New Governor Seeks Change Through Statehood

In an election year that many see as a call for change, Puerto Rico is no exception. “I want things to change,” a supporter of Governor-elect Ricardo Rossello told reporters from the Associated Press. “No one on the island is happy right now.”

Outgoing Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, a “commonwealth” supporter, had selected Rossello’s opponent, David Bernier, to be his successor.  Bernier, who said he was seeking a “noncolonial, nonterritorial commonwealth” with sovereignty, lost election. Bernier did not specified the details of his plan, relying on statements like, “I believe in a noncolonial, nonterritorial commonwealth, with the bond of U.S. citizenship, based on respect and a search for the needed tools so that together, with unity of purpose, we can solve our problems.”

The idea that Puerto Rico and the United States should come up with a new plan, bound by mutual consent, has been repeated by the “commonwealth” party since the Puerto Rico Constitution was ratified in 1952, but the U.S. federal government has repeatedly made it clear that the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution fully controls the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.

As another voter noted to an Associated Press reporter: “We can’t take this anymore. Our current political status has been a failure. It’s much better to be the 51st state.”

Statehood, history has shown, leads to increased prosperity for territories that make that transition. Statehood would also provide equality for Puerto Rico in terms of federal funding and advocacy in Congress. The U.S. Constitution allows Congress to treat territories differently from States, and this fact is reflected in the distinct inequality which has been a major factor in Puerto Rico’s economic woes.

Federal funding was set aside in 2014 for a new status referendum in Puerto Rico, the first federally-funded vote. Under Rossello, the Island is expected to hold the long-delayed referendum. If voters once again choose statehood, Rossello has said that he will implement the Tennessee Plan, an aggressive strategy used by Tennessee to gain statehood in which representatives are chosen from Puerto Rico and arrive in the nation’s capitol without a designated seat.

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