The representative of a State in the U.S. Congress who grew up in and began her career in Puerto Rico was quoted Sunday as saying that the Commonwealth’s plebiscite on political status options in 2012 was “not representative” of the territory.
Voter participation in the plebiscite, however, was much greater than in Representative Nydia Velazquez’s recent elections in her New York congressional districts.
- In Tuesday’s Democratic primary “won” by Velazquez, only some 3% of the registered Democrats cast ballots.
- In 2012 — on the same day as Puerto Rico’s plebiscite and along with a presidential election that drew a higher than usual voter turnout — less than 38.9% of the 391,385 registered voters in Velazquez’s district voted for a congressional candidate.
- In 2010, just 20.3% of the 360,087 registered voters in Velazquez’s election cast ballots for a representative in Congress.
The participation pales beside the participation of Puerto Ricans in the plebiscite.
- 75.4% of the Commonwealth’s 2,402,941 registered voters voted on the question of Puerto Rico’s current status — territory, but sometimes misleadingly called “Commonwealth” after a word in the official name of the insular government.
- 57.5% voted on the possible alternatives to territory status.
Velazquez’s dismissal of the votes of millions of Puerto Ricans echoes the position of the “Commonwealth” party. The “Commonwealth” party governor and legislative majorities very narrowly elected at the same time as the plebiscite have refused to respect the validity and results of the plebiscite.
The party supported territory status in the plebiscite. Territory status was rejected by 54% of the vote, and statehood won 61.2% in the vote among the possible alternatives.
The first government office that Velazquez held was as a Government of Puerto Rico “Commonwealth” party political appointee. She has maintained close relations with party leaders since then.
Velazquez also sounded like a “Commonwealth” party leader in saying that the people of Puerto Rico should determine the process for choosing the territory’s status preference.
The 2012 plebiscite was called by the elected governor and legislature of Puerto Rico, and Governor Luis Fortuno (statehood) and the majorities in each house of the Legislative Assembly at the time were elected on a platform of having a plebiscite.
In a not very veiled criticism of the administration of President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, Velazquez, additionally, said that she “would like to see an administration that understands the structural problems of the Puerto Rican economy in a comprehensive way.”
In an extensive report on a range of Puerto Rican issues — including economic questions — in 2011, Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status wrote that “the status question and the economy are intimately linked … identifying the most effective means of assisting the Puerto Rican economy depends on resolving the ultimate question of status … In short, the long-term economic well-being of Puerto Rico would be dramatically improved by an early decision on the status question.”
Like “Commonwealth” party Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Velazquez, further, was critical of a report by the Congress’s independent Government Accountability Office on the Federal budget impacts of statehood for Puerto Rico. The report made clear that equal treatment of Puerto Rico in Federal laws could inject up to $10 billion a year into the Commonwealth’s failing economy while also increasing Federal revenue by a few billion dollars a year.
Velazquez said that the report “raised questions and concerns.”
In an interview, Velazquez gave obtaining U.S. citizenship and equal Federal government services for people from other countries that have entered and stayed in the United States (which includes Puerto Rico for this purpose) illegally as one of her very top priorities.
She did not identify obtaining equal Federal services for the people of Puerto Rico, U.S. citizens by birth, as a goal.
The “Commonwealth” party generally advocates different, rather than equal, treatment of Puerto Rico in Federal laws.