Bernie Sanders is once again running for president in 2020. We know exactly where he stands on statehood — for Washington, D.C. “I strongly support statehood for Washington DC,” he tweeted.
This proves that Sanders can make a clear statement in support of statehood. He has never done this for Puerto Rico.
However, Sanders has said a lot of things about Puerto Rico. At his Feel the Bern website, for example, he has an extensive article on Puerto Rico’s financial troubles. In it he discusses Puerto Rico’s status.
Others believe the best solution to Puerto Rico’s economic crisis would be for it to declare independence as a sovereign nation. While causing a large amount of investment loss to creditors, this solution would allow the U.S. to wash its hands clean of Puerto Rico and let it deal with its economic problems on its own.
However, this course of action would be almost impossible. Besides the fact that Puerto Rico has unsuccessfully bid for independence in the past, many residents would prefer statehood, including Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. He argues that granting Puerto Rico statehood would allow the territory to deal with its economic crisis much more effectively because of the additional rights and resources it would gain as a sovereign municipality of the U.S. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico’s status remains a contentious issue with a nebulous future.
On his current campaign website, he has this statement:
Restore self-rule in Puerto Rico by ending the reign of greedy Wall Street vulture funds that have a stranglehold on Puerto Rico’s future, return control of the island to the people of Puerto Rico, and give the territory the debt relief it so desperately needs to rebuild with dignity.
This statement is actually even less clear. “Return control of the island to the people of Puerto Rico” implies that Puerto Rico had more control at some time in the past and that there is something more powerful to go back to. There is no going back, and no stronger position to return to.
In choosing Carmen Yulin Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, as one of his campaign managers, Sanders placed a vote for nebulous. Yulin Cruz wants a non-colonial status for Puerto Rico, but not statehood. Also not independence. Those are the only non-colonial options, but the “commonwealth” party of which Yulin Cruz is a member continue to imagine that the federal government will one day agree to some other option. “Bernie supports a process of self determination where Puerto Ricans decide the nature of their relationship with the US,” she tweeted.
Sanders continues to say that Puerto Rico should make the status decision, but we think the preponderance of the evidence shows that he does not actually support the status option Puerto Rico’s voters have chosen: statehood.