New Videos Explain Puerto Rico’s Predicament

Two videos on statehood for Puerto Rico have been posted on YouTube in the past few days.

Teen Kids News, an Emmy-winning national news program for teens, recently shared a video made years ago. It relies heavily on interviews with former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi.

Teen Kids News recapped Puerto Rico’s history and explained Puerto Rico’s limited participation in the U.S. democratic political process. The video suggests that cost and Spanish language are sometimes viewed as the main obstacles to statehood for Puerto Rico, but quotes former Resident Commissioner Pierluisi noting that these perceived barriers can easily be overcome.

Vox starts with statements of U.S. presidents favoring statehood and self determination for Puerto Rico.

Following a quick overview of Puerto Rico’s lack of voice in the federal government, Vox summarizes the results of status referenda. Puerto Rico has voted for statehood in the last two plebiscites: in 2012 and in 2017.

Vox suggests that it doesn’t really matter. A plebiscite is pretty much by definition nonbinding, and all five of Puerto Rico’s status votes have officially been nonbinding. That means that Congress doesn’t have to respond to the voters of Puerto Rico.

“Congress has largely ignored Puerto Rico,” is how Vox phrases it. However, they also suggest that it’s getting harder to ignore Puerto Rico. “Once permanently living in a U.S. state,” Viox says, “Puerto Ricans can actually impact federal politics.”

A few years ago, half of mainland Americans were not aware that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Now, after Hurricane Maria brought the Island into the headlines, most Americans realize that Puerto Rico belongs to the United States. 66% of Americans favor statehood for Puerto Rico. The majority of Puerto Rican voters also favor statehood.

Congress can admit Puerto Rico as a state with a simple majority vote.

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