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Senate Committee Examines the U.S. Territories

The United States Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on “The State of the Territories” on February 9, 2023. Gov. Pedro Pierluisi testified on Puerto Rico’s recovery, expressing optimism about the Island’s economy and asking for a timeline for the end of the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board’s tenure.

He also reaffirmed his commitment to the decolonization of the Island, saying, “For too long, the United States Senate has looked the other way to avoid correcting the colonial character of Puerto Rico’s status. This is an affront to the American democratic values ​​that hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican soldiers have defended around the world with the stars and stripes on their arms along with their American compatriots.”

He quoted President Biden, who said, “For far too long, the residents of Puerto Rico—over 3 million U.S. citizens—have been deprived of the opportunity to determine their political future and have not received the full rights and benefits of their citizenship because they reside in a U.S. territory.”

“125 years of unequal treatment towards the American citizens living in Puerto Rico have taken a toll on our society,” Pierluisi continued. “And it is important to realize that even after the successful restructuring of our public finances and the rebuilding of our infrastructure, Puerto Rico will remain hindered until our century-long status question is resolved.”

“You are as important as any state is,” said Senator Manchin (D-WV), who is the chair of the committee. He recommended that Puerto Rico consider hydrogen fuel as part of their energy mix.

“As the oldest U.S. colony, it is time to finally provide voters in Puerto Rico a definitive choice among the constitutionally viable options for the island’s political future,” George Laws Garcia of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council wrote in a supporting letter. “Merely dealing with the symptoms of Puerto Rico’s inequality and disenfranchisement is woefully insufficient.

Governor Pierluisi made the same point. He mentioned the health care system as an example. “The underlying problem is the lack of equality,” he said in response to a question from Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). “This is why you see me advocating for statehood.”

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