“Free Puerto Rico”?

Congressman Luis Gutierrez gave a speech in Congress saying, “Free Puerto Rico…so she can solve the problem of her crushing debt without being handcuffed by Congress, its distant and inattentive colonial master.”

It sounds stirring, but Rep. Gutierrez was not actually calling for a revolution to create an independent Puerto Rico. “Free” is being used figuratively here.

Free Puerto Rico’s people to unleash their inherent hard-working character, spirit, and dedication.

Free Puerto Ricans to work and toil and build and create.  Free Puerto Rico so that she can build a sustainable economy that keeps her people at home, in the land of their birth and their heritage.

It may be a bold speech, but what is Gutierrez actually arguing for? He appeared to be arguing against the Jones Act and against the fiscal oversight board, but what does he actually want Congress to do for Puerto Rico?

We must make the conversation about jobs for Puerto Ricans. Jobs that build the economy and the tax base and the self-sufficiency of the Island.

Jobs are certainly an issue for Puerto Rico. The Island faces 12.2% unemployment, according to the most recent figures, while the United States as a whole has seen the unemployment rate fall below 5% for the first time since 2008.

How does Gutierrez propose to provide jobs to Puerto Rico? That is not clear.

We must free Puerto Rico so that the Puerto Rican people can free themselves.

Unless Gutierrez really is calling for independence for Puerto Rico, this is an emotional appeal.

In an earlier speech, Gutierrez said that Puerto Ricans must set aside the status issue and work together. “At a time when the people of Puerto Rico must be clear, precise and unified, the status issue divides Puerto Ricans.  We should be working together to figure out how Puerto Rico is going to pay teachers and honor their pensions… We have to be clear and put aside the status issue.”

But, as Rep. Don Young said in a recent hearing, if Puerto Rico were a state, we wouldn’t be having these conversations. Gutierrez had said boldly that Puerto Rico is a colony. Does he believe that a colony can have the “sustainable economy” he wants to see?