It’s no secret the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States has thorny connotations — especially for those who grit their teeth when they hear the word “colonialism.”
The reality is that Puerto Rico has been under U.S. control for more than 120 years and, while often called a “territory,” many agree that the island’s treatment is that of a “modern colony.”
In response, members of Congress have sponsored competing bills to come up with the best solution to Puerto Rico’s territorial status. This time, they have joined forces to introduce legislation that combines all efforts.
As NBC News reported, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, has helped lead a month-long effort to get lawmakers on opposing sides of the Puerto Rico territorial status debate to reach some compromises on the recently introduced Puerto Rico status bill.
To delve into the details and implications of the project, freelance journalist Bianca Graulau sat down for a conversation with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz in a new episode of her podcast.
In her introduction, Graulau explained that Puerto Ricans have voted six times to decide their status, but those votes were non-binding, and therefore Congress did not have to abide by the results.
However, although it would involve another voting process, the lawmakers’ new bill would force Congress to get involved. Puerto Ricans would have to choose between statehood, independence, or free association.
“Es un milagro, for sure,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz in her conversation with Graulau. “I did not think in a million years that we would be able to get to this point after over a hundred years of colonization by the United States and over 500 years of colonization period.”
Ocasio-Cortéz explained that, after so many years of debate over Puerto Rico’s status, “it was frankly quite shocking” to have had a moment where both sides of the aisle were willing to come to the table and come up with a solution.
Lawmakers were able to create a nonpartisan process and did not favor a vote on any status.
“Very often, in past controversies with status elections in Puerto Rico, [the problem was] that the way they are constructed has been challenged as biased,” Ocasio-Cortéz explained, “and engineered to favor a certain outcome (statehood).”
The representative went on to say that the new bill is historic, first, because it is binding on the United States, as in previous votes, Congress had no obligation to honor the results. If passed, the bill would obligate the United States to engage and self-execute on the results.
The second thing the bill does is put three options on the table for a status choice: full statehood, sovereign free associated state in treaty with the United States, or complete independence.
You can watch the full conversation between Bianca Graulau and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz below.
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