Arer you being duped? Americans are compassionate people. Americans across the nation speak up for Somalia, Honduras, and Afghanistan. Yet when it’s time to speak up for Puerto Rico, people think that Puerto Rican heritage is a requirement.
“It’s up to Puerto Rico,” they shrug. And we agree that Puerto Rico has a right to self-determination. In three free and fair democratic votes in the 21st century, Puerto Rico has chosen statehood from the viable status options. Now, it’s time for all Americans to step up to defend the status decision made by the voters of Puerto Rico.
It’s the American way
Our nation was founded on the principle of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Yet decisions about Puerto Rico are made by Congress, by people elected by the residents of the states, not of Puerto Rico.
As a state, Puerto Rico will have four Members of Congress and two Senators. As a territory, Puerto Rico has just one Resident Commissioner, who has a limited voice in Congress.
This is not how democracy is supposed to work. But as long as it is the case — as long as Puerto Rico continues as a territory — Puerto Rico needs allies in the states to speak up, to demand that their Congressional representatives support the democratically chosen status option of statehood.
It’s the right thing to do
Puerto Rico is not treated equally with the states. Congress has the legal privilege to treat territories differently from states. Puerto Ricans pay the same Social Security taxes as people living in the states, but receives fewer benefits. Puerto Rico is subject to the same regulations for water and other utilities, but doesn’t get safe water and reliable electricity. People living in Puerto Rico get less nutritional support than those receiving aid in the United States.
Many of these differences are economic differences, but they affect the health and safety of people living in Puerto Rico. It is not selfish to point out these differences. It is wrong to have these differences.
As a state, Puerto Rico will be equal to all other states, as the U.S. Constitution demands. This is justice.
When the United States received Puerto Rico from Spain in the 19th century, many countries had colonies. The idea of fluid relationships between a nation and its possessions was common. Now, our ideas — as Americans and as human beings — have changed.
Saying, “It’s up to Puerto Rico” is used as an excuse to ignore the fact that now, in the 21st century, colonial relationships are obsolete and offensive.
Puerto Rico has decided on statehood. There are some people who do not agree, as there will be in any democracy. They have persuaded many other people that there is no clear majority position in Puerto Rico, or that Puerto Rico’s political status is a domestic issue between Puerto Ricans and the federal government.
In fact, if you do not stand up for equality for Puerto Rico through statehood, the majority position on the Island, you are complicit in the continued inequality of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has a limited voice in our nation’s democracy. We need allies with greater representation in the federal government. Speak up!