The Republican party has done something U.S. politicians have a lot of trouble doing: they’ve honestly come out in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico. The 2016 Republican party platform includes these words:
“We support the right of American citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state. We also recognize the historical significance of the local referendum in 2012 in which 54% voted to end the current relationship of Puerto Rico as a territory, and 61% chose statehood on options for national sovereignty.”
Typically, U.S. politicians say some variation on, “Puerto Rico should have self determination.” When Puerto Rico’s leaders — like the leaders in all of the states — are unable to reach consensus, the federal government responds with something like, “Well, when you make your minds up, let us know.”
This leaves Puerto Rico in the untenable position of an unincorporated territory, where it has been for more than a century. As an unincorporated territory, Puerto Rico has no senators, has no voting congressional representatives, and can legally be treated differently from the states. In practice, that usually means that Puerto Rico gets less funding than any of the 50 states.
That “we’ll take action when you can all agree” position also allows Congress to refuse responsibility for Puerto Rico. In fact, as the recent Supreme Court decisions show, Congress has all the responsibility.
Under the new Republican platform, the GOP has boldly stepped out of the box. They’ve admitted that Puerto Rico’s status isn’t just a local matter. It’s an important human rights issue that should matter to all Americans.
For the first time, they’ve acknowledged that the voters of Puerto Rico chose statehood, not a continued territorial relationship. They’ve made a clear statement of support for Puerto Rico’s sovereignty as the 51st state.
The Democratic party should do the same.
The full Republican Party Platform statement on Puerto Rico:
The Territory of Puerto Rico
We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state. We further recognize the historic significance of the 2012 local referendum in which a 54 percent majority voted to end Puerto Rico’s current status as a U.S. territory, and 61 percent chose statehood over options for sovereign nationhood. We support the federally sponsored political status referendum authorized and funded by an Act of Congress in 2014 to ascertain the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. Once the 2012 local vote for statehood is ratified, Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico’s future admission as the 51st state of the Union.