Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on April 29, 2010, the House, by a vote of 223-169, passed H.R. 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009. If enacted, this legislation would invite the people of Puerto Rico to indicate their preference for political status in a federally sanctioned process.
“Puerto Rico has been under the U.S. flag for more than 100 years. During that time, the people of Puerto Rico have paid allegiance to the United States and many sons and daughters from the Territory have fought and made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the principles and the values of the U.S. Constitution,” Faleomavaega said.
“Yet, in all this time, the people of Puerto Rico have not expressed their views in a U.S. Congress-sanctioned process on the question of whether they want to retain the current political status or prefer an alternative. As a member of the US House Committee on the Natural Resources, I have seen attempts and proposals over the years to address this ongoing debate on political status. Nonetheless, determining its political status remains a critical and central political issue in Puerto Rico today,” Faleomavaega added.
“This bill, HR 2499, would invite the people of Puerto Rico to indicate their preference for a political status in a two-stage process. First it authorizes a referendum to survey the views of the people of Puerto Rico based on the question whether they wish to retain the current political status or seek an alternative. If the results of the first referendum indicate that the people prefer the current status, the government of Puerto Rico is allowed to conduct regular plebiscites every eight years.”
“However, if the people of Puerto Rico indicate that they prefer an alternative status, there would be a subsequent plebiscite to survey their views based on three valid options. The three options are: 1) Independence—Puerto Rico should become fully independent from the United States; 2) Sovereignty in association with the United States—Puerto Rico and the United States should form a political association between sovereign nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution; 3) Statehood—Puerto Rico should be admitted as a State of the Union; or 4) Commonwealth—Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of political status,” Faleomavaega explained.
“While it is up to Congress to ultimately decide on the political status of Puerto Rico, I am pleased that this bill gives the people the chance to express their preference. It is my hope that when the people of Puerto Rico cast their votes that they make a determination that is totally free and is not influenced by political pressure,” Faleomavaega concluded.