The Sociedad Civil Estadista has called for a public hearing on Puerto Rico’s political status. Several members of Congress have done the same in recent months, some as an explanation of why they could not vote for the Puerto Rico Status Act, which passed in the House in December 2022, and others in expressing their determination to bring another Puerto Rico Status Act to a vote in the current Congress.
It might be instructive to look at some of the things that were said in a public hearing on Puerto Rico’s political status at the end of the 20th century. In 1999, then-Governor Pedro Rossello quoted some reactions to the 1998 plebiscite held in Puerto Rico.
First he quoted from the Washington Post: “The biggest vote, 50.2 percent, went to a ‘none of the above’ catch-all category supported in good part by pro-Commonwealth voters who were indulging a best of both worlds fantasy definition of commonwealth — many privileges, few obligations — that Congress would never approve. The plebiscite was a flop. It measured only erratically, not conclusively, the sentiments on the island. But it is not only the Puerto Ricans who have been unable to get their act together. Congress is at similar fault…Congress must select and fairly define the Puerto Rican status choices it would be prepared to accept. Nothing less will satisfy the obligation to convert an imperial property into a place of dignity for American citizens who are equal in rights to all others.”
He then quoted from an article written by the previous governor, Rafael Hernandez-Colon, who was a “commonwealth” supporter: “It is morally unacceptable, unfair, and harmful to Puerto Rico and the United States for Congress to relegate the issues to business as usual — that is, to do nothing, wait for a Puerto Rican initiative, play with it for a while but take no action, wait for the next initiative, and then repeat the cycle. Such insensitivity undermines Puerto Rico’s capacity for self-government, inflicts considerable hardship on its society, and drains the United States Treasury.”
Finally, he quoted former United States Attorney General Dick Thornburgh: “Suggestions that a large but indecipherable vote for ‘none of the above’ constitutes approval of the status quo border on the absurd. Only Congress can define terms for statehood, separate nationhood or continuation of the current status so that informed self-determination is possible.”
New century, no new decisions
The striking thing about these quotes from 1999 is that they still ring true. Congress is still responsible for Puerto Rico’s political status. Congress still needs to define the status options that will be accepted. Congress still fails to take action on Puerto Rico’s demands for resolution of the status question.
We’re closer than ever before to achieving statehood. Still, we must forge ahead with determination. Join us!
Image courtesy of Eric Haynes, under Creative Commons license