June 12, 2017
Puerto Rico Pushing for Statehood
Almost lost in all the contention and politicking since the inauguration of Donald Trump this past January is the momentum building in the statehood push for Puerto Rico. Recently elected Governor Ricardo Rossello is working hard to build a coalition to demand statehood for one of the United States’ closest territories.
Rossello made statehood a major plank in his gubernatorial campaign, and he says he is working hard to keep that promise. He, along with a few prominent members of his political party, are trying to gather support for a campaign to “demand respect” from the US, specifically in the form of statehood.
One of the most obvious reasons for Puerto Rico to make this push now is the worsening economic issues plaguing the island. After a decade-long recession, the people of P.R. are clamoring for some relief. Others have given up waiting, immigrating to the contiguous States. However, those who chose to stay and are calling for statehood, have chosen a single clarion call: “equal treatment.”
Puerto Rican proponents of statehood say it’s past time for the territory to enjoy the same benefits from the federal government that the 50 states receive. Senator Carmelo Rios, who is working with Rossello on this initiative, had this to say:
“It’s clear we need to change our course toward a new future… Puerto Rico is at its most critical point in its modern history, where its political-economic model has collapsed, society is in a crisis, the government cannot sustain itself, and we have seen with much pain how our people leave us in search of a better chance of quality of life.”
This is a clear and direct message. Whether it’s political hyperbole or just plain facts, Rossello and Rios will have to wear this message, carry this banner out ahead of them and rally more than their constituency to their cause. The people of Puerto Rico will have to vote, and if or when they do, they will have three choices: statehood, free association or remaining under Territorial status.
And, even if Rossello, Rios and their side gets the vote they want among residents of the island, they still have to contend with a less than enthusiastic Congress. With progressives in power in Puerto Rico, it’s unlikely a GOP-majority Congress would approve statehood. They might argue – and some already have – that P.R.’s financial woes are their own, and a cash-strapped, debt-ridden country simply cannot afford to give out more money. Really, though, this could tip the current balance of power on the Hill … something the GOP can ill-afford with midterm elections looming in the near future.
But, for Team Statehood, it’s one step at a time. First, convince fellow islanders. Then they can try to crack the hard shell of partisanship that is DC.