Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R) kicked off a firestorm on December 8th when, in the context of a disagreement with New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , she observed that “a congresswoman from New York wants to prevent us Puerto Ricans from having that power to vote, while she enjoys it in New York. The hypocrisies of life, of those who call themselves Puerto Ricans, but are not willing to treat Puerto Ricans as equals.”
In a Spanish language video, Rep. Gonzalez-Colon further drew a distinction between her representation of the voters of Puerto Rico and the position of Ocasio-Cortez, who was born to a Puerto Rican mother in New York, grew up in New York, and represents parts of Queens and the Bronx.
Ocasio Cortez did not defend herself against the substance of the Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner’s remarks but responded that “[i]f has something real to say she can tell me in person.”
Supporters of Ocasia Cortez similarly did not address the criticism of a New York-based Member of Congress attempting to represent Puerto Rico, They instead pointed out the New York Congresswoman’s Puerto Rican heritage and criticized Gonzalez Colon for aligning herself with the Republican party.
In Puerto Rico, there were supportive comments for the island-wide representative. “It is sad to see a congresswoman who enjoys all the rights that statehood offers deny American citizens living in Puerto Rico the same rights,” said Representative Carlos “Johnny” Méndez,
An English translation follows:
“Good afternoon, friends.
One of the things that you have seen that we have been doing over the past 8 months was seeking bipartisan agreements to get a draft status approved that would allow us to resolve our colonial problem. And in that sense, I looked for Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez and we both sat down after long weeks, and I must say months, we reached a bipartisan agreement that put an end to our being able to have a dignified status outside of the territorial clause.
A historic deal. It is the first time that Nydia Velázquez and a statesman agree to approve a bill on status. I would have preferred a status project that was statehood yes or no, which was the project that I originally filed. However, in the interest that under this Democratic majority in the House legislation will be passed and we could reach a consensus, I agreed, not only to include the independence option and the independence option in association with the United States, but also in multiple concessions to get this unstuck and for there to be a bipartisan agreement in Congress.
The result of this was the announcement that we made together with the leader of the Majority, Steny Hoyer, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez, Congresswoman Velázquez, Congressman Darren Soto and yours truly, pushing this measure and it had the momentum to be able to pass it. . Unfortunately, after that announcement, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez withdrew from the agreement and called for additional amendments. Also at that meeting was Raúl Grijalva, president of the Natural Resources Committee, who was in Puerto Rico even holding public hearings so that there would be input from Puerto Ricans, and more than 30-odd people were deponents in those hearings or submitted documentation.
After those agreements, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez asked for additional amendments that began to try to change the original intent of the project, but in the interest of passing a Puerto Rico and status project so that we could solve our colonial problem, we granted additional amendments. so that the Committee on Natural Resources in the House will approve this measure. Now, after those two changes in the original negotiations, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez asked that this project not be seen before the midterm elections and that it be given after the midterm elections so that it could be approved more quickly. .
Now the midterm elections have passed and it turns out that these 3 weeks we have been having meetings with the leader of the Majority who informs me that Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez has additional amendments to the bill. so it already seems to me that this is a lack of respect for the people of Puerto Rico from people who do not live on the island as is the case of Ocasio Cortez who lives in New York, who has all the rights in which Puerto Ricans live there, but those of us who live in Puerto Rico have to be subject to the fact that the rules of the game keep changing for us.
As of today, at this time, those verbal amendments that have been discussed or that the congresswoman intends to have approved have not even been submitted to me in writing. Some of them, such as, for example, requiring Puerto Rico to have a certain percentage of the vote for a status project is unacceptable to me, and why is an amendment like this unacceptable? Because that has not been required of any territory. In fact, the bill as it stands today allows that if none of the options gets 50% + 1 of the votes, it goes to a second round with the two options that get the most votes . But now they want an additional amendment to require Puerto Rico 55% of the vote so that the minorities are the ones that decide the future of all Puerto Ricans and in this way block the solution of the status problem.
I don’t lend myself to that. I am a serious woman and of my word and when I reach agreements I honor them, even when I have received criticism from my own community. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez does not respect Puerto Ricans and she also does not respect the right that we have as American citizens to resolve our status issue.
I have to say that here, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Majority Leader Hoyer, Chairman Grijalva, Congresswoman Soto and yours truly have all been working together to get this project off the ground. But I have to tell you the truth, if today we are still four days away from the close of the session, if it is not extended for a few additional days, they still have not given us or they have not given me the written amendments as I requested , not to talk, we have discussed and the governor and I have discussed all these amendments and we are in a position to work on the amendments in writing, it seems to me that this is an intention to continue putting off the status process, putting off the project that we reached an agreement and break the original agreements.
Now, how much time is left for the federal Senate to approve a project of this magnitude? Very few or almost none. So I am a woman of great faith and I am confident that if they bring me the status project as we had agreed, we will support what we said, but they will continue to endure the process with the store and requirements that are not they imposed no other state on any other territory and especially when it comes from a congresswoman who does not vote in Puerto Rico, who does not live in Puerto Rico and what she lacks is respect for Puerto Ricans, I do not lend myself to that.
So this is the ‘update’ of where we are in the status project and I am going to continue defending what the people of Puerto Rico voted for in the last 3 plebiscites that voted for Statehood. Statehood is the consensus of the people of Puerto Rico to resolve the status issue and I went further by allowing non-colonial non-territorial status options.
Unfortunately, a congresswoman from New York wants to prevent Puerto Ricans from having that power to vote, while she enjoys it in New York. The hypocrisies of life, of those who call themselves Puerto Ricans, but are not willing to treat Puerto Ricans as equals.”