A divided Puerto Rico commemorates 70 years of its political status
By Marina Villén
San Juan, Jul 25 (EFE).- Puerto Rico’s opposition Popular Democratic Party (PPD) made a call on Monday to protect the constitution of the Commonwealth, which is turning 70, in an event from which Governor Pedro Pierluisi, a supporter of the annexation of the island from the United States, was conspicuously absent.
The official commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the constitution of Puerto Rico and of its proclamation as a commonwealth territory of the US coincides with political moves by the local government to decide on a binding plebiscite for a non-colonial future for the island.
While the governor and his New Progressive Party (NPP) advocate “statehood” (annexation as a full-fledged state), the PPD is a strong supporter of the current political status, which is in danger of not being included as an option in the referendum.
“The constitution of the Commonwealth is the most important collective conquest of our people. Therefore, our duty is to protect it; understanding that it is the symbol that unites us under a single purpose that is the progress of Puerto Rico,” PPD leader and Senate president José Luis Dalmau said in a speech.
In a ceremony on the steps of the Capitol, seat of the legislature, Dalmau asked to “celebrate how good the Commonwealth is” and stressed that the constitution of 1952 established “a relationship based on a unique partnership.”
“On one hand, it links us with our brothers in the north through common citizenship, but at the same time it recognizes the space that belongs to us, when we proudly reaffirm our cultural identity,” he added.
The speeches were preceded by the hoisting of the Puerto Rican flag, anthems, a parade of the National Guard, folk dances, a float of the queens of the Carnaval de Ponce, and comparsas.
In addition to the governor, San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero, also a member of the PNP, was not present at the event.
Both were scheduled to speak, but neither gave speeches nor posted anything about the commemoration on their social media accounts.
The celebration was also marked by some protests in front of the main dais that required the intervention of the police.
Some protesters held a banner that said “Colonialism is not celebrated, it is fought,” while another denounced the invasion of Puerto Rico.
The debate on the island’s political status is an ongoing one and, in order to resolve it, the NPP government has prepared, together with the Democrats in Washington, the “Puerto Rico Status Act” that was passed last week in the Natural Resources Committee and now goes to the US Congress for a vote.
If all the formalities are completed, the plebiscite will be held in November 2023 and will present three options: statehood, sovereignty in free association with the US, and independence.
The current political status is not included as it is considered colonial, something that has caused controversy on the island, just as annexation from the US is viewed with suspicion by Republicans.
Last week, Republican Senator Roger Wicker presented another bill that includes the Commonwealth as an option in a plebiscite.
During the last decade, Puerto Rico has held three local, non-binding plebiscites, in which a majority of voters chose statehood, the last of them in November 2020, although they did not present the other status options. EFE