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It’s in Washington’s hands

The United States Territory of Puerto Rico is at an historic crossroads. For decades the plight of the more than 3.6 million American citizens living on the Island has been neglected by Congress.

Each new session of Congress has had its own excuse as to why it did not want tackle the political limbo that this U.S. Territory has been in since the Spanish-American War of 1898. Time’s up!

{mosads}Puerto Rico can’t take it anymore. We need Washington to step up and solve, once and for all, this matter. We need this Congress to act on the will of the people of the Island who voted in 2012 against the current territorial status and in favor of statehood.

To put it in simple terms, the political limbo in which we live has caused an economic stagnation not seen since the beginning of the twentieth century. For example, economic data show that due to the prolong recession, people are not buying houses. In fact, there was a sharp 29.5 percent drop in the number of new mortgages generated in the fourth quarter of 2014. That figure contrasts dramatically to the one seen in the rest of the Nation where housing value jumped 1.4 percent in 2014.

The historical migration of more than 100,000 people in less than two years has something to do with it, but the main problem has been and remains the political status.

Because of the uncertainty of what would happen to our Island and the restriction placed upon her by what can only be described as a ‘colonial government,’ Puerto Rico has not been able to promote itself, to use its resources to better the quality of life of its residents.

Washington has to intervene, and it must be now. There are several bills pending in this Congress aimed at giving Puerto Rico equality with the rest of the States.

There’s H.R. 870, which was introduced by our Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi on February 11, which would empower the government of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to authorize one or more of its government-owned corporations, if they were to become insolvent, to restructure their debts under Chapter 9 of the federal Bankruptcy Code, as all state governments are already empowered to do under current law.

But the most important piece of legislation pending is the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act, a bipartisan bill that would result in the Island becoming a state on January 1, 2021 once a majority of the electorate in Puerto Rico votes in favor of admission in a federall sponsored vote. 

The bill is in direct response to a November 2012 referendum in Puerto Rico, sponsored by the local government, in which voters soundly rejected territory status and expressed a clear preference for statehood.  

I urge the members of this Congress to make a difference, to tell the world that the United States remains the ‘Shining city upon the hill,’ as former president Roland Reagan said, and admit Puerto Rico into the Union of States.

There’s no need for further delay. We do not need another committee to evaluate the matter or have the White House draft another ‘White Paper’; we need action from this Congress.

The matter is in Washington’s hands now.

Aponte-Hernández was speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives from 2005 to 2009.


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