Puerto Rico debates its future political status in relation to the United States. Hundreds of Puerto Ricans packed a convention center to hear and debate with a group of federal legislators who seek to hold the first binding referendum in history.
This referendum would propose three options: full merger of Puerto Rico into the United States, independence, or retaining the island’s, as of now, Commonwealth status.
The group of federal legislators is headed by Raúl Grijalva, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee of the United States House of Representatives.
,This is a very important bill and it brings us to a landmark point. Grijalva says. I think previous referendums were driven by a desire to declare intent. But what we are saying here is that it is law and binding law.”
In the middle of the debate, Eliezer Molina, a former candidate for governor in favor of independence, and others burst into the room, accusing legislators of exploiting natural resources.
,Puerto Rico Is Facing Unprecedented Destruction Of Our Natural Resources Right Now, That they steal our beaches, that they steal our forests. they are ruining the country -says Eliezer Molina-. And I think it’s time that if they, who represent natural resources, don’t worry about it, the people here are going to, because they’re tired.”
Unlike supporters of independence, others dream of full integration into the United States.
“We want it to benefit. All those opportunities: health, education, roads, everything that’s progress that comes to puerto rico and we have the right to vote for presidentby the Congressmen there.Says a Puerto Rican.
Referendum in November 2023?
The draft law proposes a referendum on the island’s status on 5 November 2023, with a possible second round in March 2024, if no option receives an absolute majority.
The measure proposes that a full merger be announced in a year, although the promoters themselves admit they will need other legislation to begin the transition.
With regard to the options for independence and free association, the draft provides a transition process that guarantees the same financial support that currently comes from Washington.
However, the proposal is unlikely to survive the US Senate, where Republicans oppose Puerto Rico becoming the 51st US state.
Puerto Rico is currently a commonwealth of the United States, which allows it, thanks to its own constitution, a certain degree of autonomy. However, borders, defense, and foreign relations are the exclusive responsibilities of Washington. Furthermore, Puerto Ricans, despite being US citizens, cannot vote in presidential elections, are denied certain federal benefits, and have limited voting power for their representative in Congress.