Although she has said that statehood will not be a priority, Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vazquez has made it clear that she favors statehood, saying, “No people in the world deserve to be treated unequally.”
She prefers a “Statehood: Yes or No” plebiscite like the ones Alaska and Hawaii held. Puerto Rico has held a number of status votes in the past, but all have included multiple options for the Island’s status, including statehood, independence, and the current territorial status.
Unusual path to statehood
Wanda Vazquez Garced is the first Governor of Puerto Rico who was never elected to any territorial public office, but she has more experience in management of executive branch affairs in the government of Puerto Rico than most of her predecessors.
She was appointed Attorney General by the elected Governor and confirmed by the elected territorial Senate, third in line of succession. But when the Governor and Secretary of State who is second in the line of succession both resigned, she showed no ambition to move into the Governor’s mansion. Only when the governor’ office was left vacant did she answer the call of history and take office. At that point, she announced she would “not respond” to political parties.
However, at the same time she downplayed party politics she spent time in the community doing grassroots government. In doing so, Vazquez focused on the work of the overwhelmed and insolvent government to stabilize the economy, stop collapse of Medicaid for the large and heavily populated island, and remove barriers to release of federal funds for recovery from hurricane disasters.
On a trip to Washington D.C. she displayed competence and statesmanship, reassuring Congress that a smooth transition in power had taken place back home in the territory. She also tackled the crisis of confidence in the efficacy of the federal financial control board charged with engineering recovery from crippling public debt.
Only when she had set a sound agenda, and as true a course for the ship of state as circumstances allowed, did Vazquez finally respond to her pro-statehood party by announcing support for an up or down vote on statehood for Puerto Rico.
Statehood will mean equal voting rights for representation in Congress and the Electoral College, equal access to federal disaster relief, equal Medicaid benefits, and private sector expansion from investment in the new state before and after admission. The U.S. Congress has authorized and funded the vote, and statehood is a known and understood status, so the ballot for an up or down vote can be approved by the Department of Justice as required by law.
Another piece of the puzzle is in place now, and statehood is nearer than ever before. Let your legislators know that this issue matters to you.