It was enough of a surprise to hear Rep. Luis Gutierrez say, “Free Puerto Rico!” and think, for a moment, that he was recommending that Congress make Puerto Rico independent. (He wasn’t.) In a press release yesterday, Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Congress, made a statement that sounded almost as much like a plea for independence:
The vast majority of Puerto Ricans are immensely proud of their U.S. citizenship, but this crisis has exposed, like no other event in our history, the inherent and profound defects of this status. Territory status deprives Puerto Rico of power, dignity and basic tools to confront our challenges. In the near future, Puerto Rico must become a state or a sovereign nation. We must be first-class citizens in this nation or first-class citizens in our own nation. I strongly prefer the former to the latter, as do most Puerto Ricans. But either option is preferable to the status quo, which is an absolute disgrace for both the United States and Puerto Rico.
Discussions of the statement online showed anger — “He has sown the seeds of forced independence in Congress,” wrote one commenter, “We do not prefer independence! We’d rather stay a territory if the only other option is independence!!”
On the other hand, others responded with frustration mirroring that which caused Pierluisi to makes that statement. “Pierluisi is right,” said one answer to the comment above. “How much longer must Puerto Rico remain belittled without representation and true democracy. Obviously he stands for statehood but he is calling it like it is. NO MAS COLONIA. Equal Rights for Puerto Rico NOW!”
We agree that Pierluisi is obviously for statehood. He has spoken consistently for statehood for Puerto Rico and has introduced legislation allowing a yes/no vote on statehood in Puerto Rico. He is a leader in the statehood party in Puerto Rico. We are certain that Pierluisi is deeply committed to statehood.
But we also agree that the territorial status is unacceptable. Puerto Rico should have equal rights. The United States should not have a colony.
Gutierrez was not calling for independence. Pierluisi was not calling for independence. The people of Puerto Rico are not — except for a very small fraction, just about 5% in the plebiscites — calling for independence.
But independence and colonial status are not the only options. Statehood is an appropriate status, one that 32 other territories have gained since the United States was born. Those other territories had to work hard to gain statehood, but they achieved it. Puerto Rico can also achieve it.
Pierluisi doesn’t have a vote in Congress, but he has a voice. So do we. If you live in a State, tell your congressperson that you favor statehood. If you live in Puerto Rico, demand that the federal funds set aside for a final referendum be used for that referendum.
Tweet, email, or call your Representatives. Use the Shout Out box on the right. The time is now.