Congressman Pierluisi (Puerto Rico) delivered remarks this week on the House floor regarding Puerto Rico’s political status.
Pierluisi began by reminding Congress of the results of the plebiscite in November 2012. Puerto Rican voters rejected the current territorial status by a clear majority in that vote. Then, asked for their preference among three status options which had been identified as feasible by the U.S., they chose statehood by a 61% majority.
Mainland press has since then suggested that Puerto Ricans did not understand what they were voting on, or that the vote was motivated by a desire to get “freebies” from the United States. Pierluisi acknowledged the disrespectful suggestions and refuted them, emphasizing that action from Congress should “reflect the indisputable fact that statehood won the November referendum.”
“Not a single one of my stateside colleagues in Congress,” said Pierluisi, “would accept territory status for their own constituents. So they must recognize—and respect—that the American citizens in Puerto Rico no longer accept it either. I also trust that my colleagues who represent states will credit my constituents for aspiring to have the same rights and responsibilities as their constituents.”
Pierluisi pointed out that the purpose of the new plebiscite is to “resolve Puerto Rico’s political status.” Puerto Rico is currently a territory of the United States. Like other former territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, Puerto Rico has to cope with the economic consequences of its territorial status.
“The only way to resolve the island’s status,” Pierluisi continued, “is through statehood or national sovereignty. Puerto Rico cannot resolve its status by maintaining the same undemocratic status that my people have endured since 1898 and that they soundly rejected in November. The current status is the root cause of Puerto Rico’s political, economic and social problems, so it cannot also be the solution to those problems.”
Pierluisi also pointed out that the new ballot could not, as is clearly stated in the language of the budget, “include impossible status proposals that have been repeatedly declared unworkable as a matter of both law and policy by the federal government.
This has been a problem since Puerto Rico began voting on its own status. Official documents on the subject of Puerto Rico’s status make it plain that the options for Puerto Rico if it remains with the United States political family are limited to being a territory or a state. There are no other status options available within the U.S. constitution. Independence – either with a voluntary relationship with the U.S. (known as sovereign free association) or not – is the only other viable alternative for Puerto Rico.
Pierluisi intends to offer a bill next month which will, he says, “complement” President Obama’s bill while respecting the November vote.