Rosselló: Delegates to US Congress must seek to create national movement for Puerto Rico statehood

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to the Star

Projected to be one of six federal congressional delegates elected on Sunday, former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares said Monday that he is “100% committed” to lobbying with the five other delegate-elects in the U.S. Capitol for Puerto Rico to become a state of the union and “end 500 years of colonialism.”

In an exclusive interview with the STAR, the now U.S. House delegate-elect -- who New Progressive Party Deputy Electoral Commissioner Edwin Mundo said had accumulated more than 65,000 write-in votes -- said lobbying for the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act penned by Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, organizing with Puerto Rican communities and non-profit organizations to advocate for the aforementioned political status are some of the technical vehicles to be included in the federal delegates’ “cohesive and integrated agenda.”

“The environment that is right now not only in Washington, D.C., but on a national level, is a general sentiment of social justice,” Rosselló said. “There are all these movements happening in different places, like Black Lives Matter, equal voting rights in Georgia, the fight for equality for immigrants, all of these elements are omnipresent in a national state, and it is my view that the issues of Puerto Rico embrace all of those items.”

“I think that part of what draws me to this is that I have the expertise. I know that my record is there; we were able to achieve a whole host of things in Puerto Rico while I was governor. We were able to do so in collaboration with good friends in the United States,” the former governor added. “This is not just about knocking on a door, or sitting with X or Y congressmen, this is about creating a movement in the United States, creating a coalition with what the national feeling is, and connecting with the vehicle of statehood, which is right now being discussed.”

Rosselló said delegates must be focused on merging civil rights movements -- including the Democrats’ efforts to turn Washington, D.C. into a state -- into one movement.

“I think I have a strategic understanding of what needs to be done,” he added. “For the first time in quite some time, all of the conditions are there to execute and all we have to do is start working and connecting the dots.”

Meanwhile, Rosselló told the STAR, he and his fellow delegates-elect should also be focused on lobbying against the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, penned by Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose purpose, he said, is “to derail statehood.”

“One of the things we need to point out is the hypocrisy in some of the folks in Washington that stand on a soapbox and claim they want to fight for equality and statehood for Washington, D.C., but when it comes to the issue of Puerto Rico, they sidestep all over their principles,” Rosselló said. “I think that shining a light on that inconsistency is part of our work and efforts, and I am looking forward to speaking with the [other] delegates.”

When asked how he would seek to advocate for statehood for Puerto Rico when mainland Democrats, including U.S. President Joe Biden, were critical of him and voiced support for those on the island calling for him to resign as governor amid the fallout from the Telegram chat log, which was released back in July 2019 and eventually did lead to his resignation under broad and sustained public pressure, Rosselló said the situation going forward is a “matter of people recognizing that they make mistakes, can atone and move forward.”

Revelations from the chat, which involved other island public officials, included lewd and discriminatory comments against LGBTQ+ members, non-white people, politicians and journalists.

“As a matter of fact, I think that the people of Puerto Rico understand that, and in the combination of understanding my passion for statehood, my understanding of what needs to be done, my record, administratively, and in reforms as a governor, and in recognition that sometimes, when you fall, what matters is how you get back up and how you move forward,” he said. “I think that understanding percolates through our nation. Our nation gives opportunities; it recognizes that we are not perfect, and allows us to show our better selves.”

Moreover, he noted that Biden faced a similar challenge when he had to withdraw his presidential nomination in the 1988 elections as “precisely there were certain indications about his character.”

“Now he is standing. He fought back, got back up, he became a senator, he became vice president of the United States, and now he got the favor of the people to become the president of the United States,” Rosselló said. “I’m sure that somebody who understands about having made a mistake -- atone for it, move forward, keep going with strength and passion -- is our president, who has expressed his support for statehood for Puerto Rico.”

On the matter of accepting the candidacy three days before the special elections, Rosselló told the newspaper that after seeing petitions and fan pages vouching for his candidacy gaining force, receiving multiple phone calls and messages, and noticing “a very fertile ground here in Washington, D.C. to move the statehood issue forward,” he spoke with his family and his wife Beatríz Rosselló, who he deemed as a “stalwart support and a bedrock,” and decided to take on the task.

“They know that I’m passionate for the cause of equality for the people of Puerto Rico, so they were in on it, they were supportive,” he said.

Rosselló is expected to be joining the other delegate-elects, Elizabeth Torres Rodríguez, Roberto Lefranc Fortuño, and former Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez Altieri for the House, and former New Progressive Party Rep. Melinda Romero Donnelly and former Correction and Rehabilitation Secretary Zoraida Buxó Santiago for the Senate.

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