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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

NPP lawmaker upbraids Georgia congressman over Puerto Rico comments at hearing

New Progressive Party Rep. José Enrique Meléndez Ortiz

By John McPhaul

New Progressive Party Rep. José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz criticized outgoing U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) on Wednesday for what the at-large island lawmaker said were offensive statements about Puerto Rico aired during a hearing of the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives held last week.

“First, the issue of equal federal funding for Puerto Rico is closely related to the issue of statehood,” Meléndez said in a letter sent to Hice on Tuesday. “Why? Because U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico suffer from political segregation due to the fact that the current colonial condition allows Congress to discriminate against voters, all U.S. citizens, on the island.”

Last week, Hice told Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia at the aforementioned public hearing, where the recovery of the island’s energy system was discussed, that: “I oppose statehood for Puerto Rico.”

Hice also said the island government only shows up at Congress to request economic assistance.

“Congress does not treat Puerto Rico the same in most federal programs,” Meléndez noted in the letter. “Sometimes, it is important and necessary to remember the basics of what it means to be an American citizen. I’m not talking about statehood, but about the basic and elementary constitutional promise of equal citizenship for all.”

“If I had to move to the state of Georgia, I would enjoy the same rights and allow myself the same treatment as any other American citizen living in the United States,” added the island legislator, who is also a national Republican. “On the other hand, if you moved to Puerto Rico, you would not lose your U.S. citizenship, but you would be deprived of essential rights. In particular, the right to vote in presidential elections and have electoral representation in the [U.S.] Senate and the House.”

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