After Pushing for Puerto Rico Statehood Bill, Is Rep. Darren Soto Now Backtracking?

Apr 12, 2019
10:09 am

On March 29, Florida Democrat Rep. Darren Soto went on Latino Rebels Radio to discuss a statehood bill for Puerto Rico, saying that discussions with House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva resulted in the decision to begin a hearing process on a statehood bill for the summer.

“Those discussions yielded in the promise that we’d have a hearing on it,” Soto told Latino Rebels on March 29. “[Rep. Grijalva] is neutral on the bill, which I respect, and we have to have this be a matter of the committee voting, and passing amendments, and while this is certainly the initial proposal, there may be amendments that may be appropriate at the will of the committee. As late as the day before we filed the bill, both [Rep. Ruben Gallego] and I had discussions and secured the commitment to have a hearing on the bill, which we’re very excited about.”

Two weeks later, despite Soto’s optimism, things have already changed, as a Friday story from El Nuevo Día’s José Delgado reported, Rep. Grijalva did not guarantee that a hearing on the statehood bill would be happening.

“Congressman Soto made a guarantee to himself for a hearing on his own bill,” Grijlava said in Spanish.

In addition, Delgado’s story also noted what appears to be a big concession by Soto on the statehood bill—his realization that there is no political appetite for this bill right now.

“We have to look at other alternatives,” Soto was quoted in Spanish. One of those alternatives for the Congressman of Puerto Rican descent is to acknowledge that another plebiscite vote would need to happen on the island.

Latino Rebels reached out to Soto’s office for clarification but has yet to receive a response for comment.

On Friday morning, Soto’s Twitter profile did tweet out the following:

Last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also of Puerto Rican descent, said this about the status debate during an Instagram Live: “Puerto Rican referendums have historically been non-binding. So Puerto Ricans have had plebiscites, they have voted, and in the past, many have voted for statehood. You vote for statehood. It’s still been non-binding… It’s almost like a poll… and it gets sent to Congress and that’s where the question of Puerto Rican political status goes to die.”

The Soto statehood bill did refer to the results of the 2017 non-binding plebiscite. Despite the 97% support, only 23% of Puerto Ricans voted and total vote for statehood was the lowest plebiscite number for statehood since 1967.

A week before Soto spoke to Latino Rebels Radio, Grijalva went on the show to say that statehood would not be a priority for him, given that Trump administration and a Republican Senate do not care about the status question. In Grijlava’s view, Hurricane María disaster relief and the island’s debt crisis should take center stage

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Julio Ricardo Varela is founder and publisher of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media. He tweets from @julito77.