Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, has been named as one of the four co-chairs of the presidential campaign to elect Bernie Sanders in 2020.
Yulin Cruz spoke admiringly of Sanders and his record of progressive positions. However, she also said particularly that he would work for a “new path” for Puerto Rico and a “new relationship” with the United States.
What’s the new path?
Cruz is affiliated with the “commonwealth” party in Puerto Rico, also known as the PDP. This is the party which has been trying for decades to create a new relationship with the United States. The preferred arrangement for the “commonwealth” party has historically been “enhanced commonwealth.”
“The PDP reaffirms the validity of the Commonwealth as an autonomous political body,” said the PDP in 2012, “founded on a pact of union established in 1952, based on the exercise of sovereignty of the people of Puerto Rico, which is not nor should be subject to the plenary powers of the United States Congress.”
However, the federal government has frequently confirmed that Puerto Rico remains a territory of the United States, subject to the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress. The Supreme Court has stated that Puerto Rico is not sovereign. The House and Senate have repeatedly said that statehood and nationhood are the only options for Puerto Rico consistent with the U.S. Constitution. Task Force reports from the executive offices of multiple presidents have repeatedly taken the position express in the 2005 report: “The Federal Government may relinquish United States sovereignty by granting independence or ceding the territory to another nation; or it may, as the Constitution provides, admit a territory as a State, thus making the Territory Clause inapplicable. But the U.S. Constitution does not allow other options.”
Cruz’s “new relationship” for Puerto Rico is almost certainly some variation of the unrealistic plan for “enhanced commonwealth.”
Sanders on Puerto Rico’s status
The Sanders campaign website has no statement on Puerto Rico.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders said that it was “unacceptable to me for the United States government to treat Puerto Rico like a colony during a time when its people are facing the worst fiscal and economic crisis in its history. In my view, the people of Puerto Rico must be empowered to determine their own destiny.”
He also said, in a visit to San Juan during that campaign, “The people of the United States cannot continue a colonial-type relationship with the people of Puerto Rico… Some people I know want statehood, some people want independence, some people want something else, but that is a decision to be made by Puerto Rico.”
This sounds a lot like a call for self-determination, a position which Puerto Rico Governor Rossello has condemned. Puerto Rico the governor claims, has already determined that statehood is its preferred status.
Rossello is calling on 2020 presidential candidates to say clearly whether or not they will support the will of the people of Puerto Rico by supporting statehood.