Puerto Rico Senate Approves Yes/No Statehood Vote

The Puerto Rico Senate has approved a proposal to hold one more plebiscite, this time a yes/no vote for statehood. The vote is planned to coincide with the general election on November 3, 2020. The bill, called “Law for the Final Definition of the Political Status of Puerto Rico,” was written by the president of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz.

The original bill, Law 1467, presented the question,

“Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the Union as a state?”

The possible answers will be “yes” or “no.” Following a recommendation from former Governor Carlos Romero Barceló, the answers were defined in this way:

The “yes” means that the voter claims the federal government to immediately recognize the equality of duties and rights of American citizens with the status “in permanent union with all the states of the Union.” The “no” means the rejection of the permanent union with statehood and a claim to the federal government to “immediately recognize the sovereignty of Puerto Rico separated from the United States of America with a treaty of independence in free association or with total independence.”

The bill also includes a next step:

If the “yes” is won, after no more than 15 days after the result is certified, the governor will designate a transition commission consisting of seven members: two government officials, the resident commissioner and four members of the principal representative that the State Election Commission (EEC) certified to represent the winning status alternative.

A “no” vote similarly would set up a committee to seek independence.

Senators representing the “commonwealth” and independence factions objected to the plan. However, gubernatorial candidate and former resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi described the plan as “simple and clear.”

“There are no excuses,” he said. “There are those who always put buts and obstacles to the solution of our political status, they know that this plebiscite project is fair and allows everyone to express themselves. Their criticisms are only a reflection of the realization that the time has come to leave our colonial status behind.”

Yes or no

Hawaii and Alaska, the most recent territories to become states, both held yes/no votes on statehood. Those who wanted statehood voted “yes.” Those who did not want statehood voted “no.” In both cases, statehood won and the territories became states.

Puerto Rico voted for statehood in plebiscites in 2012 and 2017. In both cases, the anti-statehood factions, unable to win with their smaller numbers of supporters, were able to claim that the process was confusing or confused. The U.S. Congress, itself confused, ignored both votes.

The committees described in the law are intended to avoid this outcome.

Congress is more aware of Puerto Rico now than in 2012 or in 2017. The devastation of the 2017 hurricane season and the earthquakes this winter have made Congress realize that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Many have also learned that the inequality Puerto Rico faces as a territory has put the Island in an unequal position. Statehood is the only option that will lead to equality for Puerto Rico.

Tell your legislators that you want equality for Puerto Rico.

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