A letter from leaders of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, demands equality for the people of Puerto Rico through statehood.
What’s a Democrat?
Before examining this letter any further, we need to sort out the Democratic Party from the Popular Democratic Party. The Popular Democratic Party in Puerto Rico is one of the two significant parties. It is the “commonwealth” party. It is not connected with the U.S. Democratic Party at all.
The other important political party in Puerto Rico is the New Progressive Party, the statehood party. Again, it is not associated with any particular party on the mainland. But these two parties alternate power in Puerto Rico much as the Republican and Democratic Parties do in the states.
There is also a third party, the Independence Party. The Independence Party has never gained more than 5% of the vote on any status referendum, and there has never been an Independence Party governor. This makes the Independence Party less important in Puerto Rico’s political life than the Green or Libertarian Parties on the mainland.
In addition to these local parties, the Democratic and Republican Parties also have support on the Island. Puerto Rico participates in the primaries for both these parties, and Puerto Rican leaders often have allegiance to one or another. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, is a Republican. So is Governor Wanda Vazquez.
Democratic Party demands
So it is the Democratic Party of the United States, not the PDP, that is demanding statehood. They wrote to Nancy Pelosi, the head Democrat in Congress, and thanked her for her support of Puerto Rico. They noted that she has supported equality under Medicaid, disaster funding, and other important issues for the Island.
“But the truth remains,” they said, “As long as Puerto Rico continues to be a territory and the fundamental issue of statehood is not addressed by Congress, U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico will always be treated differently.”
The letter went on to point out the many areas of inequality Puerto Rico faces daily:
- No vote in presidential elections
- No voting members in Congress
- Servicemen and veterans from Puerto Rican can’t vote for their Commander in Chief
- Response to Hurricane Maria was far from equal to disaster response in affected states
The letter then pointed out that the national Democratic Party supports statehood. “The 2016 Democratic Party platform states, ‘Puerto Rico should be able to vote for the people who make their laws, just as they should be treated equally’ and the belief that they ‘should determine their ultimate political status from permanent options that do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States.’ The only way Puerto Rico can achieve equal treatment under U.S. laws and voting rights is by becoming a state.”
The Democratic Party also voted in 2017 to support statehood for Puerto Rico. The letter listed more organizations and individuals supporting statehood, and reminded Pelosi that Puerto Rico voted for statehood in status votes in 2012 and 2017.
”For all these reasons and many more,” the letter concluded, “the leadership of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico supports the admission of Puerto Rico into the Union.”
Charles Rodriguez, Johanne Velez, Maria “Mayita” Melendez, and Luis Davila-Permas signed the letter.
Don’t forget — Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on everything, but many Republicans also favor statehood. The Resident Commissioner and the Governor, for example, are both Republicans and both statehood supporters.
You can send a message to Congress, too. Contact your legislators and let them know that it is time to take action.