There's only one candidate for Democrats in Puerto Rico

There's only one candidate for Democrats in Puerto Rico
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Of the remaining contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mike Bloomberg is the only one who openly favors statehood for Puerto Rico. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats say Biden survived brutal debate — and that's enough The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate Trump, Biden clash over health care as debate begins MORE, Joe BidenJoe BidenPrivacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus Trump crowd chants 'lock her up' about Omar as president warns of refugees in Minnesota MORE, Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCindy McCain joins board of Biden's presidential transition team Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November MORE, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren slams Trump over Proud Boys comments Ocasio-Cortez, Warren pull out of New Yorker Festival amid labor dispute The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate MORE, Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE and Tom SteyerTom SteyerTV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month Inslee calls Biden climate plan 'perfect for the moment' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling | California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump | Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment MORE[1] have all hedged their position, claiming instead that the people of Puerto Rico should decide their political status.

Underlining the position held by the majority of the candidates is a calculated strategy, which aims to straddle the political factions that drive insular politics while avoiding any specific commitment concerning its status. It should be noted that of these candidates, Sanders, Biden, Warren and Klobuchar are, or have been, senators in Congress for many years — and have studiously ignored Puerto Rico’s status issues throughout their respective tenures.

It is well to remind these senators that it is Congress – not the presidency – that has plenary powers over the territories under Article IV, Section 3, of the Constitution. Any politician that claims to favor whatever the people of Puerto Rico decide, while failing to take specific actions to address the issue, is just kicking the can down the road.

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Even though Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they do not vote in presidential or congressional elections. This is the major constitutional consequence of being an unincorporated territory. We do participate, however, in the national party’s respective primaries. This limited participation in the democratic process has led to the inclusion in their respective platforms of language regarding the political future of Puerto Rico, which traditionally has been honored in the breach. Puerto Rico has 58 delegates to the Democratic convention, and 23 delegates to the Republican convention.

With regards to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE and the Republican Party, nothing should be expected on the status issue. In its 2016 platform the GOP declared that it supported “the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state.” Contrary to this statement, the last four years under Trump and Republican congressional leadership has been, if anything, duplicitous and in opposition to statehood. It remains to been seen what language the Republican Party will include in its platform concerning Puerto Rico.      

Given the growing importance of the Hispanic vote and the identity politics that drives much of the current national debate, the Puerto Rican vote has a role to play. The past 2018 midterm election of Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) with the support of the Puerto Rican vote is an indication of its importance in the national stage. It is not accidental that Scott favors statehood for Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans who have settled in Florida in recent years need to take notice of their political weight, particularly in light of the importance of the Electoral College in the presidential election.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, included in its 2016 platform the bromide that it believes “that the people of Puerto Rico should determine their ultimate political status from permanent options that do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States.” Since the Democratic Party regained the House in 2018, the majority under the leadership of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse On The Money: 'One more serious try' on COVID relief yields progress but no deal | Trump tax bombshell shines light on IRS enforcement | Senate passes bill to avert shutdown hours before deadline 'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal MORE has deliberately stalled Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González’s efforts to move a statehood admission bill that would settle the status issue.     

It is well known that the political factions in Puerto Rico are driven by the issue of status. Notwithstanding the imploded administration of then Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, the Legislative Assembly is still controlled by the New Progressive Party (PNP), which favors statehood. Current Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garcéd is identified with the Republican Party, and though claims to favor statehood, does not appear to be too interested in promoting it. Former Resident Commissioner Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiPuerto Rico Democratic boss: Party 'cannot support' AOC/Velazquez status bill Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez call for convention to decide Puerto Rico status Puerto Rico governor loses primary after second round of voting MORE, a member of the Democratic Party who is now a PNP candidate for governor, endorses Mike Bloomberg for president. 

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Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly recently submitted legislation for holding a “Statehood: yes or no” plebiscite. Given the low electoral turnout in the June 2017 plebiscite — which statehood opponents in Washington have used as an argument to delegitimize its overwhelming results in favor of statehood — it is politically sound to schedule it on the same day as the general election. Although it is unlikely that the Department of Justice will endorse this plebiscite, as provided by Public Law 113-76, statehood leadership should submit the ballot for its approval. No stone should be left unturned.    

Given that Mike Bloomberg is the only candidate that favors statehood for Puerto Rico, it behooves pro-statehood Puerto Rican Democrats to vote in favor of his nomination.

Andrés L. Córdova is a law professor at Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, where he teaches contracts and property courses. He is also an occasional columnist on legal and political issues at the Spanish daily El Vocero de Puerto Rico.