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Puerto Rico’s AOC-Velázquez Bill Charts Necessary Path to Decolonization, Progressives Say

A group of progressive organizations are pushing for passage of a bill they say gives Puerto Ricans a voice on the issue of the island’s future status and its relationship with the United States.

The push aims to present an alternative to the pro-state legislation introduced Tuesday by two Puerto Rican congressmen.

In one letter sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., advocates from more than 80 grassroots organizations in 16 states and Puerto Rico urged to prioritize the adoption of the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Law of 2020.

Progressive groups say that unlike the bill introduced Tuesday by Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., And Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican non-voting congressman and Republican, the bill introduced last year by New York Democratic representatives. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would ensure that Puerto Ricans have access to “a legitimate, responsible and inclusive process of decolonization and self-determination”.

Ocasio-Cortez and Velázquez’s bill initially proposed to create a “status convention” made up of delegates elected by Puerto Rican voters who would find a long-term solution to the island’s territorial status – whether it s act of a state, independence, freedom of association or any option other than the current territorial arrangement.

“As the United States tries to right so much injustice, it must also shed its colonial heritage by supporting Puerto Rican leadership and decision-making,” said Erica González, director of Power 4 Puerto Rico, in a statement, adding that the framework set forth in Puerto Rico’s Self-Determination Law “leaves no Puerto Rican behind in a process of decolonization that must be carried out with the utmost seriousness, integrity and detail that the island deserves.”

Velázquez and Ocasio-Cortez are expected to reintroduce their bill to the House this year in an effort to gain more support in Congress. The original bill was introduced last year with 20 Democratic co-sponsors.

“This Congress and the Biden-Harris administration have a historic opportunity to take a serious look at the impact of colonialism on Puerto Rico and to change course,” said Julio López Varona, director of community dignity campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy. A declaration.

The Puerto Rico State Admissions Act, introduced Tuesday by Soto and González, aims to create a framework for making the island a state, “ including a presidential proclamation when passed, a ratification vote , the election of senators and American representatives and the continuity of laws, government and obligations, ”Soto said at a press conference.

The state-building bill has the support of at least 49 House members, 13 Republicans and 36 Democrats, according to González. Senator Martin Heinrich, DN.M., is expected to eventually present a version of the bill to the Senate.

The legislation proposed by Soto and González follows a non-binding referendum that took place in Puerto Rico last November. He directly asked voters whether Puerto Rico should be immediately admitted as a state. With nearly 55% voter turnout, about 53% of Puerto Ricans who voted in favor of statehood while 47% rejected it, according to the Election Commission of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico has held a few other referendums in recent years.

In a 2017 plebiscite, 97% of those who voted were in favor of statehood, but opposition parties boycotted the vote, resulting in a record turnout of 23%. In another 2012 plebiscite, 61% of voters sided with the state, but that referendum was also mired in controversy over how voters’ choices were framed.

Along with these plebiscites, similar versions of the Soto-Gonzalez state bill have been unsuccessfully introduced into Congress since at least 2015.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi, a longtime advocate for the state, said in a Spanish statement Thursday that the latest Soto-Gonzalez state bill “is the response to this mandate,” saying reference to previous referendums.

“It is time for Congress to act, we have been American citizens for over 100 years and the time has come for us to have equality,” Pierluisi said. “Those of us who aspire to equality will never consent to the discrimination and inequality that we have when, despite being US citizens, just because we live in Puerto Rico, we don’t. the same rights as those who reside in the States. “

Three former governors of Puerto Rico who support the island’s current territorial status have lambasted Pierluisi and other pro-state Puerto Ricans for presenting the state debate as a civil rights issue in an attempt to seek support from the American liberals, as they stated in a letter to the president. Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last month.

“Liberals must view the status issue of Puerto Rico, not as a civil rights issue affecting one group in this debate, but as a matter of self-determination where all stakeholders are entitled to a fair process. This is what is lacking “. old governments. Sila María Calderón, Anibal Acevedo Vilá and Alejandro García Padilla said in the letter.

Black Lives Matter Greater New York is among the groups that co-signed the letter to Schumer and Pelosi supporting the Velázquez and Ocasio-Cortez bill.

“Since the transatlantic slave trade, black people in the diaspora remain chained by systemic oppression. It is our duty to denounce imperialism through which the United States holds and treats island nations under colonial rule,” Chivona Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, said in a statement. “Congress has the power to stop colonization. Failure to support Puerto Rico’s Self-Determination Law by any member means standing up for white supremacy.”

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