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Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rico plebiscite’


In today’s El Nuevo Día, Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s Resident Commissioner and a pro-statehood Democrat, said that if Puerto Ricans want the U.S. Congress to act upon the island’s political status, voting “No” to the first question of the two-question November 6 non-binding plebiscite will send a strong message to Congress that Puerto Ricans desire a change in the current commonwealth system. Basically, the first question asks Puerto Ricans if they care to remain a commonwealth of the US or whether they prefer a change in status. The second question—if voters do indeed prefer a change—would ask voters to choose from three status options: independence, statehood, or sovereign free association.

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner

Even though the entire November 6 plebiscite is non-binding (meaning Congress doesn’t have to do anything no matter what Puerto Ricans vote on), Pierluisi believes that a “No” vote on the first question would send the right message to Congress.

The first question of the two included in the consultation on the status 6th November that will determine if the U.S. Congress will act to implement the results of the vote, said today the Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. This is what END reported (translation is ours):

“En la primera es que nos va la vida. Si se rechaza el status actual, pues entonces de la segunda el Congreso lo que va a recibir es el deseo de nuestro pueblo en cuanto a cuál de las opciones de cambio es la que favorece. Y ahí sí que no va a tener alternativa”.

“Si por otro lado, que yo espero que no sea el caso, pide que Puerto Rico permanezca con el status que tiene, hasta nuevo aviso, pues entonces la contestación de la segunda pregunta lo que le va a indicar al Congreso es hacia dónde va dirigido nuestro pueblo, pero el Congreso no va a actuar sobre ese resultado”.

“Si el pueblo le dice que no quiere cambio, estoy seguro, no tengo duda, que el Congreso va a esperar para actuar sobre el asunto del status hasta que el pueblo le diga lo contrario”.

“The first question is what matters to us and our lives.  If voters reject the current status [in the first question], that Congress will know what option the desire of our people will prefer with the second question.  There will be no alternative [in the second question].”

“If on the other hand, I hope it’s not the case, voters call for Puerto Rico to stay with the current status, until further notice, then the answer to the second question about what option our people want to indicate to Congress, well, Congress will not act on that result.”

“If the people says they do not want a change [in status], I’m sure, I have no doubt that Congress will wait to act on the status issue until the people tell them otherwise.”

Pierluisi, who is a pro-statehood Democrat and the island’s non-voting member in Congress, and is running for re-election (on November 6; yeah, we know it’s complicated) on the same ticket as pro-statehood Republican governor Luis Fortuño, did make it a point to say that Democrats in Congress would be more open to having Puerto Rico become a state (if the statehood option wins in the plebiscite’s second question) than Fortuño’s fellow Republicans. Yes, we know, it is really confusing. Anyway, this is what Pierluisi added:

“El resultado va a hablar por sí solo. Si la mayoría del pueblo rechaza el status actual pues entonces, como yo lo veo, no tengo dudas de que mis compañeros y compañeras en el Partido Demócrata van a tomar cartas en el asunto y van a querer responder a ese llamado del pueblo por un cambio”.

 “En el caso de los republicanos sabemos que hay sectores en el partido republicano que son muy conservadores, que se han opuesto hasta que meramente tengamos un plebiscito en el pasado y no tengo duda de que también se opondrían a que Puerto Rico se uniera como un estado”.

“The result will speak for itself. If the majority of people reject the current status for then, as I see, I have no doubt that my colleagues in the Democratic Party will take action on the matter and will want to answer the call of the people for a change.”

“For the Republicans, we know that there are sectors in the Republican Party who are very conservative, who have opposed to even have a plebiscite in the past and I have no doubt that they also oppose Puerto Rico becoming a state.”

The status question is the one issue that the island’s politicians have abused for decades. What Pierluisi should be saying on the floor of Congress is that the plebiscite be made BINDING immediately. Instead, Pierluisi falls into the same political trap as every other politician on the island: he is using the carrot of Congress being more accepting of the will of Puerto Rican voters by pushing for an initial answer that clearly benefits his pro-statehood beliefs. A true Resident Commissioner would push for a binding resolution NOW. Instead, Pierluisi is just playing partisan politics, which gets even more complicated on the island since most of his fellow Democrats are more likely to be pro-commonwealth advocates than pro-statehooders. Add the fact that Pierluisi is also saying the Democrats in the Congress would be more open to accept the plebiscite vote than certain sectors of the Republican party, the party that Fortuño is a part of, and it becomes one big political ball of confusion. How can anyone in Puerto Rico even understand it?

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As part of an ongoing series for 2012, the year of yet another Puerto Rican status plebiscite, JulioRVarela.com will periodically be posting columns by influential Puerto Rican political bloggers. We are honored to kick off our series with the first of three columns by Gil C. Schmidt. (NOTE: This three-part column was originally intended for a piece I wrote when I was contributing to Being Latino magazine earlier this year, and Schimidt’s response was never published by BL, so we are following up on an invitation we extended to Gil to have it published here).

Puerto Rico—Never a State (Part One)

By Gil C. Schmidt

 
Understand this: the U.S. will not grant statehood to Puerto Rico. Ever. It is not a “right” Puerto Rico has earned, it is not a “debt” the U.S. has to pay and it is not their “obligation” to take on a nation (a concept many Puerto Ricans shamefully deny we have) as part of their republican federation because of a simple reason: it is their house and they can say who comes in and who doesn’t.

Statehood for Puerto Rico is not going to happen for three unimpeachable reasons:
  1. Ethnic and economic differences, masked or open;
  2. History has spoken and
  3. Under domestic and international law, the ultimate decision is not “theirs”: it’s ours.
Ethnic and economic differences: The average American doesn’t know about or care a thing for Puerto Rico. But you can bet that their ignorance will quickly change to expertise based on a single issue: We are not like them. To the average American, we are not Americans. We are outsiders. Strangers. Parasites even. For though the U.S. was founded on humanistic ideals and principles, in fact, the ideals and principles are often expressed as “If you ain’t one of us, you don’t count and we don’t want you.” Ask Arizona.

For statehood, the procedure says that 38 States have to approve. It’s easier to find 38 States to vote against Puerto Rico. First off, none of the 9 Southern states (Louisiana to Kentucky/North Carolina) would approve. If you have to ask why, you’ve obviously never lived in those States.

Large Western states, like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are famous for having a strong sense of freedom, “America First” sentiment and an array of militia radicals. They’ll vote NO with nary a split-second’s thought. That makes 12, so Puerto Rican statehood is finished.

But to make the point clearer, take your pick of almost-certain “No” votes: New England states that are as ultra-conservative as the winter is long or some of the other 21 States that would see their comparatively small representation overwhelmed by Puerto Rico’s in the House of Representatives, where the number of votes is based on population, not State seniority.

Furthermore, unlike the Senate, which could rise to 102 Senators, Puerto Rico’s five “representatives” would be taken from high-population states, namely California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois or Pennsylvania. These states have high Hispanic minorities, but would these states allow one of their “voices in government” to be given to a fledgling state with a comparative poverty level that makes Mississippi look like Monaco?

And let’s not ignore the question of race. It matters. It matters a lot. Maybe 50 years from now, when the majority of the population of the U.S. is non-white, maybe it won’t matter as much. Or then again, it will, as the difference between “Them that have” and “Them that don’t” could very well make the race issue seem trivial by comparison. But for now, it’s a deal-breaker, whether it’s carried out openly (“English only”) or quietly.

Bio: I lived almost 20 years in the U.S., spanning states from Nebraska to Texas to Mississippi. My appearance and name are those of a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the proverbial W.A.S.P. But I was born in Puerto Rico, a fourth-generation Puerto Rican and have lived on the island continuously since 1987. You can find more of my writings about Puerto Rico at Gil The Jenius: http://gilthejenius.blogspot.com

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