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2010-04-28

House Vote on Puerto Rico’s Status Divides Hispanic Lawmakers

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The House is set to vote on a measure Thursday which could lead to Puerto Ricans casting a ballot in a referendum about whether they want to change the territory’s status with the US. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: And very quickly, the vote in Puerto Rico tomorrow?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, this has gotten very little attention, but there will be a vote tomorrow in the House of Representatives on a bill to authorize a new referendum over the status of Puerto Rico. It’s got about 183 co-sponsors. There’s actually a very good chance that it will pass. However, there is a huge division between the Puerto Rican members of Congress, with Congressman Joe Serrano a prime sponsor of the bill and with Nydia Velázquez and Luis Gutierrez of Chicago, the two other Puerto Rican members of Congress, opposing the bill.

The big problem is Serrano is saying to end the colonial status of Puerto Rico, you must first have a vote over whether Puerto Ricans want a change in status. Yes or no, do you want the current status? Or do you want to change the status? And if they vote "yes" for a change of status, the bill would then offer three choices: independence, statehood or free association, which is the United Nations’ recognized form of a decolonization, whereas the commonwealth supporters of Puerto Rico want to keep commonwealth as a potential choice. And the Serrano bill would not keep commonwealth —-

AMY GOODMAN: Which they have now.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Which they have now, and they would not keep commonwealth as a choice. It would only be free association, independence or statehood. So it would be a two-stage referendum. And so, Nydia Velázquez and Luis Gutierrez both feel that this is unfair to those who support the current status of commonwealth, and so -— but it does appear that it’ll be a close vote, and potentially, finally, you could get a referendum for Puerto Rico authorized by the US Congress, which has never happened. All of the other referendums up until now have been referendums that the Puerto Rican government itself held, but which Congress did not officially authorize.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll certainly cover this vote as it takes place.

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