“The Status of Puerto Rico” is an in-depth report on Puerto Rico’s status produced by the program Inside America with Ghida Fakhry from the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation.
After explaining the new statehood admissions bill and the competing HR 2070, Fakhry began by talking with former Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño. Fortuño explained the economic benefits of statehood. “For investors, they look at Puerto Rico and then they say, ‘It’s not as safe as a U.S. state.'”
“At the end of the day, it has to work as it was supposed to work,” said Fortuño. “The vast majority of people rejected the current territorial status. We need to finish the conversation once and for all.”
Fakhry asked whether Puerto Rico shouldn’t have more options.
“We have had those choices before,” Fortuño responded. “In the past 20 years, statehood has prevailed.”
“Why should it be up to Congress?” Fakhry asked.”Should political leaders in Washington determine what is the right path for Puerto Rico?”
Fortuño pointed out that Puerto Rico’s elected leaders favor statehood. He explained that the other status options imagined by HR 2070 have been proposed repeatedly: guaranteed U.S. citizenship but the freedom to choose which federal laws to obey, for example. “That is not realistic,” he said. “If that were an option, there would be 50 states choosing that option.”
Seizing on the question of realism, Fakhry mentioned that some Republicans have already claimed that they won’t support statehood for fear that Puerto Rico might be a Democratic state.
“Historically, many Republicans have also supported statehood,” Fortuño reminded Fakhry. “The fact that the current representatives in Congress is a Republican shows you…Puerto Rico will be a purple state
Ghida Fakhry also spoke with former Governor Celia Calderon.
“Puerto Rico, even though we have a good relationship and a legal relationship with the United States,” said former governor Celia Calderon, “we want to be ourselves.”
“We would like our relationship of commonwealth to evolve into a relationship that allows us not to be under the plenary powers of Congress,” said Calderon. Under the Constitution, this situation would require Puerto Rico to transition to independence.
Calderon wrote a letter to President Biden arguing that 53% voting for statehood is not a large enough majority.
“If this had been a binding referendum, 53% would have been enough, wouldn’t it?” Fakhry asked. Calderon declined to answer, because it was a hypothetical question.
“Everything in life is not money,” she continued. “We’re happy as we are.”
“It’s not a status quo. It’s a status. We want to develop it,” said Calderon. “It’s going to take a long time, be but we will achieve it. Definitely.”
George Laws Garcia
Ghida Fakhry spoke with two members of Puerto Rico’s political organizations, including George Laws Garcia of The Puerto Rico Statehood Council and Jose Lopez of Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
Fakhry said, “There was no consensus.”
“The reality is that saying that there is no consensus ignores the fact that in a democracy, the majority of the citizens that vote are the ones who decide,” agreed Laws Garcia. “You can continue to be fully Puerto Rican and be fully American as a state.”
Jose Lopez said that the process of self-determination should e the focus. “Being a possession of someone and being treated as an object does not really allow me to fully actualize myself,” he said. Pointing out the 6 million Puerto Ricans have chosen to leave Puerto Rico for a state. “We have lived statehood and we surely don’t want it.”
In response, Garcia Laws said of those leaving Puerto Rico, “They’ve moved stateside. They haven’t gone to other countries…Both Mr. Lopez and I agree that under the current territory status, Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States and a possession of the United States and that that needs to end.”