Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican representing Florida, was recently mentioned in a Sun Sentinel editorial saying that statehood for Puerto Rico “can wait.” Having expressed skepticism about all the current proposals for Puerto Rico, the editorial asserts that “Something must be done.” They conclude, “Statehood? Independence? Continued territorial status? Those are big issues, and certainly Puerto Rico needs to settle them. Eventually. But in the current economic crisis, statehood is a distraction.”
We disagree. Looking back at the 32 territories which have become states already, we can see that they had problems as territories which they did not continue to have as states. Territories dealt with wars, border disputes, debt, poverty, and deep political divisions. When they became states, without any magic or miracles, they were able to move on to peace and prosperity.
The Miami Herald claimed that Rubio ” is throwing cold water on Puerto Rican statehood.”
Is it true that Rubio no longer supports statehood for Puerto Rico?
In El Nuevo Dia, Rubio was quoted directly as saying that “right now, to be honest, we do not have the votes in the Senate.” This doesn’t mean that he is opposed to statehood, he explained. “What I would like is to avoid a defeat. That would be regrettable because then people are going to say, ‘that was already voted in the Senate’ and unfortunately many of the people who would vote against still do not understand the issue.”
Rubio went on to explain that opportunities to talk with fellow U.S. senators about Puerto Rico are limited. Getting his colleagues’ attention is a challenge. “I have to choose the subject, and right now I have to tell them about the hurricane,” he said. “I cannot talk to them about two things at once.”
Rubio repeated that his fellow senators don’t understand the issue. “I do not want people to be forced to make a decision until they know what they are voting for … Even after the hurricane I have colleagues who do not understand, it is not that they think that Puerto Rico is not part of the US, but in some cases until recently did not understand that the Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States. That’s unbelievable, but it is like that. I would never want an unnecessary defeat,” he said.
Jose F. Aponte-Hernandez, Representative at Large in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, wrote a letter to Rubio in response to the interview in El Nuevo Dia. “You have been an avid supporter of statehood for the people of Puerto Rico,” he wrote. He reminded Rubio of pro-statehood statements he made in Puerto Rico while campaigning for the presidency in 2016.
“Never in our political history has Washington been so keen on matters related to Puerto Rico,” Aponte-Hernandez went on, disagreeing that it is now a difficult time to get attention from the federal government. “Every time I have visited the Capitol for the past twelve months, the message I received from nearly every congressman, on both sides of the aisle, was the same: the matter of Puerto Rico must be resolved soon.”
Senator Rubio responded to the letter, saying, “Your letter leads me to believe that you are under the false impression that I have called for an end to efforts to grant Puerto Rico the opportunity to achieve admission as a state.”
Rubio speaks our for statehood.
“Many important and historic legislative initiatives begin without the requisite number of votes needed. An effective and sustained effort can turn no votes into yes votes,” Rubio went on. “Today, many of my colleagues oppose statehood because they do not yet fully understand the proposition. Our task is to change that.”
“I know the people of Puerto Rico have been ‘Citizens without a State’ for far too long,” the letter concludes. “And while the challenges before us may make it hard for some to see, I believe we have never been closer than we are today to giving the people of the island the opportunity to vote for admission to the union.”
The answer, then, is simple: Senator Rubio continues to support statehood. He believes that it is too early for a vote in the U.S. Senate, but not that it is too early for Puerto Rico to become a state.
We can all help make sure that the men and women of the U.S. Congress understand the need for statehood for Puerto Rico. Send a letter, send an email, use the widget on the right of this page to send a Sound Off, send a tweet.
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