Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló is “nudging” Congress to consider Puerto Rico statehood this summer, a controversial plan to address the island territory’s debt problem. Now, Rosselló says that the debt crisis actually obscures the root issue — colonialism.
In an interview with NBC Latino last week, Rosselló said, “We recognize there is a debt problem, we’re dealing with it…But trying to say, ‘Hey guys, work on that and come back to us,’ is kind of ignoring the root cause of the problem, which is colonialism.”
While statehood initiatives have failed in the past, Gov. Rosselló has a powerful incentive driving him forward: Puerto Rico’s economy is currently crippled by a staggering $74 billion in debt.
In response to critics of his statehood push, Rosselló says that he is pursuing a number of strategies to solve the debt crisis, NBC Latino reports.
On June 11, 97% of voters supported a new push for statehood; however, those numbers only tell part of the story. Opponents of statehood actually boycotted the vote altogether, and even though election turnout is historically very high in Puerto Rico, only 23% of the territory’s voters participated in the latest statehood referendum.
Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to admit new states to the union, which means Rosselló would need to convince Republican legislators to back the statehood initiative. To build support for the plan, the governor has been meeting with unnamed members of congress behind the scenes.
So far, Rosselló has the support of at least one high-profile Latino legislator. Representative Joaquín Castro of Texas recently took to Twitter to voice his support for Puerto Rico statehood.
Puerto Rico should be admitted as a state to the United States. https://t.co/q5jahbqtCe
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) June 11, 2017
Florida Representative Darren Soto also supports Puerto Rico statehood, and he recently tweeted that “Puerto Rico’s civil rights can’t wait.”
But with Congress working through a contentious healthcare plan and looming budget battles on the horizon, finding majority support for Puerto Rico statehood may be a tall order.