By: Luis Berrios Amadeo, COL-USA-RET
Member of the Puerto Rico Equality Commission
(August 28, 2020-Washington, D.C.) U.S. Congresswomen Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have filed a bill in the Federal House titled “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2020” under number H. R. 8113. In Spanish: “Ley para la Auto-Determinación de Puerto Rico del año 2020”.
Ms. Velázquez is a native of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, my father’s hometown, who in the 1980s decided to relocate to New York City. There, enjoying all her rights and obligations granted by her American citizenship because she was born in Puerto Rico, unlike those of us who have decided to remain here, she ran for a seat in the Federal House. In the 1992 election, she was elected to represent the then 12th District in New York City. Since that date she has been re-elected in her district with a voter turnout that does not exceed 25 percent of those registered. Historically, Ms. Velázquez has taken a stand against the equality of American citizens residing on the island and has favored the colonial and territorial condition we suffer here.
On the other hand, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is a young woman of Puerto Rican descent born and raised in New York City, who surprisingly was elected in the 2018 mid-term elections in the 14th district that covers part of Bronx and Queens Counties. Representative Ocasio-Cortez has gained much prominence in National politics and within her Democratic Party because of her progressive positions and her stand for human rights and equality for minorities.
As it arises from the measure filed by the congresswomen, the purpose of the measure is to try to enable a process for the alleged “self-determination” of the citizens of the United States of America who reside in Puerto Rico to supposedly solve the century-old problem that is the unworthy colonial status that we suffer. The authors of the bill, apparently very accommodatingly, ignore three processes much more democratic than the one they propose. Those processes are the two plebiscites held on the island in 2012 and 2017, and the one to be held on November 3. In the first two, the people of Puerto Rico through direct, free, democratic voting and without the intervention of committees, conventions and any other type of “dark room” voted by a majority in favor of equality/statehood and against the colonial condition. In 2012, 54% of voters rejected territorial status and 61% selected statehood as the final solution. Over 78 percent of voters registered to vote in that election participated. In the 2017 election, 97 percent of voters who participated chose statehood over the other alternatives of independence and territorial status. Voter participation in that vote was equal to or higher than in the multiple elections in which Ms. Velázquez has been elected since 1992. In the process that will take place next November 3, the people of Puerto Rico will again have the opportunity to select their preference for the final solution of our colonial problem, with their direct, free vote and without any type of anti-democratic filter.
It should be no surprise to anyone that Ms. Velázquez has established this colonial and anti-democratic emblem because of what mentioned earlier, her consistent pro-territorial and colonial status and immobility positions that she has consistently defended, denying island residents the rights and benefits she enjoys in New York. It should come as no surprise to anyone that an additional reason would be to please her immigrant and sovereign allies in Puerto Rico, such as Charlie Delgado, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and the defeated Carmen Y. Soto.
To the contrary, it should come as a surprise to many that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez lent her signature and support to this measure because of her progressive positions at the forefront and in favor of civil rights and equality for all citizens. Especially for those who are deprived of their fundamental rights, such as she enjoys in New York State. She knows that her family living in Puerto Rico does not enjoy the same rights as she does, so her youth and enthusiasm should move her to fight so that those of us who remain here will achieve equality and will be equal to it, through statehood. With H.R. 8113 the only thing that will be achieved is to perpetuate immobility.
A cursory review of the provisions of that measure leads us to conclude unequivocally that it is designed to ensure that nothing happens. It creates tangled, complicated and bureaucratic agencies in Washington and Puerto Rico that will only lead to the unnecessary expenditure of public funds and that will hopefully last more than a decade and nothing will happen. Obviously, if nothing happens, Ms. Velázquez and her allies win.
In another article I pointed out that the leaders of immobility had learned nothing from the great example of the teachings of the late Congressman John Lewis. Today, I reiterate that Ms. Velázquez has refused to emulate her longtime Democratic colleague in his support of Puerto Ricans’ aspirations for the equality that can only be achieved through statehood. I respectfully urge Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to reconsider her position and fight, as she has done in her entire short career, for the civil rights of her fellow citizens and now for those of us who live on the island to achieve equality.
On November 3, the process of putting an end to the unworthy colonial situation that we are suffering will continue without the need for new anti-democratic and immobilist attacks imposed by those who deny us the rights that they enjoy from their congressional districts in the states and comfortable offices in the federal capital.
Say NO to H. R. 8113 and vote YES overwhelmingly in favor of statehood on November 3rd.