Why Are We Waiting?

Back in 2015, Representative Gregorio Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands asked César A. Miranda Rodríguez, the Attorney General of Puerto Rico, a simple question: “You’re holding onto $2.5 million that we appropriated for a plebiscite. You haven’t had that plebiscite. We gave you the money,” he said, “so why don’t you have the plebiscite?”

Rep. Sablan did not get an answer.

The current Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, spoke up for the scheduling of this plebiscite.

“We cannot ignore that the consequences of the colonial condition that rules the island’s government directly affects the quality of life of the Puerto Ricans who live here,” he said in legislative session, according to a report in Caribbean Business. “The plebiscite provided in this legislation is the mechanism of democratic expression that will validate the feelings of the majority of our people and will lead us to resolve the colonial relationship of the present.”

Speaking to the full legislative assembly, the governor reminded listeners that the ELA “does not exist and never existed.”

“This legislation clearly defines the options of statehood and independence in its two modalities of Free Association or Independent Republic as the options recognized by international law and are consistent with the Constitution of the United States as alternatives that we Puerto Ricans have to leave the colonial crisis. This plebiscite gives an opportunity to those who call themselves sovereignists to defend the alternative of political status they claim to espouse. This is an opportunity to step away from rhetoric and take action in defense of their political beliefs,” Rossello said.

Responding to a suggestion that following the legal requirements of the law that provides funding for the status vote was a “daring” move, Rossello said, “We already have the 2012 plebiscite and this [Bill 51] is going to be an additional message to solve this problem. When blacks fought for their rights, there were people against it. Was there a [favorable] climate for it? No. My commitment as governor will be to validate that this colonial condition is unworthy. I know that statehood will receive more support from the people and I will fight to validate that Puerto Rico transitions to statehood,” the governor said.

Puerto Rico’s status is a civil rights issue, a human rights issue, and there is no reason to delay the vote. Sablan asked two years ago, “Why don’t you have the plebiscite?” He received no answer then. We must all ask again, “Why don’t we have the plebiscite?” and insist on an answer.

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