Governor asks for decolonization bill to be approved
SAN JUAN — Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares asked the Legislative Assembly Wednesday morning to approve Senate Bill 51 for the immediate decolonization of Puerto Rico, stating that the ELA, or Free-Associated State “does not exist and never existed.”
“We cannot ignore that the consequences of the colonial condition that rules the island’s government directly affects the quality of life of the Puerto Ricans who live here. Congress and the executive [branch’s] inactions compel us to make an appeal on behalf of the majority of our people. The plebiscite provided in this legislation is the mechanism of democratic expression that will validate the feelings of the majority of our people and will lead us to resolve the colonial relationship of the present,” the governor said.
Escorted by former Govs. Carlos Romero Barceló, Rafael Hernández Colón, Alejandro García Padilla and Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, all of whom were sitting in the front row of the Leopoldo Figueroa Hall, Rosselló Nevares stressed that the plebiscite that considers the bill for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico is one of the different strategies that guarantees its administration.
“This legislation clearly defines the options of statehood and independence in its two modalities of Free Association or Independent Republic as the options recognized by international law and are consistent with the Constitution of the United States as alternatives that we Puerto Ricans have to leave the colonial crisis. This plebiscite gives an opportunity to those who call themselves sovereignists to defend the alternative of political status they claim to espouse. This is an opportunity to step away from rhetoric and take action in defense of their political beliefs,” the governor said.
Rosselló Nevares insisted that statehood, in his view, is the alternative of “dignity and progress” to get out of the fiscal crisis and that Bill 51 advances that effort.
While emphasizing that the so-called improved ELA is unconstitutional as this was reaffirmed in the 2007 report by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico.
He also pointed out that in 2012, the island voted against colonial and territorial status and that is why President Barack Obama approved a budget allocation of $2.5 million for an upcoming status plebiscite.
During the questioning period, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sens. José R. Nadal Power and minority spokesman Sen. Eduardo Bhatia questioned Rosselló Nevares about his efforts in favor of statehood, which in their opinion does not solve the problems Puerto Rico has amid its fiscal crisis.
“Excluding options on a ballot is not a daring move. It is a distraction for Puerto Rico and I believe that fewer than 42% of the votes is not a plebiscite. Where is the statehood or independence plebiscite in the NPP’s government program? We are betting on a rigged process,” Nadal Power asked, to which the governor replied that he always said during his campaign that a vote for him was a vote for statehood.
“We already have the 2012 plebiscite and this [Bill 51] is going to be an additional message to solve this problem. When blacks fought for their rights, there were people against it. Was there a [favorable] climate for it? No. My commitment as governor will be to validate that this colonial condition is unworthy. I know that statehood will receive more support from the people and I will fight to validate that Puerto Rico transitions to statehood,” the governor said.
The request for statehood does not interfere with the fiscal Oversight board or with Promesa, Rosselló Nevares said.
“Promesa clearly states that the people of Puerto Rico can make a decision [regarding status]. The fiscal oversight board should not go against the decision to end the colony and turn Puerto Rico into the 51st state,” he said.
Rosselló Nevares said that if Puerto Rico becomes a state, it would be the 24th state of the American nation in terms of population, it would have five senators and two representatives in Congress and the presidential vote.
“The ELA, as the people have already rejected it and being as we are, cannot be part of the solution,” the governor reiterated.