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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    Let Puerto Rico decide

    This appeared in the New York Daily News

    We talk a lot in these pages about self-determination, whether it be for the people of Iran, China, Ukraine or elsewhere where the preferences of ordinary folks are made secondary to grander designs by self-appointed leaders (including certain U.S. leaders who would like to choose their voters as opposed to the other way around).

    There’s one community close to home who, despite birthright U.S. citizenship and a population larger than that of almost 20 states, has had their preferences ignored even in the face of a conclusive referendum. That is Puerto Rico, which in spite of multiple largely ceremonial territorial votes in favor of a transition to statehood has never been given a real chance to determine its standing and future.

    A bill recently passed with bipartisan support in the House would finally correct this situation by creating a process for a binding referendum in which Puerto Ricans could pick between the options of statehood, full independence, and a free association arrangement similar to our deal with the Marshall Islands, among others. In a bit of political sleight of hand, keeping the current commonwealth status — which is certainly antiquated but some Puerto Ricans still prefer — is not an option.

    Nonetheless, the bill is a sensical step towards carrying out the ideals that this country purports to live by, which makes it unfortunate that the proposal has dismal chances of making it through the Senate given significant Republican opposition. Many reasons have been given, including a supposed lack of debate over the bill, but the real reason is clear as day: GOP senators don’t want to be joined by an additional two senators from Puerto Rico, who they assume would be Democrats. If these legislators could somehow ensure that Puerto Rican lawmakers were Republicans, they’d be singing a different tune.

    It’s unfortunate that this political consideration is stopping 3.6 million Americans from being able to decide their fate for themselves. It may not happen now, but the public will shall prevail one way or another.

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