The group that visited DC last week was composed of members of the Junte de Mujeres and Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora.
Mr. Farrow’s comments contain misstatements of facts. For example no members of the Nationalist Party attended. Also we strongly disapprove of the derogatory manner in which he characterizes as nationalist everyone who opposes statehood.
Saying that we are lobbyists implies that someone is paying us. None of us was paid to do this work and we are surprised that a paid lobbyist, would attack his own profession. (The New York Times wrote about Mr. Farrow in September 2015 [Link].) Unlike others that generally visit the halls of Congress and spread misinformation about Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rico we do this work out of LOVE.
We met with a cross-section of Congresspersons and their staff as well as think tanks. We do not have an obligation to play games to please anyone within US politics. The reaction from almost everyone both Republicans and Democrats, was respectful, understanding, and overwhelmingly positive. We were suggesting a solution to a problem that has been going on for more than a century and the overwhelming feedback was that they wanted to keep the conversation going. In sum: we were welcome in their offices and the information we provided was greatly valued.
The Junte and BUDPR advocated for a process where Puerto Ricans would be at the Steering Wheel, but Congress would indicate it was in favor of that process. [Read our one-pager: What Would a Process of Self-Determination Look Like for Puerto Rico [Link].] The process would include ALL options outside of the territorial clause, that is: Statehood, Free Association (not ELA-Commonwealth as that one is under the US. Constitution’s territorial clause), and Independence. Puerto Ricans would elect delegates to an assembly that would deliberate and come up with definitions of those options and Puerto Ricans would vote again to approve them. Then a negotiating commission would meet with a Congressional negotiating commission to talk it over. (A serious educational campaign would explain to Puerto Ricans what every option would entail. There is precedent for this, as an educational process is going on in Guam, for example, right now and it is funded by the US.) Thus, Puerto Ricans would decide (there would be self-determination) but an option would NOT be imposed, and we would know what Congress would be willing to do.
Statehood is legally defined, and so is independence. Yet both would require transitional periods where -like it or not- we would need to know what Congress would be willing to do. Besides, it is the stated position of all US branches of government that it is Congress that holds plenary powers over Puerto Rico.
Examples of what would need working out with Congress are: Would Congress be willing to grant statehood? Would it be willing to grant a statehood with Spanish as an official language and separate representation in international competitions (e.g. the Olympics) as statehooders frequently say. Would there be help for the government of the to-be-state of Puerto Rico finances? (A 2014 GAO study suggests effects would be negative [Link].) If independence were chosen, what would happen to US citizenship, US property, taxation of US Nationals residing in Puerto Rico on their income (the US makes US nationals pay income tax on their worldwide income). Could we have a treaty of free transit (like the Schengen treaty) to be able to live and work in the US even if there is no longer US citizenship and so that Americans can still live and work in PR? As for Free Association the Congress would need to say what would be the contours of a Free Association treaty to which they could agree, as after signature by the President it would need Congress’ ratification. Would it be like those treaties the US has with other island-nations or would it be different?
Mr. Farrow forgot to mention that in our meetings we always told everyone the truth: how we want no enmity with the US, or Americans. After all, half of all Puerto Ricans live in the US and we have no interest in harming our own relatives: brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, etc. We have no ill-will towards anyone, non-Puerto Ricans included. Indeed, we want Americans to prosper and be happy. And we hope for the best for all Americans, especially in this sadly divisive time.
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