Honoring the legacy of Luis Ferre (1904-Semper)

This past October 21 marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of a famous and influential political figure in Puerto Rico. Luis Ferre (1904-2003) was a lifelong proponent of statehood for Puerto Rico and the founder of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico. He was elected governor of Puerto Rico in 1968 (and the first elected governor from the NPP), serving the position of governor from 1969 to 1973. In addition, Mr. Ferre also served as the President of the island territory’s Senate from 1977 to 1981 and headed the island’s Republican Party branch from the mid-1970s until his death in 2003. Puerto Rico Report has information regarding Mr. Ferre and his great legacy in the link provided here: http://www.puertoricoreport.com/celebrating-the-life-of-luis-ferre/#.UnsI2L4o6Ag . On October 23rd, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi delivered a speech honoring the life and legacy of Luis Ferre in the House of Representatives. To read the transcript of Mr. Pierluisi’s speech, the link is here:  http://pierluisi.house.gov/sites/pierluisi.house.gov/files/10.23.13%20Rep.%20Pierluisi%20Final%20Five-Minute%20Speech%20to%20Honor%20Luis%20Ferre.pdf .

Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association

Readers, I’d like to introduce you to a college organization dedicated to promoting statehood for Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association (PRSSA– web link here: http://statehoodpr.org/ ) is an American non-profit student organization which advocates for the island territory to be admitted as the 51st state of the United States of America. Founded in 1979 by then-college students Kenneth McClintock and Luis Fortuño. Mr. McClintock would later serve as minority leader in Puerto Rico’s Senate (2001-2005), President of the island’s Senate (2005-2009) and Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State (and Lt. Governor) from 2009 to this year while Mr. Fortuño later served as the island’s Resident Commissioner (2005-2009) and Governor of Puerto Rico from 2009 to this year. Along with these two men, the PRSSA also has numerous other members who have influenced the organization and the statehood movement from generation to generation. The organization is currently in its third generation, as the PRSSA was activated and deactivated twice during its 34-year history. The PRSSA is very politically active, as it works with the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (NPP) in encouraging the federal government to focus more on the topic of resolving Puerto Rico’s status issue. During Mr. Fortuño’s  gubernatorial administration, the PRSSA created an alternative link to its website, titled HR2499.com, referring to the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009-2010, which was a status bill that was introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (who was also a member of the PRSSA during his college years) to the U.S. Congress. The status bill would have provided for a federally-sponsored two-ballot plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s political status. The first ballot would have asked voters if they support the island’s current territory status. A majority “yes” vote would require the federal and territory governments to conduct the plebiscite again at eight-year intervals. If a majority votes “no” to the first ballot, then the second ballot would have been held a few months after the previous ballot. The original version of HR 2499 would have mandated that the second question provide voters with three alternative options to the current status: statehood, independence and free association. When the House of Representatives passed the bill by a 223-169 margin, it introduced a series of amendments that modified the bill’s content. Among the amendments was one that included Puerto Rico’s current territory status as an option for the second ballot. This was due to the lobbying efforts by the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (PDP), which is staunchly opposed to any federal bill regarding status initiatives. After HR 2499 cleared the House, it received a hearing at a Senate committee the following month. However, because the Senate already had a tight schedule, lawmakers in that chamber of Congress did not have the time to debate and vote on the bill. The plebiscite held in Puerto Rico last year was based largely on the format of HR 2499, except for the fact that the current status was not included on the second question (as it would be ridiculous to ask the same question twice on a single ballot).

In the Summer of 2012, the PRSSA created the Jose Celso Barbosa Statehood Library, which is an online virtual library focuses on material regarding Puerto Rico and its political status. Named after the famous medical doctor and politician, Jose Celso Barbosa (who was the father of the Puerto Rico statehood movement), the library focuses on educating the American people on the topic of Puerto Rico and its status issue. To visit the website, here is the link: http://library.statehoodpr.org/ .

Since last November’s plebiscite (in which 54% of voters said “No” to continuing Puerto Rico’s current territory status, in which 61% of voters voted for statehood to replace the current status and in which more voters chose statehood than any other status, including the current territory status), the PRSSA’s main campaign now is to get the federal government and the American people to support the process for Puerto Rico to become a state.  Among today’s important projects is getting support for HR 2000, the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act, which calls for a yes-or-no vote on whether Puerto Rico would be admitted as a state of the Union. A majority yes vote would require Congress and the President to act on legislation admitting the island as a state after a brief transition period.

United Nations 68th General Assembly

These past few weeks (the weeks of September 23rd and 30th) marked the United Nations‘ 68th annual General Assembly meeting in the Tudor City neighborhood in Manhattan in New York City.  It is a time of year when world leaders come together from their respective countries to give a speech about any world issue. There were also protests outside the UN building by protesters focusing on different issues. The issues ranged from Falun Gong in China and the Iranian democracy movement to the civil war in Syria and the Tibetan independence movement. Just like the General Assembly meetings, the protests outside the UN are also on an annual basis for the most part.

It is well known that the UN was created at the end of World War II in 1945, replacing the failed League of Nations. The organization consists of many institutions, but the main political institution is the Security Council. The Security Council, which consists of 5 permanent member countries and 10 non-permanent member countries (membership among the non-permanent members rotate continuously over time). The 5 permanent members of the Security Council are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) and China. While the main mission of the UN is to promote peace, stability and human rights around the world, it is not perfect.

Over the course of 7 decades, the UN, like the League of Nations, had failed to prevent major atrocities that have occurred around the world. In addition, many institutions at the UN are controlled by despotic regimes who use the UN in order to export their propaganda and to advance their agendas. In many instances, the UN institutions seem to promote an anti-Western bias at meetings. The David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC), an American conservative organization reporting on political news and a critic of the UN, as written and published a pamphlet titled “Ten Reasons to Abolish the UN”. The link to the pamphlet posted on Front Page Magazine, the Freedom Center’s online news website, is here: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/frontpagemag-com/10-reasons-to-abolish-the-un-1-2-1/ . While I do not fully agree with everything on the pamphlet (I am in favor of reforming the UN, rather than abolishing it), I believe that the pamphlet makes very good points about why the UN has not been the organization that it is supposed to be. In many circumstances, the UN has passed many resolutions condemning Israel (the only democratic state in the Middle East) for alleged misdeeds in human rights, while allowing despotic regimes like Cuba and Syria to head the UN’s Human Rights Commission (HRC). In addition, because of the presence of powerful despotic regimes like China, the UN also ignores other important issues like the right of Tibetans to have self-determination in Tibet. Tibet was a historically independent country that was forcefully annexed by Communist China in 1950, shortly after Communist dictator Mao Zedong took power in Beijing the previous year.

In addition to notable biases, there is also a double standard when discussing territorial integrity. While the UN Charter states that every country in the world should respect each other’s sovereignty, at times, there are certain countries who get involved with the internal affairs of another country-and sometimes the UN encourages that through one of its “committees”. Regarding Puerto Rico, the UN’s Committee on Decolonization has been trying to coerce the United States government into taking certain “action” that would lead to the “decolonization” of Puerto Rico. While the UN has generally been neutral in what the island territory’s ultimate political status shall be, there is a somewhat separatist element behind the Decolonization committee’s stance regarding Puerto Rico’s political status. That shouldn’t be surprising, considering the fact that Communist Cuba, which is a key member in that committee, has been behind every action that is anti-American and which harms U.S. national interests in the international arena. Regarding Puerto Rico’s status, the official position of the Communist dictatorship in Cuba is that it opposes any efforts to annex PR (i.e. statehood), while at the same time, it does not oppose anything the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) supports or advocates. It is clear that the Communist dictatorship in Cuba (which has been in power in that country since 1959), supports independence for Puerto Rico. This is despite the fact that independence has never had more than 5% support from the island’s population for a long time. In fact, most residents of Puerto Rico want the island territory to become a state of the United States of America. Statehood for Puerto Rico is strongly supported by this blog. Having an opinion is one thing, but trying to obstruct the democratic process by using subversive tactics is a whole different thing. The Communist dictatorship in Cuba (run by the infamous Castro family and headed by criminal brothers, Fidel and Raul Castro) has been meddling in Puerto Rico’s internal politics for a long time, including financing small, radical left militant groups aimed to force the island territory to secede from the U.S. The Castro family dictatorship also harbors numerous fugitives in Cuba who are hiding from American justice, including militants from radical left organizations like the Black Liberation Army (BLA), an off-shoot of the Black Panther Party (BPP). One of the fugitives belonging to one of the radical left militant organizations is a man named William Morales, who was a key member of the far-left separatist terrorist group, the Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN). He was arrested in 1978 while trying to build a bomb in a factory when the device exploded on him. He was treated at a prison hospital in New York and was given prosthetic arms. However, he escaped from prison with help from his comrades from the FALN and other similar ideological groups. Morales went to Mexico, where in 1983, he was arrested by authorities for being involved in some drug gangs. After spending 5 years in prison, he was released. Despite calls from the U.S. government to have the fugitive militant extradited back to the United States, Mexican authorities just released him from prison and decided not to extradite him. Morales then went to Cuba, where he got political asylum and lives there to this day. The Communist dictatorship in Cuba uses the UN’s Decolonization Committee not for reasons of morality, but to attack the United States for propaganda purposes. You can check out the link from Babalu Blog, which is a Cuban-American political blog focusing on issues and news pertaining to the world, but particularly Latin America (and especially Cuba): http://babalublog.com/2013/06/27/reports-from-cuba-playing-dirty/ . What is even more disturbing is that only a few people are calling out the Castro dictatorship for this subversive action. In addition, Communist Cuba’s actions are hypocritical, considering the fact that it often complains about the United States “meddling” in its internal affairs, yet has no problem with meddling in U.S. internal affairs. Of course, Communist Cuba has no problem with supporting Communist China’s illegal occupation of Tibet, since both countries are ideological allies.

In a more neutral note, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner (and president of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party), Pedro Pierluisi, testified at the Decolonization Committee regarding Puerto Rico’s political status and the results of last year’s status plebiscite. The Committee responded by calling on the U.S. government to replace Puerto Rico’s current territory status with either statehood or nationhood (standalone independence or free association). While the UN can help clarify its stance status options for residents of Puerto Rico, it is best for Puerto Rico’s ultimate status to be decided by the insular government and by the U.S. federal government. No outside interference is necessary (or even approved). It is my opinion that Mr. Pierluisi needed to be tough on Communist Cuba and its allies, telling them not to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, but he didn’t do that. America’s enemies need to be told loud and clear that the people of Puerto Rico voted for statehood and that they need to back off on meddling in the island territory’s affairs.

Marilou Rivera Ramos and Estrella 51

Greetings readers,

I’d like to introduce the audience here to a vocal statehood for Puerto Rico activist. Maria de Lourdes “Marilou” Rivera Ramos is an artist and a blogger who regularly posts news regarding Puerto Rico and its political status (as well as politics in general) in her blog website, Estrella 51 (meaning Star 51), which advocates for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state of the United States of America. She is also a political conservative and is affiliated with both the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico and the United States Republican Party. Estrella 51 is a Spanish-language blog that focuses on political news regarding PR’s status, as well as the differences between free-market democracies and countries with Communist/socialist governments and how they function on the political arena. Ms. Rivera Ramos writes her posts using humor and, at times, sarcasm, in order to inform readers on how ridiculous and hypocritical opponents of statehood, as well as adversaries of the United States, the West and free-market capitalism, are and how those anti-democratic forces behave in general. In her blog posts, Ms. Rivera Ramos mixes in some English-language phrases in her blog posts for humor, including her favorite catchphrase, “Such is Life”, which she states at the end of each blog post. The link to the Estrella 51 blog website is here: http://estrella51.blogspot.com/.

One of Ms. Rivera Ramos’ featured blog post on Estrella 51 focuses on the cases of two very different Puerto Rican political figures: Victor Fajardo (not to be confused with the city of Fajardo in Puerto Rico) and Oscar Lopez. Both men have different opinions regarding the political status of Puerto Rico (Mr. Fajardo supports statehood for the island, while Mr. Lopez wishes for the island to secede from the United States). Both men have been accused of committing different crimes in separate cases. Mr. Fajardo was Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education from 1996 to 2001 (under the administration of then-Governor Pedro Rossello), while Mr. Lopez was a notorious militant who was a member of the far-left, anti-American, pro-secessionist, pro-Communist totalitarian, Marxist-Leninist terrorist group Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN). While Mr. Fajardo was accused of alleged public money misusage in regards to funding his party (the NPP) and its agenda, Mr. Lopez and his FALN comrades were responsible for around 130+ bombings in the U.S. mainland (mainly in cities like New York and Chicago) between 1974 (when the FALN first formed) and 1983 (when the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] apprehended most of the FALN key members) one of the most notorious of those bombings took place on January 24, 1975 in the Fraunces Tavern restaurant in Lower Manhattan in New York City around lunch time. The bombing resulted in four deaths and around 60 wounded. one of the four people who died was a man named Frank Connor, who was the father of Tea Party activist Joseph Connor. Since the Fraunces Tavern attack, the younger Mr. Connor has been campaigning to win justice for his father. However, in 1999, Mr. Connor and other relatives of the FALN victims faced a humiliating defeat when then-Deputy Attorney General (and now Attorney General) Eric Holder and U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (the latter is a rabid opponent of statehood for Puerto Rico. Mr. Gutierrez is a radical left-wing politician who supports either independence, free association or the impossible “enhanced commonwealth” status option for Puerto Rico, while advocating for complete amnesty and U.S. citizenship for all undocumented [or illegal-depending on your preference] immigrants in the United States)  encouraged then-President Bill Clinton to grant clemency to the unrepentant FALN militants. The move was opposed by the FALN victims’ families, the FBI and various law enforcement agencies, many politicians and the American public in general. The sad part of the clemency was that the terrorists were given 30 days to discuss with each other (via phone calls between prisons) whether they would accept the clemency. In the end, most of the FALN militants accepted clemency and walked out of prison. Ten years later, Mr. Connor testified in the Senate against the conformation of Eric Holder as Attorney General, only to see him confirmed. In early 2011, Mr. Connor and the other relatives of the victims travelled to Terre Haute, Indiana (that’s where the prison that Mr. Lopez lives in is located) to confront the terrorist. Mr. Lopez was (and still is) trying to get parole from the government after having turned down the 1999 clemency offer that his other comrades accepted. The victims’ families tried to get the militant to apologize to them and to the American public for his crimes, but he refused. In the end, the Parole Board refused to grant Mr. Lopez parole and said that he must remain in prison for another 12 years, until 2023. To this day, Mr. Lopez has been trying to get released from prison, while remaining unrepentant about his past. There has been some misguided protests demanding that he get released from prison. Earlier this year, the illegitimate “governor” of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla (who is the head of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico), has met with Mr. Holder to discuss the November plebiscite, as well as the Lopez case (Mr. Garcia Padilla supports having Mr. Lopez released from prison.

Ms. Rivera Ramos’ blog post (the link is here: http://estrella51.blogspot.com/2013/09/victor-fajardo-oscar-lopez-rivera-y-el.html) exposes the hypocrisy and bias that the media in Puerto Rico, particularly El Nuevo Dia newspaper, have regarding the cases of Mr. Fajardo and Mr. Lopez. The blogger notes that El Nuevo Dia falsely classifies Oscar Lopez as a “political prisoner” (thus repeating the left’s line about how the federal government deals with militants who want to destroy American society), while calling Mr. Fajardo’s alleged misdeeds, as well as his release from prison “a hard slap to the island”. This is the same newspaper that parrots the PDP’s propaganda line regarding blank ballots in the November status plebiscite. I mentioned that the plebiscite had two questions, that 54% of those who answered the first question voted no to continuing Puerto Rico’s current territory status, and that 61% of those who answered the second question voted for statehood. I also mentioned that more voters picked statehood than any other status option, including the current status. However, despite the fact that the plebiscite results are accurate, the PDP and other opponents of statehood continue to insist that statehood did not prevail in the plebiscite because “almost 500,000 voters left the second question blank”. They argue that because of this ridiculous theory, statehood got 45% of the vote, rather than 61%. While it is true that many voters did leave the second question blank, the argument that blank ballots should count as votes falls flat, because blank ballots contradict Puerto Rico electoral law, as well as federal law and many state laws. In any election, votes are made by ballots properly marked. A blank ballot is entitled to no weight at all.  Not voting is simply an empty act. Despite this basic logical fact, the PDP and some newspapers like El Nuevo Dia continue to insist in the ridiculous theory despite the fact that it has been disproven long ago. Besides the cases of Mr. Fajardo and Mr. Lopez, as well as the plebiscite results, Ms. Rivera Ramos exposes leftist hypocrisy on many other political cases in general.  Overall, Estrella 51 is regarded by many as one of the main authoritative blog sources for news regarding politics in Puerto Rico, the rest of the USA and the world in general.  In future blog posts on Borinqueneer Blog, I will provide links to her website, as well as describe her posts in igreater detail.

Kenneth McClintock at George Washington University

This past Wednesday at George Washington University, the GW Chapter of the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association (PRSSA)-the largest statehood for Puerto Rico advocacy organization in the United States- hosted the organization’s founder, Kenneth McClintock, to speak on the event regarding Puerto Rico and the need for the island territory to become a state of the Union. Mr. McClintock was Puerto Rico’ Secretary of State (and Lt. Governor of the island) from 2009 until this year. He co-founded the PRSSA with future governor Luis Fortuño in 1979, right before the 1980 presidential race (in which Puerto Rico participated in the island’s presidential primaries-both Democrat and Republican- for the first time in history).

Since the 1980 race, Puerto Rico has participated in the presidential primaries in every presidential year. The two most contested primary races in the island since 1980 were the 2008 Democratic presidential primary and the Republican presidential primary of last year. During primary races in PR, voters affiliated with either the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP) or the pro-current territory status (or the impossible alternative “enhanced commonwealth” status) Popular Democratic Party (PDP) go to the polls to vote for their candidate to be the nominee for the Democrats or the Republicans in the general election. Since the NPP consists of members affiliated with either the Democrats or Republicans, NPP voters can participate in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. PDP voters, on the other hand, can only participate in the Democratic primary, since PDP members are mainly affiliated with the Democrats.

Anyway, in his speech, Mr. McClintock discussed about the importance of statehood for Puerto Rico and the effects that the political status has on the island’s economy. Mr. McClintock notes that it is the PDP’s failure to recognize the flaws of the current territorial status that is behind the difficult economic times in the island. He also noted that the tough economy has led to the mass exodus of Puerto Ricans migrating from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland within the last decade. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, Puerto Rico’s population has decreased by 2.2 percent (a net migration rate of 83,000 people) from 3.8 million in 2000 to 3.7 million in 2010. In addition, new data from last year shows that the island’s population has decreased to 3.6 million between 2010 and 2012. While migration from PR to the states has long been common throughout the 20th century, the recent population numbers should be a wake up call. For the first time in the island’s history as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico’s population has decreased rather than increased. Most of the population reduction is as a result of thousands of Puerto Ricans moving to the states. Note that they are not moving to foreign countries, let alone less developed ones. And they are, for the most part, definitely NOT moving to countries with dictatorial or autocratic regimes (countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Zimbabwe, etc.)  While the earlier migrations to the states consisted of people with lower income levels or from lower classes, the recent migration now consist of many more people, including many professionals among others. Each day, residents of Puerto Rico, regardless of social characteristics, cast a non-ballot vote against the current territory status and in favor of statehood by boarding an aircraft and leaving their native island behind. As a result of all this migration, 29% of all people born in Puerto Rico who are still alive live in the 50 states. Check Puerto Rico Report for more on this particular detail: http://www.puertoricoreport.org/29-of-islanders-have-already-obtained-statehood-for-themselves/.

Mr. McClintock’s message to students was for them to convince Congress to take action on the issue of Puerto Rico’s status and to facilitate the island’s transition to becoming the 51st state of the United States of America. Based on the results of last November’s election day two-question status plebiscite, 54% of the nearly 1.8 million people who voted on the first question rejected the current territory status, and 61% of the nearly 1.4 million people who voted on the second question chose statehood as the status to replace the current one. In addition, there were more voters who chose statehood on the second question (834,000+) than those who voted for the current status on the first question (around 828,000). There is a bill in Congress, the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act (HR 2000), that would provide voters in Puerto Rico with a yes-or-no vote on whether PR should be admitted as a state of the Union. A majority yes vote would require the President and Congress to pass legislation admitting Puerto Rico as a state after a transition period.

The article to Mr. McClintock’s speech can be found on the GW Hatchet’s blog website: http://blogs.gwhatchet.com/newsroom/2013/09/18/puerto-rican-leader-pushes-students-to-lobby-for-statehood/

Why I support statehood for Puerto Rico

The statehood movement in Puerto Rico has a common goal: to ensure equality and full constitutional voting rights for the 3.6 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico at the national level.  There are many reasons to why activists support Puerto Rico becoming a U.S. state.

My top reasons for supporting PR statehood:

1. Statehood would automatically enfranchise residents of Puerto Rico by giving them the opportunity to vote for the President and Vice President of the United States, two U.S. Senators and a proportionate number of Representatives to the House of Representatives instead of just a single non-voting Resident Commissioner.  The state of Puerto Rico would wield much more political power than the territory of Puerto Rico.

2. Statehood would guarantee equal treatment for Puerto Rico under federal economic programs., as well as many federal laws. Right now, as a territory, Puerto Rico receives less federal funding for important projects than the 50 states. As a state, Puerto Rico would get the same amount of funding from the federal government as the 50 states.

3. Statehood would permanently bound Puerto Rico to the United States. As an “unincorporated” territory, Puerto Rico is a U.S. jurisdiction, but not considered to be a full “incorporated” part of the United States.  As a result, the local government and most of the political structures of the island, such as American citizenship, were implemented by laws passed through Congress. While all people born in Puerto Rico have been U.S. citizens since the Jones-Shafroth Act in 1917 and all people born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941 are American citizens by birth (as a result of a retroactive citizenship law passed in Congress in 1952), with statehood, all residents born in Puerto Rico would be American citizens by virtue of the Constitution of the United States, instead of by virtue of U.S. laws.

4. Statehood would also give Puerto Rico national recognition as a state throughout the U.S. as well as improve tourism to the island. Statehood would provide a major boost to the island’s economy, which has been in shambles since the most recent economic recession back in 2006.

5. Statehood would also improve the international image of the United States by showing the world that the U.S. is truly a championing force for democracy and self-determination, both at home and abroad, and….

6. Statehood would deny America’s enemies (like the despotic governments of the nearby countries of Cuba and Venezuela) the opportunity to impose their totalitarian agenda on residents of Puerto Rico. Right now, as a territory, Puerto Rico is subjected to scrutiny by anti-democratic forces who wish to demand that the island secede from the United States in order to install a regime friendly to the interests of America’s adversaries as well as unfriendly to America’s interests.  While independence only has around  5% support from island residents, enemies of the United States continue to insist in that option in order to impose their long-term goal of imposing a dangerous regime in PR. Those totalitarian forces need to be told that the people of Puerto Rico do not support the totalitarian agenda and that those totalitarian forces should not meddle in politics that is none of their business meddling. The people of Puerto Rico want self-determination through statehood and that is that.

Support for statehood for Puerto Rico has increased over the years and has increased even more since the 2012 plebiscite. One day soon, the island will become the 51st state of the world’s greatest democracy, the United States of America

Luis Fortuño on Orlando Sentinel livechat

Has anyone checked Live Chat in the Orlando Sentinel website this past Wednesday? Last Wednesday (during the 9/11 anniversary) on the Orlando Sentinel website’s Live Chat, people had an opportunity to speak with Luis Fortuño, a politician, attorney and strong supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico. Mr. Fortuño served as Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the House of Representatives from 2005 to 2009 and subsequently served as the island’s governor from 2009 until this year. During his years as Resident Commissioner, Mr. Fortuño  helped co-sponsor H.R. 900, a status bill that would provide residents of Puerto Rico with a vote to determine the island’s future political status. The charismatic politician also focused on numerous challenges facing Puerto Rico, such as crime-fighting, improving education and improving the island’s economy during the deep recession that started in 2006. In 2007, Mr. Fortuño decided to run for governor of Puerto Rico in the 2008 elections. His running mate (and eventual successor) for Resident Commissioner was (and is) Pedro Pierluisi, who served as the island’s attorney general from 1993 to 1997 under the administration of then-Governor Pedro Rossello (who served the post of governor from 1993 to 2001), who Mr. Fortuño defeated in the 2008 New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (NPP) primary race for governor. The NPP is a political party that supports Puerto Rico’s admission as the 51st state of the United States of America, the world’s greatest democracy. It was established in 1967 by a veteran politician named Luis Ferre (1904-2003), who was elected the island’s governor in 1968 and served as governor from 1969 to 1973. The NPP is a local (island-wide) party that consist of politicians affiliated with either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party (as well as other smaller affiliated mainland parties) in the 50 states, unlike the opposing Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (PDP), which has politicians affiliated mainly with the Democratic Party (the PDP supports either Puerto Rico’s current territory status and/or an impossible status alternative known as “enhanced commonwealth”. For more information on “enhanced commonwealth” and why it is unconstitutional, see Puerto Rico Report. The link is here: http://www.puertoricoreport.org/enhanced-conmmonwealth-is-unconstitutional/.).

After winning the gubernatorial primary race, Mr. Fortuño went on to defeat the then-incumbent Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila of the PDP to win the general election for governor. Mr. Acevedo Vila was a corrupt politician, who as governor, was responsible for causing the island’s most recent economic recession back in 2006 (that recession caused a mass exodus of Puerto Ricans from the island to the mainland states, particularly to the state of Florida). Mr. Acevedo Vila was also indicted on criminal charges regarding campaign finance money from his 2000 race for Resident Commissioner. In addition to winning the races for governor and Resident Commissioner in the 2008 elections, the NPP also won supermajorities in the island’s Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the majority of mayoral races across Puerto Rico.

During his tenure as governor, Mr. Fortuño’s administration immediately got to work to restore the island’s economy, as well as to fight crime, improve education (particularly bilingual education), ensure equal treatment for Puerto Rico from the federal government and to promote a status bill (HR 2499 a.k.a. the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009-2010) in Congress that would authorized a federally-sanctioned status plebiscite in Puerto Rico. Unlike past status bills and plebiscites, the bill would call for a two-stage plebiscite determining the island’s political future. The first question would ask voters if they are satisfied with the current territory status. If a majority said yes, the plebiscite would be conducted again every 8 years. If a majority said they want change (the “no” option), then a second ballot would be held to provide voters with three alternative options to the current status: statehood and the two nationhood options (standalone independence and free association. The latter option is a type of treaty that three Pacific island countries- The Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau-have with the United States. As with any treaty, it could be terminated by either party). HR 2499 passed the U.S.  House of Representatives by a 54-vote margin (223-169) despite vocal opposition from the PDP and some of its influential allies and lobbyists in the mainland.  However, the U.S. Senate failed to act on the bill because its calendar was very full. The bill achieved two things. First, it mandated that Congress clarify the status options that are valid for Puerto Rico, as the PDP tried (and still does today) to push for the impossible “enhanced commonwealth” option, which is deemed unconstitutional by multiple presidential administrations (including the current one) and Congress. HR 2499 served to ensure voters that the only valid status options available are the current status, statehood, independence and free association. Second, HR 2499 made sure that Congress takes seriously any valid status option chosen by the majority of island voters in a future status plebiscite.

This past November, on election day, a plebiscite was held in Puerto Rico, the fourth since 1967. In the two stage plebiscite, 54% of almost 1.8 million voters rejected the current territory status on the first question. On the second question, 61% of almost 1.4 million voters chose statehood as the status choice to replaced the current status. And more voters (834,000+ voters) chose statehood on the second question than those who voted yes to the current status (around 828,000 voters) on the first question. For the first time ever, more people in Puerto Rico want the island to become a state of the Union than to remain as a territory. And support for statehood has only increased since the 2012 plebiscite.

The federal government has responded to the plebiscite results by requesting some funding to conduct the first federally-sanctioned status plebiscite in the island’s history. The proposed status plebiscite would serve to “resolve” the island’s political status. But this isn’t the only method pursued by authorities. This past May, Resident Commissioner Pierluisi has introduced a status bill, HR 2000 (a.k.a the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act), to set Puerto Rico on the path to becoming a U.S. state. The bill would provide for a yes-or-no vote on whether Puerto Rico should be admitted to the Union as a state. If a majority says yes, the President and Congress would have no more than 180 days to introduce legislation admitting Puerto Rico as a state after a transition period. HR 2000 currently has the support of more than 120 members of the House of Representatives. HR 2000 actually has its own website for people interested in supporting this historical project. The link is here: http://www.hr2000pr.com/en/

In Live Chat, Mr. Fortuño spoke with the people about what is next for Puerto Rico, the statehood movement and the road to statehood. You can read the Live Chat by checking this link: http://t.co/XZ05ULQ2CG