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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor: August will be pivotal month for statehood movement

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

By The Star Staff

August will be a key month in the fight for statehood, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Sunday.

There is a status bill currently under evaluation in the U.S. House of Representatives and another has been filed in the U.S. Senate.

Lawmakers in the House recently introduced a bill that would end Puerto Rico’s status as a territory, allowing the island’s residents to choose between three status options. The bill, a result of negotiations between lawmakers who supported statehood for the territory and lawmakers who wanted to hold a status convention, was formally introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The bill’s three options for an upcoming status referendum are statehood for Puerto Rico, independence from the United States and “sovereignty in free association with the United States.”

Pierluisi emphasized the role played by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in the process and the need to pressure Republican congressmen in Hispanic districts to support the measure.

“That’s why a draft consensus is coming up where top leaders in Congress are coming together, leaders who have never come together on the status issue. I am talking about our resident commissioner [Jenniffer González Colón] and congresswoman Nydia Velázquez [D-N.Y.],” Pierluisi said. “Of course, there is a great friend of Puerto Rico, who has promoted these negotiations and is the one who, to a certain extent, has managed the process so that this consensus bill reaches the federal House floor and is approved. That’s our friend Steny Hoyer.’’

The Natural Resources Committee recently approved the legislation, which will go to a vote in the next session, which starts in September.

“We have to do the work during the recess of Congress in August,” the governor said. “I am determined, committed, to support the efforts of our colleagues in the Republican Party, because, I confess to you, and I have shared this with Hoyer, […] the vast majority of Democrats are going to support this consensus bill. In other words, they are going to give us the opportunity to vote for statehood and to do so when Congress is committed to implementing the desire of the majority, of our majority, those of us who want equality.”

Recently, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) announced his opposition to the House legislation that would end Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth.

Wicker introduced another bill in the upper chamber that would allow Puerto Rico residents to support maintaining the island’s current status. Titled the Puerto Rico Status Act, the alternative legislation would authorize a binding plebiscite vote on four options: independence for Puerto Rico, sovereignty in free association with the United States, statehood, or retaining the status of Puerto Rico as a commonwealth.

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