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April 29, 2010

Velázquez on H.R. 2499

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives today during debate on H.R. 2499, legislation related to Puerto Rico’s political status.  Following are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Since its inception, this legislation has been engulfed in controversy.  Not only was this bill drafted unilaterally, but it was prepared in a biased manner -- with a predetermined outcome in mind. Let us be clear -- this legislation is designed to push the statehood agenda, regardless of whether that agenda is the best solution for the Island, or even popular among the people.  

“I tell you, this legislation has no business being on the floor today. It raises a host of questions.  It has zero probability of becoming law.  However it does place members in the awkward position explaining why they are meddling in Puerto Rico when a request from Puerto Rico has not even been made.

“There are economic issues that we must address first. The President has ordered his White House Task Force on Puerto Rico to advise him and Congress on policies and initiatives that promote job creation, education, clean energy and health care.  Instead of dealing first with the very real concerns of how the people of Puerto Rico survive day by day, we are telling them our priority is to debate a status bill that will not become law.  This is a disgrace.

“It is baffling that the statehood option, which lost in 1967, in 1993 and, again, in 1998, -- is now allowed to scheme its way to victory.   It is at the urging of this losing side that House Members have cosponsored a bill that will push for yet another electoral process.  Except this time, the proposal that was previously rejected is being put in a privileged position.  Those who drafted this legislation would exclude Commonwealth status in the planned plebiscite by developing a shell game -- with a first round process to delegitimize it. 

“The process that enabled the creation of the Commonwealth was adopted by Congress.  The Puerto Rico Constitution was ratified by Congress and this form of government has been upheld by our U.S. Courts.  That’s why it is so appalling, deceitful and shameful that the people of Puerto Rico would be denied this option. No matter how much statehood supporters complain about Commonwealth -- it is the law of the land.

“Congress should not be in the business of picking winners and losers for these kinds of referenda.   It is not our job to create artificial conditions that will enable statehood to win a popular vote in Puerto Rico.  Becoming a State of this Union is something that people must embrace knowingly, voluntarily and openly.  If the people of Puerto Rico want to become a State, the Statehood option should stand on its own.  There should be no need to hide behind process or petty politics.

“In a matter as fundamentally important to over 4 million Puerto Ricans, you would think that a public hearing could have been convened to listen to their views.  It is, after all, their future that is at stake.   It is an outrage that a congressional hearing on the status issue has not been held in Puerto Rico since the 1990s.

“As many know, I have advocated for a constitutional convention to begin the process of determining Puerto Rico’s status.  Certainly this is not the only option for going forward.  But, a sham of a process is definitely not a valid democratic option for choosing Puerto Rico’s future. 

“The concept of self determination is fundamental to democracy.  Sadly, H.R. 2499 turns its back on this principle.  We must not allow politics to undermine our democratic values nor be swayed by arguments that make no sense.

“I urge my colleagues to stand up for what is truly right.  Choose principles over politics.  Let Puerto Ricans decide their own destiny -- without undue Congressional demands. Vote no on H.R. 2499.”