Rosselló to Present Tennessee Plan Bill
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Thursday a new bill to create the Puerto Rican delegation that will request from the U.S. Congress Puerto Rico’s admission as the 51st state of the Union, using his version of the so-called Tennessee Plan, one of his campaign promises.
The governor made the announcement in the Legislative Assembly’s special joint session to commemorate the centennial of Puerto Ricans’ U.S. citizenship, granted by the Jones-Shafroth Act in 1917.
The event, far from a celebration, turned into a call for the United States to bring “equality” to Puerto Rico via statehood and by abolishing the existing differences between U.S. residents living on the island versus those living stateside. Puerto Ricans who reside on the island cannot vote for the president and don’t have voting representation in Congress.
“After 118 years of a territorial and colonial condition, and taking into consideration the results of the Nov. 6, 2012 plebiscite, I am pleased to announce a new bill to create the Congressional Representation of American Citizens in Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said during his message, which received a standing ovation by attendees, some of whom were waving a U.S. flag.
Subsequently, the governor explained in a press conference that this representation will be constituted within the Equality Commission, comprising former House Speaker Zaida “Cucusa” Hernández, who presides the commission; former Senate President Charlie Rodríguez; attorney Alberto Rodríguez; former Sen. Orlando Parga; and economist Carlos Colón de Armas.
After the first term of these seven “congressmen and senators” concludes, there would be a general election to select seven new representatives, one for each district, except for Carolina. The latter, he indicated, will be represented by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González.
This delegation must request a “transition process” to lead Puerto Rico “in the shortest possible period [toward] equal rights and obligations of a state of the Union under the U.S. Constitution,” Rosselló said. After he concluded his speech, attendees stood up and chanted “equality, equality.” They then sang the patriotic “God Bless America.”
The governor said the Tennessee Plan; the June 11 political-status plebiscite, legislation authored by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz; and another bill to request participation in presidential elections, authored by House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, are some of the initiatives included in Rosselló’s Plan for Puerto Rico and his commitment to decolonize the island via statehood.
During the special joint session, the legislative presidents and the resident commissioner also delivered messages to celebrate U.S. citizenship while criticizing its “second-class” status, since it doesn’t provide the same rights as U.S. citizens born stateside or abroad.
Noticeable in the event was the absence from minority delegations, since Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) legislators Sen. Juan Dalmau and Rep. Denis Márquez had previously announced they wouldn’t attend; while the only members from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegation who attended were Sen. Eduardo Bhatia and Reps. Lydia Méndez and Luis “Narmito” Ortiz. Independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot was absent as well.
Although the House of Delegates opposed the imposition of U.S. citizenship in 1917, Méndez affirmed it was requested by other Puerto Rican leaders.
During the House speaker’s speech, he assured the problem with U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans was it didn’t result in the end of colonization, and since in recent years the U.S. Supreme Court has reiterated Puerto Rico’s “territorial and colonial condition,” he requested that the federal government issue a statement promptly.
For his part, Rivera Schatz stated that the “advancement” achieved through the Jones Act in 1917 must be completed by incorporating Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the Union.