Two Competing Puerto Rican Status Bills Are Now Floating Around in Congress

People who follow Puerto Rico and its politics have been sharing the news that Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) introduced a congressional bill on February 7 that calls for a plebiscite where Puerto Ricans would choose between independence or free association.

According to Congress.gov, Gutiérrez’s H.R.900 was introduced to House of Representatives on February 7, but right now, the actual official text of the bill is not available, but here is what Gutiérrez’s office released on February 7 about the bill:

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) introduced a bill (HR 900) that starts the process to end Congress’ control of Puerto Rico and its current territorial status which was rejected by voters in 2012. The legislation calls for a referendum where the Puerto Rican people determine the Island’s future political status by choosing between full independence or a compact of free association with the U.S.

“Sovereignty has always been on the table as an option for the future status of Puerto Rico, but we have failed to allow the Puerto Rican people a full examination, debate and up-or-down vote on independence or free association. This bill represents the beginning of that process,” said Rep. Gutiérrez, who is the U.S.-born child of Puerto Rican parents.

“Statehood and full assimilation—where Puerto Rico gives up its nationhood, its culture, its Olympic teams, its language and the ability to determine its own future without a master—is not the only option and I would argue, not the best option for Puerto Ricans. This bill is about making the determination of Puerto Rico’s future status subject to a full, fair and honest debate with all of the remedies for Puerto Rico’s current colonial subjugation put before voters.

The legislation comes as the Island’s statehooders are preparing another one-sided plebiscite aimed at bolstering their case for statehood. Yet, just last year, led by Republicans but joined by many Democrats, the Congress of the United States took over the financial decision-making of the Puerto Rican government and people, forming a Fiscal Control Board (Junta de Control) to run the Island. In the process of taking control, the Congress declared unequivocally that Puerto Rico is a colony and that Congress holds the sovereignty of the Puerto Rican people.

“The colonial relationship with the United States has never been starker,” the Congressman said. “It is time to return sovereignty back to the Puerto Rican people.”

“Every time a Puerto Rican buys anything with a dollar bill with George Washington’s face on it, the irony is unmistakable,” Rep. Gutiérrez continued. “George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the founders of the United States were fierce anti-colonialists who fought against tyranny and taxation without representation. They would co-sponsor my bill if they were alive today. Puerto Rico is under the rule of the U.S. and under the thumb of the Junta de Control, yet the founding principles of the U.S. – self-determination and government by the governed – have always been ignored.”

“Let’s have a fair and honest process and let the Puerto Rican people decide. Let the Puerto Rican people decide if now is the time for our Declaration of Independence.”

We did contact Gutiérrez’s office for a copy of the actual bill, and this is what it sent to us:

The Other Status Bill

In the meantime, another bill called the Puerto Rico Admission Act was presented to Congress by pro-statehooder andResident Commissioner Jenniffer González (a Republican) on January 4, 2017. That bill, according to Congress.gov, is currently with the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. For those who don’t know anything about Puerto Rico, as Resident Commissioner, González is a non-voting member of Congress. Here is the full text of that bill:

Another Plebiscite?

Meanwhile, another (yes, another) plebiscite is slated for June 11 on the island. For this upcoming vote, Puerto Ricans on the island will be offered two choices: Statehood of Independence/Free Association. In 2012, a two-part plebiscite rejected the island’s current commonwealth status and favored statehood (and before you get all riled up about that result, read this.)

And all this is happening while the island’s finances are being run by a Fiscal Control Board.

Status fights. Fiscal problems. Competing congressional bills that, if history is any indication, will not make a dent in solving Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States.. And more plebiscite votes that will likely not be formally recognized by Congress.

Welcome to Puerto Rican status politics: the island’s real national pastime.

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