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Aponte Hernández: Time Has Come for US to Grant Puerto Rico Statehood

By on June 24, 2016

SAN JUAN – Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, along with actions by Congress and the White House regarding the political status of Puerto Rico demonstrate the need for the island to be admitted as a state, Rep. José Aponte Hernández assures.

In a column published in the The Hill’s blog, the New Progressive Party representative provides an account of the determinations by the three U.S. government branches against the commonwealth’s current condition and argues that these should mark the beginning of the road toward statehood.

“The first domino to fall was the Executive Branch when in January U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that while Puerto Rico has some level of self-governance and its legislature has the power to pass several laws, the Island is still a territory subject to the plenary powers of Congress,” he says.

“Then,” the politician wrote, “came the Congress, which proceeded with the line pushed by the Obama administration. On June 9, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 5278, better known as PROMESA, a comprehensive bill aimed at establishing an Oversight Board to assist the Government of Puerto Rico, including instrumentalities, in managing its public finances.”

Rep. José Aponte Hernández

Rep. José Aponte Hernández

According to Aponte Hernández, Promesa “was brought about as a result of poor management by the local government,” and “reaffirms Congress’ plenary powers over the Island and its almost 3.6 million American citizens. In a nutshell, the passing of this historic bill accentuated the colonial nature of the political relation that currently exists.”

For the representative, “The final nail on the coffin was a couple of landmark Supreme Court decisions. First came the much anticipated ruling regarding the famous Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle case. In its decision, the Nation’s highest court unequivocally concluded that, although the Island may have its own constitution, its own government, its own laws, and its own courts—it is not a true sovereign under the [Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution].”

According to the legislator, “The decision stated that Puerto Rico’s true and only real source of prosecutorial authority is the Congress. In her majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan concludes that, for double jeopardy purposes, Puerto Rico is not a separate sovereign from the federal government. Again, we are a colony, the world’s oldest one.”

He also explained that the “second ruling involved whether…the local government could have implement bankruptcy on its public corporations. In an historic decision, the Judges reiterated that Puerto Rico is not a State, nor does it have the legal framework to set laws related to bankruptcy procedures, that the Congress do not approve.”

Saying that “the time has come for the White House and Congress to act,” Aponte Hernández went on: “More than two years ago, President Obama assigned $2.5 million for a [federally] sponsored referendum in Puerto Rico regarding the political status. Nothing has happened since then.

“In January 2015, our Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Secretary, ‎Loretta Lynch, stating the need to act on that allocation.”

“There are no more excuses, no more delays. There’s no need for another Committee or exploratory group. The three branches of the federal movement have spoken, it’s time for action,” he concluded.

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