 years Puerto Ricans have been proud American citizens,” they wrote. “Yet, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, and the enactment of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) further demonstrated, Puerto Rico remains subject to the plenary powers of Congress under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Government by consent of the governed

They go on to say that the plebiscite results make it clear that Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States no longer represents “government by consent of the governed.” This core value of American government is broken by the federal government’s refusal to act on the will of the voters of Puerto Rico as expressed in the 2012, 2017, and 2020 plebiscites.

A list of the consequences of this situation follows:

  • 3.2 million disenfranchised U.S. citizens
  • A lack of accountability and representation at the federal level
  • Lower quality of life in areas like healthcare and education
  • Limits on economic development
  • Underdeveloped trade with states and other nations (besides the U.S.)
  • Dwindling population as residents leave to gain equality in the States
  • Financial deficits and debts
  • Slow, ineffective disaster response
  • Denial to thousands of U.S. military veterans of the ability to vote for their Commander in Chief
  • Weakening of the moral position of the United States as a defender of democracy
  • A form of government that weakens democracy in the United States

Solution

The letter acknowledges that piecemeal, temporary attempts to help Puerto Rico have taken place in Washington. However, these faltering steps are not a solution to the underlying problems. “Failure to recognize how the economic, fiscal, social and governance challenges of Puerto Rico are interrelated to the territorial status presents a real threat to the island’s long-term recovery, the authors warn.

“The majority of Puerto Ricans, like all Americans, want to be treated equally under the law and to have an equal voice in the government that regulates their lives,” the writers continue. “Their vote on November 3rd confirms that an absolute majority of U.S. citizens on the island favor statehood, but only Congress has the power act on the clearly and democratically expressed will of the Puerto Rican people.”

The letter concludes, “[W]e urge you to stand for our shared American values of democracy and equality. America must respect and act on the legitimate call for equal rights and responsibilities by its fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.”

The organizations

The organizations include both the Democratic and Republican parties of Puerto Rico, as well as Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party, the Young Democrats, the Young Republicans, and a collection of political and civil rights organizations.

These individuals signed the letter on behalf of their organizations:

  • Hon. Jenniffer González-Colón President, Republican Party of Puerto Rico
  • Hon. José Aponte-Hernández Executive Director, Instituto Misión Estadista, New Progressive Party
  • Annabel Guillén President, Igualdad, Futuro Seguro
  • Hon. Charles A. Rodriguez President, Democratic Party of Puerto Rico
  • George H. Laws García, Executive Director, Puerto Rico Statehood Council
  • Irma R. Rodriguez, President, Puerto Rico Escogió Estadidad
  • Gabriela M. Medina Marrero President, Young Democrats of Puerto Rico
  • Elvin Méndez Rosa, President, Movimiento Revolución Estadista
  • José J. Díaz, President, U.S. Flag Task Force
  • Jorge Rodríguez Feliciano, President, Puertorriqueños Pro Unión Permanente
  • Ken Oliver-Méndez, Director, United States Council for Puerto Rico Statehood
  • Joel Salgado, Spokesperson, We The People
  • Josué E. Rivera, Chairman, Puerto Rico Young Republican Federation
  • Luis Matos, President, Renacer Ideológico Estadista
  • José Cabrera, Chair, Puerto Rico Star Project (Proyecto Estrella)
  • Victor Perez, Director, Organizacion Veteranos Progresistas, Partido Nuevo Progresisita
  • Wilfredo Rivera, President, Impulso 51 / Estado Igualdad
  • Ricardo Marrero Passapera, President, Ahora Si Puerto Rico

Read the full text of the letter.

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