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DNC: Puerto Ricans come to DNC seeking independence, statehood

By   /   September 6, 2012  /   News  /   7 Comments

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

Puerto Rican voters will determine their island’s status in a Nov. 6 referendum

CHARLOTTE — For the fourth time in nearly five decades, Puerto Ricans will be asked to go to the polls and decide their island’s fate.

A referendum on Nov. 6 will ask residents if they wish to continue their current status as an unincorporated commonwealth of the United States, become an American state or become fully independent.

Puerto Rico first came under U.S. control as a spoil of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and has been a commonwealth ever since.

“Puerto Rico has 114 years under the American flag, and I think it’s time for us to become first-class citizens,” said former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, the first U.S. mayor born in Puerto Rico and the first Hispanic to hold that position. “Either U.S. citizens or first-class citizens of an independent Puerto Rican republic,” he told Florida Watchdog in a telephone interview.

“In our case, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that you can have second-class American citizens,” said Ferre, nephew of the former Puerto Rican Gov. Rico Luis A. Ferré.

Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre

“The second-class citizen cannot vote for president and cannot have representation in the legislative body in the United States Congress. That is the current situation of 3.7 million U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico,” the Democrat said.

Ferre said that for practical and moral reasons, Puerto Ricans had to define the status that has remained uncertain for more than 100 years.

“On the vote in Puerto Rico, I think the people will keep the current relationship as commonwealth,” Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia told Florida Watchdog while attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

“I’m going to vote that way and that’s my game. But there are people in Puerto Rico who think differently,” he said. “We have 4 million Puerto Ricans in the United States and a large concentration found in central Florida.”.

The Democratic Party platform, being crafted this week at the DNC, is widely expected to address the Puerto Rican issue in an amendment, clarifying that the president will support a congressional vote over the status of the island, according to Puerto Rico Decide.

At last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Puerto Rico received a burst of national attention, thanks in part to speeches by Gov. Luis Fortuño and his wife Lucé Vela Gutierrez.

Voters from Puerto Rico participate in both party primaries for president, but they are barred from casting votes in the general election.

Democratic Puerto Rican Senator Eduardo Bhatia

“I think this is an opportunity to solve that problem. I would first vote for staying a commonwealth and my second option would be becoming a state,” Ferre said.

He also told Florida Watchdog that Puerto Rico remains a very poor island, and any big changes in tax policy would adversely affect the economy of the region.

“It’s a very poor island and we must look for solutions to this problem, especially looking at how we don’t have full freedom as citizens,” said the former Mayor.

He added that Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada experienced strong economic growth when they became states, and he is optimistic it could happen again.

“This is what could happen to Puerto Rico if it were to become a U.S. state,” said Ferre.

Bhatia, who also was executive director of Federal Affairs Administration in Washington, D.C., office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, said it was a shame that the governor of Fortuño is focusing his campaign on Republican ideas like eliminating the national Affordable Care Act.

“The case of Puerto Rico has been discussed for more than 100 years in Washington and in many places. It’s time you put an end to this discussion and to respect the will of the people of Puerto Rico,” said Bhatia. “The important thing is that we have mutual decision.”

In political terms, the former mayor said Democrats would benefit most from the vote because of Puerto Ricans’ affinity for more progressive policies.

Republican Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño

“The majority of Puerto Ricans in Florida and New York are Democrats, but nonetheless we have Republican governors. My uncle was one of them and the current governor, Luis Fortunio, is one,” said Bhatia. “But I definitely favor the Democrats over the Republicans.”

Puerto Rico also had referendums related to territorial status in 1967, 1993 and 1998. If the majority of the plebiscite vote of Nov. 6 decides to change Puerto Rico’s status, the next step would be a bill introduced into Congress.

That request would have to be approved by the House, the Senate and then be confirmed by the president in a bill of law.

Interview with Puerto Rican Senator Eduardo Bhatia:


Contact Marianela Toledo at [email protected]

Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.


Yaël formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • NKarahal

    How did EVER get that headline from this story?
    The Independence party has NEVER received more than 8% of a vote here, and was nearly disqualified as a major party last time around. The battle here is between statehood and first-class American citizenship vs. the status quo, which the Demo platform says has “held Puerto Rico back.”

  • Elpoderlatino

    Eduardo is right on most of the point’s he made. He is right because 51% of the population here in Puerto-Rico will vote to remain a commonwealth of the U.S. I respect the decision other Puerto Rican’s will make on the 6 of november. I know for a fact that most of us Puerto-Rican’s do not wan’t to EVER! become a state of the U.S! it will never happen. I personally believe in Independence, and i hope one day we can become a independent nation.

  • The closest Puerto Rico will ever get to statehood is on the “States and Territories” 25-cent pieces. Go ahead, vote for statehood in overwhelming numbers and you will have your hearts and pride broken when Congress refuses you. On the other hand, if you, my island Boricua brothers and sisters, vote to continue as a Commonwealth Colony, then you have no cojones to stand on your own. You have lost your way and you will continue to be…


  • PuertoRican88

    well said my brother, I seek to stay as a commonwealth or become fully independent as a spanish country.

  • Dear Partner,


    Those who accept colonialism believe in discrimination. Now that we know that the political parties will not solve this problem, I invite you to join the non-violent protest to demand that the United States (US) decolonize Puerto Rico (PR) immediately. It will be on Monday, June 17, 2013 from 8 AM to 5 PM outside the United Nations (UN) visitor’s entrance located on 46th Street and First Avenue in New York City.

    The UN has determined that colonialism is a crime against humanity in 1960 under Resolution 1514 (XV). That’s why the UN celebrates every year a hearing about Puerto Rico decolonization. Every year the UN puts forth a resolution asking the US to decolonize PR. Despite 30 of these resolutions, PR is still the oldest and most populated colony in the world! It is obvious by now that the US is not going to decolonize PR just because the UN asks.

    Through education, we must create a domestic and international solidarity with this cause to pressure the US to do what historically she has refused to do. This is why we need everyone who also believes that colonialism is a crime against humanity to join the protest to demand compliance to international law!

    Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US for 114 years. The US’ intention is to keep PR a colony forever unless we do something about it. It is important to note that: democracy isn’t what a government does. Democracy is what people do!
    President John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” These ideas, of course, are the reasons why the United Nations was created after World War II.

    It is up to us to defend the fundamental human rights that promote world peace. The tragedy of doing nothing is that we will have the kind of government that we deserve!


    José M. López Sierra

    For more information:
    Compañeros Unidos para la Descolonización de Puerto Rico

  • TRUTH007




  • JoseMLopezSierra

    Greetings Partner,

    We need to work together to decolonize
    Puerto Rico and free Oscar López Rivera.
    Join 2 peaceful protests until it is accomplished!

    We will have a peaceful protest on Saturday,
    November 23rd in Puerto Rico for the liberation of our
    patriot and political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Click on the link below for more information.

    Un abrazo,