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 SandersSunday shows - Russia standoff over Ukraine dominates Sanders says Biden can't count on him to support 'almost any' spending package compromise Sanders says Republicans are 'laughing all the way to Election Day' MORE, Joe BidenJoe BidenUS threatens sweeping export controls against Russian industries Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country MORE, Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Airlines suspend US flights in response to 5G deployment AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G rollout near certain airports MORE, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenArizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE, Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill MORE and Tom SteyerTom SteyerYouth voting organization launches M registration effort in key battlegrounds Overnight Energy: 'Eye of fire,' Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry | Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline | More than 75 companies ask Congress to pass clean electricity standard Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline 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 TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll 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 PelosiHouse has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? Man who threatened to kill Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi pleads guilty to federal charges The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill 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 PierluisiJudge releases Puerto Rico from bankruptcy protection Puerto Rico requiring boosters for public school students, workers in tourism, entertainment Puerto Rico restricting business hours amid case surge MORE, a member of the Democratic Party who is now a PNP candidate for governor, endorses Mike Bloomberg for president. 

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.