political status

2 posts

Soto to Push for Presidential Vote for Puerto Rico

Cong. Darren Soto plans to sponsor a bill proposing that Puerto Rico vote for president. /Facebook

Newly sworn Central Florida Congressman Darren Soto (D) plans to push for the presidential vote for Puerto Rico.

It’s the second Puerto Rico-related measure in as many days, as newly elected Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González today filed a fill to admit Puerto Rico as the 51st state.

There is no doubt that Puerto Rico’s status needs fixing and obtaining the presidential vote for Puerto Rico is a worthy cause. And to be fair, Alan Grayson, Soto’s predecessor, last December called for the presidential vote for Puerto Rico, stating American citizens who reside in Puerto Rico suffer from disenfranchisement.

“The contradictions are painfully clear,” he added, comparing Puerto Rico to Washington, D.C., whose residents vote for president although it’s not a state.

However, González’s bill likely is dead on arrival, as will be Soto’s.

“Siéntate a esperar,”  said a Facebook reader in reaction to the news.

“Dream on sister!” wrote another in response to González’s bill.

Not Realistic

Let’s count the ways in which this will fail. First, the representatives are two newbies in Congress, meaning they have no clout. Second, Puerto Rico is in such a financial mess that no one will touch this. And third, neither of the bills is realistic.

Soto, who has said he would be supportive of Puerto Rico, is not backing Gonzalez’s bill, stating that first he’d like to see a clear referendum. He won’t need to wait long. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricky Rosselló is proposing one.

Long Shot

However,  Soto’s presidential vote for Puerto Rico bill would be far more difficult to achieve, requiring two-thirds approval by the House and Senate – and ratification by three-quarters of the states. It’s an often unsuccessful process.

The last amendment was approved in 1992, stipulating that congressional salary increases cannot take effect until the next class of representatives takes office. That amendment took over 200 years to see fruition.

What could Soto be thinking? He is drinking from the cup of status.

The González-Soto proposals are feel-good measures aimed at winning the hearts and minds of constituent’s back home. Soto is the first Puerto Rican from Florida in Congress. His district is over 40 percent Latino, mostly Puerto Rican.

Cruel Play

But it also plays cruelly with the hearts and minds of constituents back home, because the bills aren’t feasible in today’s political climate. They would be extreme long shots even in a favorable Congress.

This is political manipulation of a pueblo down on its luck and in a precarious emotional state of mind.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Status: The Elixir of Puerto Ricans

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricky Rosselló (right) shakes hands with Cong. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Rosselló will push for a political status bill in Congress. / R. Rossello-Facebook

Political status is the elixir of the Puerto Rican people – to paraphrase Karl Marx.

I’ve said this before and it bears repeating, because the newly installed island Gov. Ricky Rosselló and newly sworn Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González expect to file a bill in Congress on Wednesday for Puerto Rico to be admitted to the union as the 51st state.

At the same time, the Puerto Rico Legislature will put forth a bill for yet another plebiscite with only two options – statehood or independence –  thus excluding the present-day commonwealth status.

The move harks to a 2012 non-binding plebiscite – of which there have been several in Puerto Rico – in which statehood buried Commonwealth, garnering 61 percent of the vote. Congress ignored it.

For six decades Commonwealth has been billed as a semi-autonomous option, except that the congressionally imposed fiscal control board that likely will govern Puerto Rico over the next five years has proven that commonwealth is hollow. The island is not, in fact, self governing.

With Puerto Rico in dire financial straits as it tries to manage $72 billion in debt and in need of drastic economic reforms, a plebiscite can serve only as a public distraction from the very difficult decisions that lie ahead.

A distraction from billon-dollar budget deficits. A distraction from thousands of potential layoffs. A distraction from the downsizing and privatization of government. A distraction from badly needed education reform. A distraction from the island’s incredibly shrinking population as migrants continue to flee to places like Central Florida.

In fact, Rosselló’s father, former two-term governor Pedro Rosselló, utilized the very same distraction – twice during the 1990s. To no avail.

To be sure, the island’s political status needs to be seriously addressed and resolved. After all, it has been over 100 years since U.S. troops marched into Puerto Rico and took the island. And Puerto Rico is treated very unfairly in hundreds of federal programs because of its territorial status, as outlined in a recent report by a congressional economic commission on Puerto Rico that included Florida’s Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).

However, Puerto Ricans love, love, love talking about political status. Many will be more than happy to welcome the distraction.

Pour the elixir.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor