Wanda Vazquez, the third Governor of Puerto Rico in a week, has told Noticias that statehood is “not a priority” for her. She doesn’t want politics to sully her governance, and wants only what is “favorable for all the citizens in Puerto Rico and that somehow can improve their quality of life.” She wants to avoid any polarizing positions, she said.
It is understandable that Vazquez, who said publicly that she did not want to be governor and is facing a #WandaRenuncia campaign, may seek to avoid polarizing positions.
It remains to be seen, however, how long Vazquez, a representative of the Statehood Party (PNP), can renounce the pursuit of statehood.
Puerto Rico’s status is a factor inherent in many decisions that the U.S. territory’s governor must make. Assuming she stays in her role, would she advocate for state-like Medicaid resources from the U.S. government, or opt to go it alone? Will she support federal tax credits from Washington D.C. for the people of Puerto Rico? Will she keep pushing for disaster relief funding, and do what is needed to obtain this funding through the federal process?
Putting off the status question?
Statehood won in recent status plebiscites held on the island. Meanwhile the popularity of “commonwealth” has waned as Supreme Court cases and the PROMESA board have exposed Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory with no inherent sovereignty.
Puerto Rico voters have rejected the current territorial status. Independence has never received more than 5% of votes in any plebiscite; nor has an Independence Party candidate ever won an election for Governor of Puerto Rico. Statehood is the clear preference of the people of Puerto Rico, particularly once the fallacy of “commonwealth” is exposed and the details of Free Association are understood.
As a State, Puerto Rico would be treated equally in terms of health care, tax credits, nutrition assistance, and many more current areas of inequality. New states enter the Union “on an equal footing” with existing states. These changes would improve the quality of life for the millions of U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico.
The idea that Puerto Rico should wait until things are better to consider statehood has not worked in the past. There was talk of waiting for the debt crisis to be resolved, even though planning for economic improvement as an unincorporated territory of the Unites States was difficult. The debt crisis has not been solved.
Then it was suggested that statehood should be shelved until Puerto Rico recovered from Hurricane Maria. The inadequate federal response has slowed that recovery.
Now Vazquez is proposing that the status question be delayed while “somehow” improving quality of life on the Island. In fact, history demonstrates that statehood would improve quality of life. Hawaii and Alaska are the most recent examples.
Vazquez has promised to listen to the people of Puerto Rico. If she does so, she may find that the majority care about the economic growth and still want statehood.