Congressional delegates commence statehood quest
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Four out of six congressional delegates-elect were sworn in Thursday at the Hall of Mirrors in La Fortaleza to advocate in the U.S. Capitol for Puerto Rico becoming a state of the union.
Delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives Elizabeth Torres, María “Mayita” Meléndez Altieri and Roberto Lefranc Fortuño, along with delegate to the U.S. Senate Melinda Romero Donnelly, arrived at the executive mansion in Old San Juan to begin their mission to seek statehood for the island.
The occasion took place amid several still undefined issues, including the budget assigned by the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), the regulations outlining the delegates’ work, their economic remuneration, and their total composition.
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia addressed the delegates by saying that they will have every tool available according to Act 167-2020 and the PRFAA in order to fulfill their mission in Washington, D.C.
“I am in the presence of three distinguished ladies and one gentleman who will be serving as congressional delegates in defense of the equal rights of all Puerto Ricans and all American citizens residing in Puerto Rico,” the governor said. “You all have a great responsibility on your shoulders; the fight will not be easy, there will be obstacles, you must face the prophets of disaster, and those who, for whatever reason, differ from those who believe in statehood.”
“But all of you will have a sword that is stronger than anything else, the people supporting you from behind,” Pierluisi added. “The people of Puerto Rico expressed their will, which is the best cover letter you will have before the Congress, before every forum you enter in defense of that ideal.”
Torres Rodríguez said she’s been a firm believer in the island becoming a state of the union even as “academia made people lean to the left.”
“But I went to the right because I believed that’s where the real essence of justice was for this land,” she said. “I was born in the United States, and since then, I have gone back and forth as have the majority of Puerto Ricans.”
“That is where 88% of my family lives,” Torres added as she thanked the people who voted for her to seek statehood and equality for “my sons and the sons of my sons.”
Romero Donnelly, who was overjoyed after being sworn in, promised that statehood will arrive in Puerto Rico “before the four-year term ends.”
“What I want everyone to know is that this fight is for everyone and that everyone is part of this fight,” she said.
Every delegate elected in a special vote in May and sworn in by Puerto Rico Supreme Court Associate Justice Erick Kolthoff pledged to bring the will of the 53% of islanders who voted ‘Yes’ for statehood in the 2020 general elections.
The delegates, however, will begin short of members as one write-in delegate-elect, former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, was disqualified on Wednesday when a San Juan Superior Court ruled that his candidacy did not meet residency requirements according to Act 167.
Senate delegate-elect Zoraida Buxó, meanwhile, had previously indicated she would not be present at the swearing-in as she was not going to be on the island. Nevertheless, the State Elections Commission already certified her.