In a surprising display of bipartisanship, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) issued a joint statement on Thursday concerning the ongoing debate in the House of Representatives on Puerto Rico’s political status.
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) April 28, 2022
“We both know that the question of Puerto Rico’s status is at the center of the island’s future,” the joint statement read. “While we’ve long held our separate positions for many years, there is no doubt this is an issue close to both of our hearts. That’s why we have decided to come to the table and negotiate a path forward towards decolonization of the island.”
“After multiple productive meetings, today we believe we are closer than ever to an agreement,” the statement added.
Two bills are currently begin considered by the House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees insular affairs among its other duties. The Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act (H.R.2070), co-sponsored by Velázquez, and the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act (H.R.1522), co-sponsored by the González Colón, each propose separate pathways to resolving the U.S. colony’s century-old status question.
The self-determination bill would establish a status convention in which the people of Puerto Rico, using ranked-choice voting, would decide between three options: statehood, full independence, or increased sovereignty through free association (as was granted to the former U.S. colonies of Palau and Micronesia in the western Pacific.)
The statehood bill would begin the process of Puerto Rico’s admission into the Union as the 51st state.
On March 17, González-Colón, who in her role as resident commissioner is a non-voting member of Congress, told leading Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día that she was “100 percent convinced that Puerto Rico will be a state.”
“The question is how much are we going to wait,” she said.
On April 1, Latino Rebels reported on the effort by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to form a consensus bill that satisfies both camps.
“Leader Hoyer continues to work alongside Members of the House Puerto Rican diaspora, Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and others towards agreement on a consensus bill that addresses the status of Puerto Rico,” Hoyer spokesperson Margaret Mulkerrin said in a statement at the time. “Conversations are ongoing, and Leader Hoyer remains hopeful that a compromise can be reached on legislation that can be shared with the public to solicit their feedback, and we can bring to the House Floor as soon as possible.”
“I’m approaching this with the honesty and integrity that such an important issue requires,” Velázquez told Latino Rebels in early April. “That means being willing to compromise without selling out or undermining the basic human rights of the people of Puerto Rico.”
Civic leaders, elected officials and activists both from Puerto Rico and elsewhere traveled to Washington this week to press members of Congress to support their preferred bill.
HAPPENING NOW ??—
— Pablo Manríquez (@PabloReports) April 26, 2022
PRFAA welcomed Puerto Rican veterans to Washington, D.C. for their meetings in Congress in support of Statehood for Puerto Rico. For years, Puerto Ricans have served their country in the military, and it is time to act for them to have all the rights they have earned and deserve. pic.twitter.com/b17OrNK4Fl
— PRFAA (@PRFAA) April 27, 2022
“This week, Puerto Rican elected leaders and constituents from the island and more than 12 states are in Washington, DC to press Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5) and members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee to support and pass H.R. 2070, the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act (PRSDA),” Power 4 Puerto Rico, a coalition of diaspora leaders and allies pushing for the economic growth and self-sufficiency of the islands, said in a statement shared with Latino Rebels on Wednesday. “The week of advocacy includes more than 30 meetings following a series of virtual meetings, a rally at Lafayette Square, digital and social messaging, a texting campaign in partnership with Movement Labs and the launch of a letter drive targeting undecided members of the House Natural Resources Committee.”
Also on Wednesday, Hoyer told El Nuevo Día that he would extend negotiations on Puerto Rico’s status, which were initially scheduled to end on Saturday, for a few more weeks due to the fact that “in the last two weeks real progress has been achieved.”
“I won’t go further than that,” he said. “But I think there have been some very constructive discussions and I think we have progressed. I don’t have any hopes of us achieving it at the end of this month, but I do have the hope that we will achieve it next month.”
On Twitter, where Velázquez shared the joint statement, responses were mixed.
Is the joint statement so that Congress will take the issue seriously, because it would break my heart to see you and AOC go over to the dark side.
— Susanne Ramirez de Arellano (@DurgaOne) April 28, 2022
“Is the joint statement so that Congress will take the issue seriously,” journalist and Latino Rebels contributor Susanne Ramirez de Arellano asked, “because it would break my heart to see you and AOC [a co-sponsor of the self-determination bill] go over to the dark side.”
“Nydia, my advice from the bottom of my heart, DON’T TRUST HER!” said civil rights advocate William Rodriguez. “When you least expect it, she is going to stab you in the back! She doesn’t care for anybody but herself! Her track history is clear.”
“Congratulations!” read another comment. “Working in favor of decolonization for the good of Puerto Rico.”
One commenter said simply: “Very easy, Support HR1522 that’s it. Statehood now.”
“The main requirement for most of us [is] that this is done with the direct vote of the people of PR,” said Eddie Santos.