Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Is Planning To Vote On U.S. Statehood Once Again And Here’s Why So Many Are Against The Idea

Puerto Rican’s are no stranger to referendums. Since 1967, they’ve had five chances to make their opinions known on U.S. statehood and each and every time, their voice hasn’t been listened to. Congress has failed to take up the issue after each referendum and local leaders are often guilty of using the referendum simply to drudge up support for their candidates.

But this upcoming referendum is different in that it comes at a crossroads for Puerto Rican politics. The island has been plagued by natural disasters, political scandals, and unprecedented hate crimes. Even Bad Bunny is letting his thoughts out on the referendum and many others have lots to say on the issue.

For the first time in the island’s history, the referendum will ask a single question: Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted as a U.S. state?

On Saturday, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood Republican governor, Wanda Vázquez, announced yet another vote on the question (the sixth since 1967 and the third since 2012). It’s a move that comes amid growing frustration with the island’s territorial government and its relationship with the mainland.

However, it’s a question that also outraged the island’s independence supporters and members of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party – which supports the status quo.

But it’s a gamble that members of the governor’s pro-statehood party are confident will pay off given that Puerto Rico has struggled to obtain federal funds for hurricanes Irma and Maria, a string of recent strong earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic amid growing complaints that the island does not receive fair and equal treatment.

“Our people will have the opportunity once and for all to define our future,” Vázquez said. “It’s never too late to be treated as equals.”

The upcoming referendum is just the recent in a long line of previously failed ones.

In the past, voters have been asked more than one question and presented with various options, including independence or continuing with the current territorial status – but none of them have ever been as direct as the upcoming one scheduled for the November 3 general election.

However, many on the island see the referendum as little more than a political move by the governor’s New Progressive Party to get voters out on Nov 3 – to boost her party’s candidates.

The New Progressive Party has been rattled with scandal after scandal and many are ready for change.

The past few years have not been good for the party – or the island for that matter. A string of devastating hurricanes, a severe debt crisis, ongoing corruption scandals that even forced a pro-statehood governor to resign, earthquakes, and now a global pandemic – have all led to challenging times in Puerto Rico. To some observers, the idea seems to be: Let’s dangle the illusion of a yes or no statehood referendum (nonbinding) that is already dead on arrival?

Many also feel that Gov. Vasquez is not truly authorized to make such a decision since she was never actually elected to the office. Instead, she became governor after Ricardo Rosselló was forced to resign following massive protests.

Meanwhile, the Republican government on the island doesn’t even have the support of the Republican-led federal government. The Trump administration’s blunt response was basically, “The first priority for all Puerto Rico leaders should be getting their financial house in order.”

This coming November, there will be plenty of incentive to vote “no” and punish the Vázquez administration. Even prominent figures such as Bad Bunny are jumping into the fray against her leadership.

What would statehood mean for Puerto Rico?

Statehood would award Puerto Rico two senators and five representatives, but it’s unlikely a Republican-controlled Congress would acknowledge the referendum because Puerto Rico tends to favor Democrats.

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections. And while the island is exempt from the U.S. federal income tax, it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes and receives less federal funding than U.S. states. Many believe the island’s territorial status has contributed to its struggle to recover from the hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as worsened its economic crisis, largely caused by decades of heavy borrowing and the elimination of federal tax incentives.

Congressman Steve King Of Iowa, Known For Racist Comments, Loses To Republican Challenger In Primary

Things That Matter

Congressman Steve King Of Iowa, Known For Racist Comments, Loses To Republican Challenger In Primary

Alex Wong / Getty Images

You might remember Representative Steve King of Iowa as the person who’s campaign attacked Parkland shooting survivor Emma González. The Republican politician is officially out of Congress after losing to Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra.

Iowa Senator Randy Feenstra defeated Representative Steve King in the Republican primary in Iowa.

Sen. Feenstra defeated Rep. King by 9.7 points ending the incumbent’s career after 18 years. Rep. King will still be a member of Congress during the remainder of the election as Republican Sen. Feenstra goes against Democrat J.D. Scholten. Scholten almost defeated Rep. King in 2018.

Rep. King’s controversial and offensive attitude led to his colleagues stripping him of his committee roles.

Rep. King was shunned by the Republican Party in 2019. The Congressman asked in an interview with The New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

The language was enough to draw harsh criticism from members of his party. He was stripped of all of his committee assignments because of the comments.

Rep. King has a long history of racist comments.

In 2016, Rep. King was on tv when he asked if nonwhite groups have contributed to society. The comments were met with instant criticism from people denouncing the racist comments.

“This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie,” Rep. King said on a panel. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

People are happy to see Rep. King lose his primary race.

There has been a movement to change politicians. It was clear in the 2018 elections that Americans wanted different representation when Democrats flipped enough seats in the House of Representatives to hold a majority over the Republicans. Rep. King is the latest in controversial Republican politicians to be voted out by upset constituents.

READ: AOC Called Out Rep. Steve King For Willfully Risking Pink Eye Instead Of Admitting Migrants Deserve Better Treatment

Protestors In Puerto Rico Bringing A Guillotine To The Governor’s Mansion Is Just Another Reminder Boricua’s Don’t Mess Around

Things That Matter

Protestors In Puerto Rico Bringing A Guillotine To The Governor’s Mansion Is Just Another Reminder Boricua’s Don’t Mess Around

@JoshuaPotash / Twitter

Like every other Latin American country and state, Puerto Rico has a long and torrid history with racism.

On the island, hundreds of protestors are now also taking place in the demonstrations that were sparked by the death of African-American police victim, George Floyd. In an effort to combat racism, protesters marched outside the mansion of Governor Wanda Vázquez in Old San Juan. Meanwhile, they chanted and demanded justice for George Floyd while also demanding change in Puerto Rico.

Ignoring the island’s coronavirus curfew, protestors took to the street and protested with all sorts of messages, but the one that truly caught those of us watching was the moment when protestors brought in a guillotine.

As anger and frustration continued to fuel the demonstrations, protestors brought in a massive guillotine to the Governor’s Mansion.

Shariana Ferrer-Núñez, a member of Puerto Rico’s Feminist Collective Under Construction, told Democracy Now that “We recognize that we must dismantle white supremacy, we must dismantle a racialized system, we must eradicate anti-Black violence” about the demonstrations.

According to the blog Orlando Latina, “For Puerto Rico’s elected class, the guillotine ought to be a terrifying symbol, as indeed it was during the French Revolution. But I doubt it, for the political class is a self-serving, self-dealing “firm” that has become unmoored from the people on the ground and oblivious to its needs.”

Here’s hoping this symbol hits elected officials in Puerto Rico enough to attempt to make change.