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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Toward a pro-statehood Popular Party

By Gregorio Igartúa de la Rosa

The leaders of the Popular Democratic Party continue with a dead-end policy regarding the status of Puerto Rico.

They continue to promote an alternative, the so-called ELA (“Estado Libre Asociado”), which they know is not legally viable, because it does not fit into the legal framework of the U.S. Constitution. They have searched for years for legal support to defend it, and it has all turned out to be an exercise in futility. The contradictory messages of being and not being an American citizen loyal to the nation, which they send to their few allies in Congress, have not given them the expected political result.

On the contrary, they have confused members of Congress with their ambiguous ideas, and settle for the crumbs of aid that fall from time to time, without caring about its domestic consequences.

The claim of our Popular brothers costs us over $20 billion a year; that is, $200 billion in 10 years. How can we rationally promote what is unequal treatment in transfers of federal funds for continuing to be a territory of our own nation, without the consent of us, the governed, at the federal level? It is difficult for us to have citizenship without democratic rights at the federal level. Even naturalized citizens, over a million a year, acquire all the privileges of citizenship before us after 124 years. For some Populares, the fantasy ELA issue is acceptable and fun. In the mirage of insularism they cannot, or do not want to, realize and recognize how federalized we are. We have formed our personality as a people, in part associated with the nation and in part with Puerto Rico, as American citizens have in the different states. (Five million Puerto Ricans already reside in the States.)

Some responsible statements have recently emerged from some Popular leaders that can shake the political stagnation that they themselves have caused for 70 years, and that has led us to the unequal treatment in economic aid to which we are subjected, to bankruptcy, and to being audited daily by a Financial Oversight and Management Board that operates locally as a branch of the federal government.

Consider former Gov. Sila María Calderón (pro-independence), active in U.S. politics, backing Philip Levine in Florida (Orlando Sentinel, 8/24/2018). Consider that Rafael Hernández Colón (RIP), six months before his death, told a group of Popular lawyers that the ELA was heading toward statehood within 15 years. The crowd was silent.

A few days ago, José A. Hernández Mayoral published an article on the importance of American citizenship for Puerto Ricans. Then he said: “What interests Puerto Ricans is not American citizenship as an abstract thing, or a mere passport, it is retaining all the scaffolding of protections and rights that is recognized for that citizenship within the United States …” (The New Day, 5/19/2022).

In addition, a few days ago Eduardo Bhatia published an article in which he stated that what happens in the United States elections will always have implications for the island. In the article, Bhatia describes how integrated we are in all our matters of political interest with the nation. “Everything is controlled from Washington,” he says. “Puerto Rico,” he concludes, “is federalized [incorporated]. … The subjugation and colonization of the island urgently needs to be corrected once and for all.”

The commonwealth status, Bhatia adds, “is no longer viable; without democratic rights there is no future” (“The Federalization of Puerto Rico,” El Nuevo Día, 11/4/2022).

Luis Muñoz Marín himself said “we are not pro-Americans -- we are Americans” (G. Igartúa, Muñoz El Americano, 2015). In addition, he requested the presidential vote in Congress. In fact, the Popular Party participates in the Democratic National Convention every four years with delegates, and contributes funds to congressional candidates.

Within the legal perspective of the non-existence of an alternative called ELA, and the unrealistic insistence that it does exist, a detrimental effect on the economy of Puerto Rico is maintained, as noted above. It is time for the Popular leaders to wake up and to take the path that leads us toward a reality of what is viable for the true common interest of what we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

I respectfully invite you, Popular brothers, to move toward a Popular Pro-Statehood Party. (Time is of the essence).

The situation of the economic debacle of the territory of Puerto Rico, and the application to Puerto Rico of federal laws without the consent of the people, and without the power to supervise them, entails the responsibility of the Popular leaders to reconsider and reevaluate if there is still any justification for continuing to promote their movement under the political veil of something without any legal viability, with the veil of the logic of the illogical.

Gregorio Igartúa de la Rosa is an attorney with a practice in San Juan.

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