Can Congress Force Independence on Puerto Rico?

A recent comment here at PR51st acknowledged that the majority of Puerto Rico’s voters don’t want independence. In fact, the highest percentage independence has ever received in a referendum vote is 5%. An Independence Party governor has never been elected in Puerto Rico. The territory of Puerto Rico flat out doesn’t want independence.

The comment suggested that this doesn’t matter. “Independence is a democratic right,” the commenter said, and even if the people don’t want it, “the island must be free.”

Americans love the idea of independence. A colonial relationship seems wrong to us. Those living in the states especially feel that independence is equivalent to freedom, that it is a good thing, and everyone should have it.

Whether they want it or not.

There is at least one member of Congress who favors independence. Rep. Luis Gutierrez  (D-IL) introduced a bill in 2017, HR 900, to force independence on Puerto Rico.

The bill begins like this:

To recognize Puerto Rico’s sovereign nationhood under either independence or free association and to provide for a transition process, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. Findings.

Congress finds the following:

(1) In order to ensure the legitimate interests of Puerto Rico and the United States, Congress should recognize Puerto Rico as a sovereign nation.

(2) Consistent with article IV, section 3 of the Constitution, only Congress has the power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting Puerto Rico.

(3) Puerto Rico’s territorial condition constitutes an unsustainable status of political subordination.

The bill continues on to speak against statehood, to set out a referendum offering only independence and independence with free association, to define eligible voters as those born in Puerto Rico or whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, and to call upon the President of the United States to negotiate a treaty with the Republic of Puerto Rico.  The bill states that “Congress should dispose of the territory of Puerto Rico.”

Gutierrez made a poetic speech on the subject, and the conversation ended.

What happened to the bill to force independence on Puerto Rico?

Like most bills (including some previous bills to “dispose of the territory of Puerto Rico,”) this bill failed. It was sent to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs and, as the saying goes, “died in committee.” It had no cosponsors and no support.

But this is exactly how Congress could force independence on Puerto Rico.

In 1922, Rep. Philip P. Campbell introduced a bill making Puerto Rico a Free Associated State. In 1934, Senator Millard Tydings introduced a bill calling for independence for Puerto Rico. In 1937, Rep. Wilburn Cartwright did the same.Tydings tried again in 1943 and 1945. All these bills failed.

If they had passed, Puerto Rico would be independent. That’s all it would take for Congress to force independence on Puerto Rico.

The fate of Puerto Rico is in the hands of Congress. The voters have already spoken. Now we must make sure that Congress understands and believes that Puerto Rico is ready for statehood. Contact your legislators.

One Comment

Dennis O Freytes

PR51st is the best site for the facts and good analysis on the Federal undemocratic control of US Territory of Puerto Rico (with more US Citizens-American Veterans than 22 States)– that don’t have Federal “Consent of the Governed”!

US Congress must stop Federal discrimination; provide Puerto Ricans–EQUALITY+PROGRESS=STATEHOOD with DIGNITY!🇱🇷️🇵🇷

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