Wednesday, June 12, 2024

H.R. 2499 Passes, Creating Process for Determining Puerto Rico’s Status

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would give Puerto Ricans the ability to determine the future status of the commonwealth island.
For 112 years, Puerto Rico has had an official relationship with the United States.  However, by the process that was approved by a vote of 223 to 169, with one “present”, all eligible Puerto Rican voters, including those who were born on the island but reside in the US, now will have the chance to vote on whether or not the current political status should remain in effect.

If a majority of voters support the notion of change, then a second vote with four options: statehood, independence, the current commonwealth status, or an independent “free association” with the U.S. would occur.

Supporters of the measure say it gives citizens of Puerto Rico the right to self-determination. Opponents argue that this is a maneuver to impose statehood on a population that is content with its “commonwealth status”.

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) supported the measure, and deemed it necessary to ending what he calls “colonial rule.”  On the other side of the issue, fellow Democrat and New Yorker, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, labeled the act a “disgrace”, “shameful” and “appalling.”   She went on to say, “It is baffling that the statehood option, which lost in 1967, in 1993 and again in 1998, is now allowed to scheme its way to victory.”

If Puerto Ricans vote to become the 51st state in the union, Congress still would have to approve such an action.  Some believe this would be highly unlikely for political reasons – Republicans are unlikely to support granting Democrats a new stronghold of Hispanic voters – as well as financial.

Currently, the island is facing a banking crisis of its own, with rising unemployment, sinking real estate values and government finances that are making loans scarce.

Three of Puerto Rico’s largest banks are under a cease-and-desist orders from regulators and missed a March 31 deadline to raise new capital or combine with healthier banks.  The island’s economy has been struggling for years and is now faced with a 16.2 percent unemployment rate which is higher than even the state of Michigan.

Still, Pedro Pierluisi (D), who is Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate, and the island’s governor, Luis Fortuño (R), believe the legislation was important because while there had been similar votes in the past, none had ever been authorized by Congress.

Together at a news conference following the House vote Governor Fortuno said, “The American way is to allow people to vote, to express themselves and to tell their elected officials how they feel about their political arrangements. For 112 years, we haven’t had the chance . . . to fully participate in one way or another in the decisions that affect our daily lives.”

Washington Post


NY Times

NY Daily News


  1. Antonio says

    The Puerto Rican people should be able to decide their fate and the status of Puerto Rico needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Puerto Rico is not an island “content with its commonwealth status” as Representative Velasquez says. Puerto Rico is an island without an identity. Politicians do not argue and organize over policies, instead the status issue divides the island and the political parties on the island are driven solely by their position on the status.

    Puerto Rico needs an identity so that it can move forward, whether as a commonwealth, an independent country or an American state. This vote is a step in the right direction.

  2. Antonio, soy boricua and I am in favor of statehood.

    • Bwttina,

      I do not necessarily disagree with you. I just think something needs to be decided and the status issue needs to be put to rest so that Puerto Rico can move on!!!

  3. On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States with a landing at Guánica. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris. The United States and Puerto Rico thus began a long-standing relationship. Puerto Rico began the 20th century under the military rule of the U.S. with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United States.
    In 1947, the U.S. granted Puerto Ricans the right to elect democratically their own governor. Luis Muñoz Marín was elected during the 1948 general elections, becoming the first popularly elected governor of Puerto Rico. In 1950, the U.S. Congress approved Public Law 600 (P.L. 81-600) which allowed for a democratic referendum in Puerto Rico to determine whether Puerto Ricans desired to draft their own local constitution. This Act left unchanged all the articles under the Jones Act of 1917 that regulated the relationships between Puerto Rico and the United States.
    On October 30, 1950, Pedro Albizu Campos and other nationalists led a 3-day revolt against the United States in various cities and towns of Puerto Rico. The most notable occurred in Jayuya and Utuado. In the Jayuya revolt, known as the Jayuya Uprising, the United States declared martial law and attacked Jayuya with infantry, artillery and bombers. The Utuado Uprising culminated in what is known as the Utuado massacre. On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Harry S Truman. Torresola was killed during the attack, but Collazo was captured. Collazo served 29 years in a federal prison, being released in 1979. Don Pedro Albizu Campos also served many years in a federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia, for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government in Puerto Rico.
    During the 1950s Puerto Rico experienced rapid industrialization, due in large part to Operación Manos a la Obra (“Operation Bootstrap”), an offshoot of FDR’s New Deal, which aimed to transform Puerto Rico’s economy from agriculture-based to manufacturing-based. Presently, Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination, and it is the world’s leading pharmaceutical manufacturing center. Yet it still struggles to define its political status. Three plebiscites have been held in recent decades to resolve the political status, but no changes have been attained. Support for the pro-statehood party, Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), and the pro-commonwealth party, Partido Popular Democrático (PPD), remains about equal. On November 27, 1953, shortly after the establishment of the Commonwealth, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved Resolution 748, removing Puerto Rico’s classification as a non-self-governing territory under article 73(e) of the Charter from UN. But the General Assembly did not apply its full list of criteria to Puerto Rico to determine if it has achieved self-governing status. According to the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Political Status in its December 21, 2007 report, the U.S., in its written submission to the UN in 1953, never represented that Congress could not change its relationship with Puerto Rico without the territory’s consent. It stated that the U.S. Justice Department in 1959 reiterated that Congress held power over Puerto Rico pursuant to the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution
    You see, is not our fault, is the United State of America’s mess that created all the inconvenience of today.