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Tonight on Al Jazeera America: Should Puerto Rico become the 51st State?

With its people culturally united but politically divided, what is the best way forward? Join the conversation at 7:30pm ET.

What do you think? Record a video comment or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Hilarious. (h/t to Pocho.com)

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The following release was just published today and I say, “Fantástico.” It is time for Puerto Ricans to stand up, get connected, and work together for a greater Puerto Rico. You can give Parranda Puerto Rico a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

libreflag

SAN JUAN, PR and MIAMI, FL and SILICON VALLEY, CA–(Marketwire – Dec 13, 2012) – A new social network dubbed “Parranda” — the name of a popular Puerto Rican Christmas tradition — is hoping to gather Puerto Ricans on the island and throughout the world to “remap, remake, and remobilize the Greater Puerto Rico.”

Founded by eighteen Puerto Rican entrepreneurs, scientists, and business leaders — from San Juan to Silicon Valley — Parranda will launch a beta version this Christmas of an online network with an initial focus on constructing a digital map of where all Puerto Ricans live. Later projects will include an online mentoring program, a crowd-funding capability, and a broad range of applications that serve the economic, civic, and cultural development of the island and its people.

Reimagining “The Boricua Winter”

A confluence of events has demonstrated the need, desire, and utility for a Puerto Rican diaspora network.

First, there is the continuing flight of Puerto Rican professionals to the US and other countries, which has created a persistent brain drain from the Puerto Rican economy. Second, there was the recent demonstration of political power both on the mainland and on the archipelago. The strength of the Puerto Rican vote in Florida for the 2012 election was surprising to many. And a recent plebiscite was the first time Puerto Ricans voted in a majority to reject Puerto Rico’s current political status.

Finally, there’s the recent wave of social networking activity following a recent spike in the violent crime rate in Puerto Rico, a problem recognized as one of the chief causes of migration to the US. A journalist recently labeled the online reaction to violence in Puerto Rico as “the Boricua Winter,” drawing a comparison to the Arab Spring.

“When we say ‘a Greater Puerto Rico,’ we are referring, of course, to two things,” said Giovanni Rodriguez, co-founder of Parranda and CEO of SocialxDesign, a strategic consulting firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. “First, there’s the reality that Puerto Rican influence is extending beyond the borders of the archipelago. There are more Puerto Ricans living in the US today than in Puerto Rico. Second there’s the idea that Puerto Ricans everywhere — no matter where they make their home — can improve conditions in their homeland. The time is right for the launch of a platform like Parranda, which aims to bring Puerto Ricans together for a number of projects designed for large-scale social impact.”

Parranda’s first focus on mapping the Greater Puerto Rico — via a simple web application — is both practical and strategic for its longer-term goals.

“Puerto Ricans will be both surprised and energized to see where they are today, and the mapping project will enlist all Puerto Ricans to both make the map and telling others to help make it,” said Marcos Polanco, co-founder and COO of iCare Medical Inc., a startup based in San Juan. “And once the map is well lit, it will help Parranda to execute on its larger ambitions in mentoring, funding, and support for social and commercial entrepreneurship.”

Power in Unity

The Parranda name was inspired by a Christmas-season known throughout Latin-America but mostly associated with Puerto Rico. Holiday revelers go door-to-door throughout their neighborhoods, gathering people to join them, knock on other doors, and gather more people.

“We see it as the perfect metaphor for what we are trying to do — knocking on the virtual doors of all Puerto Ricans, and asking them to join us. Plus, the Parranda concept is joyous. Yes, it will help us tackle some of our toughest challenges. But the act of coming together in itself will be part of the appeal.”

The mapping project launches along with the beta site of the Parranda network on Christmas Eve. But people can sign up for early registration by visiting parranda.org today. They can also let organizers know if they want to support the project, individually or as a sponsor.

“In the end, Parranda is a product of its people, and we see many ways for corporate, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations to join and support,” said Polanco.

About Parranda

Parranda.org is a project devoted to the economic, civic, and cultural development of a “Greater Puerto Rico.” By providing a virtual platform for mass collaboration, Parranda enables people on and off the island (the Puerto Rican diaspora) to work with one another on meaningful and measurable initiatives. We’re launching just before Christmas this year. To sign up for early registration, or to explore ways to support the project, please visit us atwww.parranda.org. You can also join the “parranda” on our social networks on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ParrandaPuertoRico and on Twitter@ParrandaPR.

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Proving once again that when it comes to the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status everything that is up is down and everything that is down is up, last night the White House backtracked on what Press Secretary Jay Carney said earlier in the day about the island’s recent plebiscite vote on political status, according to a report by El Nuevo Día.

Yesterday afternoon Carney said that the results of the plebiscite’s first question clearly showed that Puerto Ricans had rejected its current commonwealth status, but that the process behind the second question of the vote was not as clear, even though 61% of Puerto Ricans chose statehood in the second part. It is a similar position that the co-chairs of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status said last week. (For my thoughts as to why this is all muddied in the first place, read this post.)

© Associated Press

© Associated Press

Last night, all that changed, as Luis Miranda, the White House’s Hispanic Affairs spokesperson, said that all the results of the vote were “clear.” Miranda said that the Puerto Rican people wants its political status to be resolved and that a majority favored statehood in the plebiscite’s second question.

According to El Nuevo Día, Miranda’s comments corrected Carney’s prepared White House statement, which was shared with END last Friday.

In the meantime, END also reported that the office of Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor (R), the House Majority Leader, will be talking with his colleagues about Puerto Rico. The newspaper says that Cantor is a key player in favoring a new process that would help to determine Puerto Rico’s status.

Stay tuned for more topsy-turviness. As if this should surprise anyone.

To read the entire END article, click here.

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In response to a November 6 plebiscite vote in Puerto Rico, where 54% of voters rejected the island’s current status quo and 61% chose statehood as its preferred option, the White House today said that Puerto Rico has “made it clear” that it wants to resolve its political status, according to a report in El Nuevo Día.

puerto_rico_0527

As the newspaper reports in Spanish, David Agnew and Tony West, co-chairs for The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, stated that the Obama Administration “will work with Congress to provide the people of Puerto Rico a clear process that would establish ways that Puerto Ricans could determine their status. [Note: this quotes and others were translated from the END report in Spanish. They do not reflect the official English version of the statement. END received an advanced copy of the statement.]

Agnew and West also stated the following:

“This Administration is committed to the principle that political status is a topic of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.”

“Besides the status question, the Task Force will continue to work with Congress, the people of Puerto Rico and its leaders to address the concerns of the (close to) four million American citizens who call Puerto Rico home, implementing the recommendations of the 2011 report to promote the creation of jobs, improve security, education and address other important education, health and clean energy goals.”

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This week, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D), who is a non-voting member of the United States Congress, appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” with Robert Siegel.

Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi

Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi

The following link is the audio of the interview, and the transcript is below: NPR Pierluisi Interview. As suspected, the Pierluisi interview confirms several of the main themes surrounding Puerto Rico’s status and where it goes next:

  • The main point that is really hard to ignore is that 54% of the electorate agreed that the island’s current commonwealth arrangement is no longer a viable option. Can we all agree to that or will that still get spun?
  • Pierluisi did suggest that question two was not a clear mandate for statehood. The results were still muddy, and as I have argued before, that muddiness had to do with the very poor strategic decision by Puerto Rico’s governor-elect Alejandro García Padilla (pro-commonwealth Democrat) telling voters to leave the second ballot blank. Blank was not an option in this plebiscite, so the results don’t count. People can spin it all they want, saying that the plebiscite was just a ploy by the pro-statehood party to portray a result that is not reflective of the majority of Puerto Ricans. But the fact remains: all this talk of statehood and all this national attention that Puerto Rico is getting about statehood would have gone away if García Padilla and other pro-commonwealth leaders had just told their supporters to choose options like independence or associated free state. They didn’t, and now the U.S. media is crafting a narrative that puts statehood at the front of the agenda.
  • Something should be done. Anything. Respect the vote. Have Congress act, especially the Puerto Rican members of Congress who have a vote. Hold another vote, one that is binding and clear. Puerto Rico must be a priority on the national agenda, especially since Puerto Ricans were a major factor in handing a Florida victory to President Obama.

TRANSCRIPT

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Of the 50 million Hispanics in the U.S., nearly two-thirds are of Mexican origin. The second largest group – accounting for about 9 percent – are the nearly five million Puerto Ricans who live in the 50 states and the District of Columbia – that is, not on the island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. The island has been a U.S. territory since the Spanish-American War.

Well, on Election Day, Puerto Rico held a vote on the island’s status, and although some people dispute the meaning of the result, the winning option was statehood. Joining us now to talk about this is a statehood advocate, resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, who is also Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress. He caucuses with the Democratic Party. Welcome.

RESIDENT COMMISSIONER PEDRO PIERLUISI: Thank you. Thank you for having me here, Robert. I’ll be glad to expand on what happened in Puerto Rico on November 6th.

SIEGEL: Well, let’s begin with the rather controversial result. There were two questions on the ballot. First: Should the current territorial status continue? Fifty-four percent said no. And the second question was: If not, what should be the status? And of three choices offered – independence, a sovereign, free associated state or statehood – statehood got 61 percent of the vote.

Some people say, though, so many people didn’t vote on question number two, it really doesn’t say that much.

PIERLUISI: Yes. But let’s go step by step. The first question was pretty clear, basically whether Puerto Rican should remain the way it is, a territory. And 54 percent of the voters said no.

SIEGEL: But just to pursue the result one more time, about a quarter of the people who voted on question number one didn’t vote on question number two. Some people said they didn’t even know they could vote, or that it made any sense to vote on question number two if they supported the status quo.

PIERLUISI: It was pretty clear in terms of the public discourse. And there was a lot of informative ads telling voters that these were two questions, separate questions, and that regardless of the answer to the first question, they should make a choice. So that’s where we are.

SIEGEL: Right. All right, that’s where we are. So we have a result. We have an election that’s taken place, a referendum. President Obama has said – and I’m quoting now – “When the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you.” The Republican platform of 2012 said that party supports the right of U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the union as a fully sovereign state if they freely so determine.

But it then speaks of that happening by means of a general right of referendum, or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government. Does that mean a different kind of election than the one you just held in Puerto Rico?

PIERLUISI: The government of Puerto Rico has every right to hold a plebiscite, to consult the people of Puerto Rico regarding their wishes. But the truth is that for a change in the status of Puerto Rico to happen, you need both Congress and Puerto Rico agreeing to it.

SIEGEL: Let me ask you a couple of questions about statehood. The benefits of statehood may be self-evident. On the other hand, Puerto Rico enjoys a very unusual status. Puerto Ricans don’t pay federal income tax, I understand it. You have your own Olympic team and, you know, your own baseball team in the World Baseball Classic, and you also use Spanish as an official language.

This makes you remarkably different from the other states. Would Puerto Ricans be willing to give up those privileges of the current situation in order to become a state?

PIERLUISI: Well, we would have to see if Congress imposes terms and conditions on the admission of Puerto Rico as a state. There are now over 50 million Hispanics in America. Spanish is the predominant language in many areas of the country. Now, Puerto Rico will get a lot of additional federal assistance, but at the same time, corporations and wealthy taxpayers on the island would pay federal income taxes.

Right now, we pay federal payroll taxes – Social Security, Medicare. But close to half of the households in the U.S. mainland do not owe federal income taxes. So in the case of Puerto Rico, right now, at least eight out of 10 taxpayers wouldn’t be paying federal taxes, anyway. I believe in the long run, this would be a win-win for both the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

All property values would increase, like it happened in Hawaii and Alaska. The economic growth in the island would also increase like it happened in Hawaii after Hawaii became a state. So that would offset any kind of impact that federal income taxes could have.

SIEGEL: As you know, the smart money in Washington, and certainly on the world’s editorial pages, is against the prospects of Puerto Rico becoming a state. People note that unlike Alaska or Hawaii, Puerto Rico would not enter with just one seat in Congress. It would have a delegation about as big as that of Connecticut or Oregon’s. Lots of people look at Puerto Rican voting in the States and say they’re all going to be Democrats, and the Republicans are not going to admit that many new Democrats to the Congress.

PIERLUISI: They don’t know Puerto Rico that well. Puerto Rico is predominantly Catholic but a lot of evangelical Christians in Puerto Rico right now. It is conservative on social issues. Pretty much this is like a middle-of-the-road type terrain. Puerto Rico should not continue to have the current status which is colonial in nature if the people of Puerto Rico – and on top of it, American citizens – are telling the world we don’t want it anymore.

SIEGEL: Well, Representative Pierluisi, thank you very much for talking with us.

PIERLUISI: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Pedro Pierluisi is the resident commissioner and nonvoting member of Congress from Puerto Rico.

Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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So, this interview from Fox Business’ Varney and Co. with Puerto Rico Secretary of Commerce José Pérez-Riera is quite telling. The level of ignorance from the American media is sad. Let’s get this straight: you can disagree with Pérez-Riera, but the interviewers should at least respect the guy. When will Puerto Ricans wake up and demand that the US media be more respectful to Puerto Ricans? This has gone beyond politics, this should now be about Puerto Ricans banding together and saying that they will no longer be treated like the little colony that the US media has portrayed them to be.

Now, people laughed at me when I wrote the following piece last year called Why Puerto Rico Will Never Become the 51st State. My main argument is that there are many Americans (especially those in the conservative media) who have no clue about Puerto Rico and actually don’t want Puerto Rico to become a state.

Americans will never accept a flag with 51 stars in it

Well, this latest clip from Fox News Business just confirms my original thesis. Wake up, Puerto Rico, the United States media does not care about the status question. And Pérez-Riera is a pro-statehooder whose leader is a Republican governor. It is bizarre, but it does not surprise me any more.

By the way, the news has been spreading around the island.

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