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Democracy Commission: Statehood, not Bailout

By on July 20, 2017

After Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares selected the seven Puerto Rican shadow members of Congress who will be part of the Comisión de Igualdad, the group, which is being referred to in English as the Democracy Commission, is preparing for its first informal meeting on or before July 28.

At this meeting, the five shadow representatives and two shadow senators will develop plans to request the annexation of Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the Union in a process similar to that used by Tennessee in the late 18th century.

They will also select their president, establish a working agenda for their visits to Congress and handle the matters requested by Act 30 of 2017, or the Equality & Congressional Representation of the [U.S.] American Citizens of Puerto Rico Law, which created the commission.

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In addition, they will discuss possible amendments to Act 30, such as the elimination of using public funds for the commission’s work and the possibility of establishing an executive director within the entity. The Legislature will be discussing these matters as part of the extraordinary session that the governor is expected to convene at the end of July.

This was reported to Caribbean Business by one of the members of the Democracy Commission, former Senate President Charlie Rodríguez Colón, who is also one of the three Democrats in the group. Former Govs. Pedro Rosselló González and Carlos Romero Barceló complete the Democrats on the commission, which also includes former Major League Baseball player Iván Rodríguez Torres as an independent member. The Republicans in the group are former Gov. Luis Fortuño, Republican Party National Committeewoman Zoraida Fonalledas and retired Maj. Gen. Félix Santoni.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (CB photo/Eduardo San Miguel Tió)

“Our main efforts have to be in Congress. Part of the effort will involve lobbying for compliance with the will of the people in the 2012 and 2017 [status] plebiscites, in which they voted for statehood. We will also go to the 50 states to talk with state legislators and governors,” Rodríguez Colón said.

The commission will also focus its efforts on states in which there is a significant presence of Puerto Ricans and Latinos, such as Florida and New York, as its message is that Puerto Rico will be the first “Hispanic state” in the United States.

“Our message is clear; it is a message of equality: a geographical discrimination is being exercised against [U.S.] American citizens residing in Puerto Rico…. We are not asking for a bailout. Statehood is not [awarding] a financial bailout to Puerto Rico so the federal government can take over the debt,” the former Senate president said.

En route to becoming the 51st state, Puerto Rico will have to compete with Washington, D.C., which has also selected shadow members of Congress to lobby in Congress.

“D.C.’s situation is different. D.C. is the seat of the federal government. Some say that for D.C. to become a state, the Constitution of the United States must be amended,” countered Rodríguez Colón, who argued that Puerto Rico, like the states that used the Tennessee Plan to achieve statehood, is a territory.

“We are the territory that has been in this condition for the longest: 119 years. In the case of Alaska, it took 13 years to obtain statehood once they voted for it, and [they] adopted the Tennessee Plan three years earlier. This is a process…. It’s make haste slowly.”

Ramón Rosario, secretary of Public Affairs & Public Policy, confirmed that any changes to Act 30 will be discussed during the extraordinary session and did not rule out the implementation of an executive director within the Democracy Commission to organize its work. Officials will also work on establishing the basis so the agency may have other advisers, as at this time, only attorney José Fuentes Agostini has been appointed as public policy adviser.

The manner in which the commission will raise private funds will also be included in the possible amendments to Act 30.

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