Puerto Rico statehood supporters are facing opposition from the most prominent boricuas in Congress.
Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter this week asking their fellow Congress members to oppose H.R. 2000, a resolution that would initiate an up-or-down statehood referendum on the island.
“This flawed piece of legislation would force a federally sanctioned vote in which making Puerto Rico the 51st State would be the only option on the ballot, despite the fact that more than half of the voters rejected that option in a referendum held last year,” the letter says.
Instead, Gutierrez and Velazquez suggest holding a Constitutional Convention or proceeding the status referendum included in President Barack Obama's budget proposal.
"Given the intentionally flawed nature of last year’s referendum, a true process of self-determination should take place in which all the available options are presented to the voters in Puerto Rico,” the letter says.
The island’s non-voting representative in Congress, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, filed the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act in May, later saying he would take the fight for statehood to the United Nations if Congress declined to address it.
“The current status has lost its democratic legitimacy,” Pierluisi told the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization last month. “The only path forward is statehood or nationhood.”
Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party has aggressively pushed the issue since claiming victory in a non-binding referendum on the island’s status in November.
But the results did not amount to a clear mandate for observers on the mainland.
The two-part referendum began by asking whether voters were satisfied with their relationship with the United States. Dissatisfaction emerged victorious with 54 percent.
The second question asked whether voters would like to become a U.S. state, totally independent or a freely associated state -- a voluntarily limited independence in close association with the United States. Remaining a commonwealth was not option.
Statehood received the most votes, but more than 480,000 voters cast blank ballots at the urging of incoming Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, who supports maintaining the status quo. Statehood supporters omit the intentionally blank votes from the total to argue that they won a majority. But when including the blank votes, statehood won only 46 percent of the vote.
Puerto Rico has held four inconclusive status plebiscites since 1967.