Statehood: The Frenzy Plan

(Published in Spanish – La estadidad y el plan frenesí – by El Nuevo Día on January 12, 2017)
The first actions by the new government concerning its proposal to bring about statehood are confusing and contradictory and depart from what Governor Ricardo Rosselló committed to in his plan of government and during his political campaign.

There is no mandate from the people of Puerto Rico to ask for statehood. The majority of Puerto Ricans have never voted to ask for it, as was demonstrated in the 2012 plebiscite when statehood obtained only 44% of all the votes cast. Perhaps that is why Ricardo Rosselló said throughout his campaign that the elections were plebiscitary and that a vote for him was a vote for statehood. But in these elections, he won with only 42% of the votes, which clearly, also does not constitute a mandate for statehood.

Hence comes the first contradiction, because it has been through some of his first acts that he has admitted that he doesn’t have a mandate. Although in his inauguration speech, Ricardo Rosselló said that he was going to present in Washington a bill for Puerto Rico to be admitted as a state, that is not what he did. He also said that, parallel to that, he would launch in Puerto Rico the so-called Tennessee Plan, to “designate” five congressmen and two senators to lobby for statehood in representation of the “State of Puerto Rico”. But the bill submitted by Resident Commissioner Jennifer González, proposes to first hold a plebiscite of statehood vs independence, and then, presuming the triumph of statehood, it would come in 2025, not now. On the day she was sworn in, the resident commissioner said that she was be the last person to hold that office, but then the next day, she presented legislation that postponed statehood for eight years.

We were told during the campaign that statehood was the solution to our economic crisis, but now, if Congress approves the submitted bill, statehood would not arrive for another 9 years. Are they telling us the crisis will last until 2025, or will it be solved without statehood? It is evident somewhere the PNP is disregarding the truth. It is obvious that more than a Tennessee Plan this is a Frenzy Plan. Asking for statehood during this time of economic crisis we live in, and without a true mandate is an act of delirium of power.

The Tennessee Plan, a mechanism used in the XVIII century, is doubly anti-democratic. Tennessee was admitted as a state in 1796 when George Washington was still president after residents supported statehood with more than 70% of the vote. At that time, the “territory” elected congressmen and senators to take office. In a matter of months Tennessee was admitted, but the reality is that the parallels between Tennessee in 1796 and Puerto Rico today are none.

Not only is there no mandate for that, but also the new governor has said that he will “designate” the “congressmen” to go to Washington to “represent the State of Puerto Rico”, and, to do that instead of electing them is another mockery to Puerto Ricans. Why are they going to use the Tennessee Plan if the bill says that nothing will happen until 2025? This mechanism is to ask for statehood immediately, not in installments.

And if that deception wasn’t enough, they have made up a plebiscite of statehood vs independence when there is no mention of that plebiscite in any page of the PNPs platform. It’s obvious that it’s a desperate and improvised move to make a super majority in favor of statehood, which excludes most Puerto Ricans who advocate a relationship of dignified association with the United States.

The Frenzy Plan is not going to solve Puerto Rico’s colonial problem; in fact, it is a repetition of the PNP tricks in the plebiscites of 1998 and 2012, that came to nothing.

Originally published in Spanish by El Nuevo Día. Translated by Gabriela Acevedo Gándara