On August 25, Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a new bill which they claim enables Puerto Rico to decide its political future through self-determination. However, their bill proposal is problematic because it would confuse, complicate and delay the resolution of Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status.

Ignores past and current self-determination efforts

The new bill establishes a process of “self-determination” for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, but in doing so it ignores the most recent votes held on the island and undermines the plebiscite planned for later this year.

Puerto Rico’s voters chose statehood in 2012 and 2017

In 2012 54% of voters in Puerto Rico rejected continuing under the current territory status. When presented with the only three legally and constitutionally viable non-territorial alternatives (statehood, independence and free-association) more voters (61%) supported statehood than any other option.

In 2017, voters were given a choice among statehood, continued territory status and independence, and again more voters (97%) chose statehood over the other alternatives. Those who have questioned the validity of these results based on the voter participation rate of 23%, deceptively omit that the voter participation rate for the last two referendums held outside of a general election had participation rates of 22% in 2005 and 35% in 2012, which are consistent with the participation for the 2017 event.

The Velazquez-Ocasio bill ignores the will of Puerto Rico voters in both electoral events, even though their legal and constitutional legitimacy has never been challenged in court, and their results stand to this day as the officially certified will of the Puerto Rican electorate.

Statehood and independence are the only options

Decades of findings by federal executive and legislative officials show the only alternatives to remaining a territory are statehood and independence (with or without free association)

In their oped Reps. Velazquez and Ocasio state that their bill would develop “a long-term solution for Puerto Rico’s status, be that statehood, independence, free association or any option other than the current territorial arrangement.” This fails to recognize that since the 1950’s the U.S. federal government has consistently indicated that the only viable non-territory status options for Puerto Rico are statehood and independence (with or without free association) and have repeatedly rejected proposals for another option such as “Enhanced Commonwealth” for constitutional and legal reasons. Re-opening the door to fantasy options only serves to confuse the status debate and delay the resolution of Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status.

Upcoming Statehood Yes or No vote is self-determination

The bill interferes with ongoing self-determination processes on the island by failing to recognize that the territory’s elected representatives have already scheduled a referendum for November 3rd, where for the first time in history, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico will vote directly on the question of statehood “Yes or No”. The bill preemptively discredits and invalidates the results of this historic vote demonstrating the bias of its authors against statehood, instead of their support for the self-determination that is already happening.

Additionally, the timing of the Velazquez-Ocasio bill at the end of the 116th Congress, and two months ahead of the statehood “Yes or No” vote, shows that there is no real intent to legislate, but instead the bill seeks to confuse the debate on Puerto Rico statehood which is clearly gaining significant momentum at the national level.

Complicated, costly, ineffective process

This bill is not a serious and well-structured effort to provide for Puerto Rico’s self-determination. Instead it creates an overly complicated, indirect and ineffective process.

An untested Status Convention

The bill proposes creating an untested Status Convention, but then fails to specify its structure, how many delegates it would have, or even how the status definitions it develops would be approved before being submitted to voters.

As written, the bill calls for a referendum to be held on the option chosen by the Convention, instead of enabling the people to choose directly which option they want to vote on. The bill would call for the creation of two completely new and highly complex government entities, the Status Convention in Puerto Rico and a Congressional Negotiating Commission, each of which would require creating a brand-new governing structure, holding delegate elections (in the case of the Convention), hiring of staff, securing funding, and setting a deliberative process and defining timelines.

Velazquez-Ocasio bill would burden Puerto Rico taxpayers

The bill funds the campaigns of candidates for the Status Convention, but not the process for their election, which would be paid by Puerto Rico tax payers. It only funds part of the cost for the plebiscite on the options selected by the Status Convention.

The biggest burden the bill creates is the cost of the indefinitely long Status Convention (including its staffing, offices, meetings, hearings, travel, flights, meals, materials, etc.) which would rest exclusively on the already burdened shoulders of Puerto Rico tax payers.

Doesn’t guarantee a status resolution

The bill says that after the whole process is completed Congress “may” pass a joint resolution ratifying the self-determination option, but fails to specify if such legislation would incorporate the transition plan that would enact the multitude of modifications to federal legislation required to change Puerto Rico’s political status into a non-territory option. Under this bill Congress would not have any commitment to act on the results of the convoluted process at all, so the whole scheme could become a giant waste of time and money that just ends up perpetuating the colony.

Risks prolonging the colonial territory by wasting time

The bill fails to establish clear timelines for any of its steps to be carried out, for any decision to emerge, or for Congress to take any significant action. This sets up the process for possible abuse by those who, knowing that their preferred option does not have majority support or who want a fantasy option that is not constitutionally possible, to use the Status Convention as a mechanism for indefinitely delaying a resolution of the issue. Even if every aspect of this bill functioned perfectly, as written the bill could delay the resolution of Puerto Rico’s territorial status for years.

Don’t be fooled; support direct democracy

We agree with Representatives Velazquez and Ocasio-Cortez that Puerto Rico’s current unequal and undemocratic territory status, which hurts both island residents and America as a whole, should be brought to an end. But their bill fails to do that in a clear, direct and timely manner. So instead we should support direct democracy.

Commit to the 2020 Statehood Plebiscite

Encourage voter participation in the upcoming statehood “Yes or No” plebiscite called by the officials that the people of Puerto Rico elected. They were elected on a platform of seeking that status, which is a valid form of self determination.

If a majority of voters in Puerto Rico approve statehood, then everyone who believes in democracy should take action by calling on Congress to swiftly approve an admission bill for Puerto Rico. Only if statehood is rejected by voters should Congress begin to consider other mechanisms to facilitate the island’s self-determination.



2 Responses

  1. “ I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the US against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or PURPOSE OF EVASION; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.” – This is the oath of office both NV and AOC took when they enter their respective offices as members of the US House of Representatives.
    How is it possible they are advocating for a bill that intends to remove via proxy the Constitutional voting rights of the US citizens of PR to directly choose their future? – unconscionable and outrageous!

    As Alexander Hamilton stated:
    “Every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

    Most of us would agree the actions towards PR from representatives NV and AOC are a clear example of why PR needs permanent equality / Statehood and their own locally elected 2 senators and 4-5 US representatives.

    The US citizens of PR have endured 122 + years of an unincorporated territorial status that has resulted in a legacy of poverty, inequality, administrative corruption and stagnant economic growth. Since the 1900’s and in spite of increased yearly federal funds, the poverty rate in PR remains around 45% + , the public educational system is deficient and the very costly island infrastructure keeps getting worse. All PR local administrations are responsible for the ongoing debacle. The US congress is also responsible for allowing this situation to go on for so long.

    As stated clearly through the PR 51 site, we must all do our part through our activism and our votes. The November 3 plebiscite results needs to be a clear unquestionable demand for permanent equality / Statehood.

    The US Congress must honor the principles of our Constitution. Our democratic republic is dependent upon the active involvement of all its legal citizens, not just a few. The US congress must incorporate PR and grant its local US citizens permanent equality/ Statehood in order to continue its history of forming and striving for a more perfect union- not in spite of its citizens, but because, of and for its citizens.

  2. –“Silence to discrimination; supports injustice!”—
    *Puerto Rico Status Convention is Deceptive!*
    The US REPs Velazquez and Ocasio proposal for a “Puerto Rico Status Convention” has some deception (is a “Pig with lipstick—Puerca de Juan Bobo”); fails constitutional muster with Options not in the US Constitution; will delay Fair Treatment-Equal Rights for US Territory of Puerto Rico (since 1898-with more US Citizens-American Veterans than 22 States); leaves to Elites a decision the People should directly make! The only Constitutional non-Territorial-Equality options are: Statehood or Independence (without or with a PACT-called “Free Association”).

    The US Congress is not above the US Constitution to relinquish its powers (under the outdated–Federal undemocratic Territorial Clause: 1787 or discriminatory/racist Insular Cases: 1901-1925+); or let Puerto Ricans consider unconstitutional non-territorial Options, like the PPD (Partido Popular Democratico) “ELA-Soberana” (Sovereignty with US Citizenship and Benefits). Also, the PPD and some Others try to cover up that “Free Association” is “Independence” with a Pact; is not a STATUS… A Nation can’t be Independent with the Citizenship of another Nation! (Our US Constitution doesn’t allow it)! A PR Status Convention is a waste of time because it is Congress that determines Puerto Rico’s fate, per the US Constitution, not based on a made-up status…

    Puerto Ricans (integrated born US Citizens-American Veterans)– cherish their US Citizenship; have voted in CERTIFIED Plebiscites (that Constitutionally count) for STATEHOOD (2012 & 2017); are against Independence (which only got 2-5% of the vote) in the last 6 Plebiscites; elected a Government for Equality through Statehood…; have made many valuable contributions to our USA, since 1513-when their Ancestors came to the now US—107 years before the Pilgrims; fought in the US Revolutionary War… until Today. Puerto Ricans sacrifice; shed sweat, blood, and tears for our noble US! Plus, Polls (Gallop…) show majority support for Statehood (both in the States and Territory).

    Puerto Ricans want admission to our “UNION of STATES” with– permanent US Citizenship, Benefits and Responsibilities; State—Identity (Boricua traditions, customs, and heritage); Constitution, Flag, and Sovereignty (like other States have). In the US UNION– each State complements/strengthens the others; UNITE for the Good of All!

    FIX: After 122+years of Federal discrimination–All should support Fair Treatment-Equal Rights for ALL “WE THE PEOPLE”; get the Federal Government to provide Puerto Ricans—
    *NOTE: An Alternative: Congressional sanctioned Plebiscite between the only Constitutional non-Territorial Options: Statehood vs Independence (without or with a PACT); not keep providing Excuses that discriminate.

    UNITED with Truth, Reason, Courage, and Civic Action for the Good of ALL!
    Dennis O. Freytes (MPA; MHR; BBA)-Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; Community Servant Leader
    *Velazquez, Ocasio; PPD- try to sell another “Pig with Lipstick”!*
    Velazquez fails to mention her previous support for the PPD (“Partido Popular Democratico”) where they disguised Territory as “Commonwealth” or “ELA-Free Associated State” to fool People as to the true Constitutional Status! Besides, Ocasio has supported PR “Sovereignty” which deceitfully means “Independence” for Puerto Rico (por la cocina).

    The only non-territorially Options, un our US Constitution are—STATEHOOD (keep US Citizenship/Benefits) or INDEPENDENCE (without or with a PACT—can be called Free Association; loss of US Citizenship/Benefits).

    Today, the PPD is again trying to deceive People by its Candidates, for Governor and Resident Commissioner, opting for Puerto Rico “Soberano”/ “Sovereignty” but, without calling it “Independence”; want to keep US Citizenship with benefits… which it is unconstitutional; the Federal Government has rejected.

    Velazquez, Ocasio, and the PPD want to sell another Pig with Lipstick (“Puerca de Juan Bobo”) to fellow US Citizens in the US Territory of Puerto Rico by wanting a PR Status Convention that will further delay Puerto Rican EQUALITY!

    Puerto Ricans are integrated; cherish their US Citizenship; have voted against Independence 6 times (which never receives more than 2-5% of the Vote)! The best OPTION is for the Federal Government to provide Puerto Ricans:
    “Patriots cry for Justice-a Call to Arms (Civic Action)-for Fairness-Equality!”
    *ASK Candidates–Will you support FAIRNESS-EQUAL RIGHTS; END undemocratic Federal control and discrimination (since 1898-over 122+ years) in US Territory of Puerto Rico (with more US Citizens-American Veterans than 22 States) through admittance to the “UNION of STATES (Statehood) or an ALTERNATIVE- do a Congressional Plebiscite on non-territorial Options which only are: Statehood vs Independence (without or with Pact of Free Association)? (No US Citizen should be more Equal than another! Stand for Equality or you are for discrimination!)
    CONTACT: MEDIA; US President and US Congress (DO: Resolutions; Emails; Letters; Forums; Town Halls…) Speak-up for Right! *Don’t only put Band-Aids on the grave Puerto Rican Crisis (since 1898), but, FIX it!
    • US Congress: https://contactingcongress.org/
    • US President: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
    ENCLOSURES (Based on Research-Facts) SHARE!!

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