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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 SandersOvernight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' | Don't attack Zoom for its Bernie Sanders federal tax bill Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' MORE, Joe BidenJoe BidenObama, Clinton reflect on Mondale's legacy Biden, Harris commend Mondale in paving the way for female VP Mondale in last message to staff: 'Joe in the White House certainly helps' MORE, Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden looks to bolster long-term research and development White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations MORE, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWorld passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE, Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharJimmy Carter remembers Mondale as 'best vice president in our country's history' Hillicon Valley: Apple approves Parler's return to App Store | White House scales back response to SolarWinds, Microsoft incidents | Pressure mounts on DHS over relationship with Clearview AI Democrats push Twitter, Facebook to remove vaccine 'disinformation dozen' MORE and Tom SteyerTom SteyerCalifornia Democrats weigh their recall options Why we should be leery of companies entering political fray Steyer says he has 'no plans' to run for public office again 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 TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict 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 PelosiWhite House readies for Chauvin verdict House GOP's McClain responds to Pelosi calling her 'that woman' GOP struggles to rein in nativism 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 PierluisiDemocrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico Where to, Puerto Rico? Puerto Rico debt restructure plan threatens public pensions 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.