In an interview with El Nuevo Día published this past weekend, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), chairman of Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, reaffirmed his position that neither the current territorial status nor the “enhanced commonwealth” arrangement are viable options for the future of Puerto Rico.
Wyden said that the current territorial status was rejected last November. He believes the best strategy moving forward is a federally-sponsored plebiscite that should not include the any of the commonwealth territorial status options, whether it is the current arrangement or the idea of an “enhanced commonwealth.”
Wyden explained that Puerto Ricans would lose their U.S. citizenship even if they chose to become a free associated state, which he explained was one way to stay associated with the U.S., but still remain independent.
The senator added that if Puerto Rico would become a state, there would be no need for the state to operate in English, and that Puerto Rico’s Olympic representation would be up to the International Olympic Committee and not Congress.
Wyden also indicated that for a statehood bill to be introduced, legally there is no barrier, but politically, there is a historic precedent that Congress expects a majority support in a general vote about statehood preference. A statehood bill by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the leader of the island’s pro-statehood party, was submitted to Congress in May.
He also added that Puerto Ricans should be supporting a plebiscite, and not a local constitutional status assembly, which is what the island’s Popular Democratic Party has recently endorsed.
“The best way to resolve the debate on the status issue —that would generate a majority— would be that the Puerto Rico Legislature authorize a plebiscite between the two fundamental status options: statehood or separate sovereignty (whether through independence or free association)”.