Dear Puerto Rico: Plebiscites Mean Nothing Because Congress Still Owns Your Ass

Nov 8, 2012
10:38 PM

This week, the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico, the world's oldest colony, has become a topic of mainstream media interest and other online outlets. Granted, many of these outlets have no clue the complexities of this issue (read our jefe's analysis instead), and all you need to do is read Gil the Genius' latest post that shows just how ignorant and racist people are about Puerto Rico.

So, we will just need to tell Puerto Rico and anyone else who wants to know: yes, Puerto Rico, you have have all the plebiscites you want, because in the end, the United States Congress still owns your ass. Ever since 1898, as this vintage cartoon posted by one Rebelde shows. For those playing at home, Puerto Rico is in the ice bucket.

How do we know? Just read the following piece from THE HILL, which was published today. The title of the piece? "Congress expected to ignore Puerto Rico's statehood vote."  A few nuggets:

Puerto Rico's vote to seek statehood with the United States seems historic on its face, since the island territory had never formally approved such a referendum. But congressional staffers said the numbers behind the vote, plus the related political circumstances under which it occurred, mean few in Congress are expected to see any pressing need to pass legislation related to the island's status.

Or this:

Republican and Democratic staffers in the House told The Hill this week that they are fully aware of these details, which is why the vote is not being seen in Congress as reason to start considering legislation for Puerto Rico's statehood. One House aide said the 61 percent vote in favor of statehood is seem by some in Congress as a "statistical fiction."

Or how about this?

It's also unclear whether the Obama administration sees Puerto Rico's vote as an action-forcing event. The Obama administration assembled a task force on Puerto Rico's status, which released a report in 2010 that outlined several status options the island might pursue. But the administration did not respond to a request for comment on how it sees the vote. The State Department, which participated in the task-force report, deferred questions to the White House.

Over the summer, the Democrats' 2012 political platform said Puerto Rico needs to decide for itself what change in status it should seek in relation to the United States. But it also said that if the Nov. 6 vote does not resolve the issue, the U.S. should set out a clear set of options for the island.

As of this week, at least, it's unclear whether the administration sees the Nov. 6 vote as providing clarity, or muddling the question even further.

Now, it is quite possible that the Obama administration MIGHT act on the plebiscite since just a few days ago Puerto Rican voters in Florida gave President Obama the boost he needed to win the state. Could this be the political gift Puerto Ricans on the island will receive? We doubt it, but let's assume that yes, the Obama administration will begin the process. Even if that happens, how do you handle what other Americans are saying about Puerto Rico? Exhibit A is this blog post. FYI: that post is a parody account, but seriously?