Jose Fuentes, former Attorney General of Puerto Rico and Chairman of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council, shared his views on Puerto Rico’s status in an NBC news “Think” segment.
“The United States cannot continue to be the force for democracy around the world and still maintain this colony in the Caribbean,” he began. “It’s time to make a decision, and Puerto Rico should become a state.”
Speaking over a video stream of post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico, Fuentes pointed out that the 3.5 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are represented by just one non-voting member in Congress. The States’ Congressional representatives speak for just 400,000 or so citizens, and have votes. “Democracy in the United States is government with the consent of the governed, and we project that around the world,” Fuentes continued, “but in our own backyard we have three million people who have to live under every federal law that is instituted by Congress, but we have no vote in passing those laws.”
“If Puerto Rico became a state, it would share not only in the benefits, but in the responsibilities.” Fuentes points out that Puerto Rico pays all federal taxes except for income tax on income earned in Puerto Rico — but receives much less than residents of the 50 States. Residents of Puerto Rico pay Medicare and Social Security taxes just as people in the States do, but receive much less in benefits.
Fuentes went on to explain that Congress has complete power over Puerto Rico. “They have created this economic model that has failed,” he said. “Puerto Rico on its own cannot fix the economy, because it has no political power to do that. Congress holds all the political power.”
With Puerto Rico’s current unstable political status as an unincorporated territory, Puerto Rico can’t bring in the investments it needs. Once Puerto Rico is on a path to statehood, Fuentes says, “A lot of capital will start flowing in, and we will fix the economy before Puerto Rico becomes a state.”
“We are an integral part of the fiber of America,” Fuentes concluded, “and we are ready.”