How Hurricanes have affected the Puerto Rico status discussion
It’s been a few long months for Puerto Rico following the plebiscite earlier this summer. Puerto Rico’s statehood movement feels like it’s on shaky ground since the hurricanes hit. The rebuilding process is taking longer than necessary since the Jones Act was lifted and reinstituted. Puerto Ricans have long been American citizens, but getting help from the mainland United States has been a long slow process, and many Puerto Ricans have opted to leave rather than wait out the rebuilding process. With all the issues regarding the rebuilding process arguments regarding Puerto Rico’s status are slowly starting to emerge in a new light. Some are arguing for the free independence of Puerto Rico as they have always done, but some “die-hard” Independentistas are entertaining the thought of statehood now, as true independence, to them, seems out of reach.
The reality of the situation is that until this crisis is over, there will probably no large moves made towards statehood. The vote earlier this year was supposed to be the biggest news for Puerto Rico, and Governor Rosselló was going to enact his Tennessee plan. However, it is the belief of some that during rebuilding, the topic of status change should be at the front of everyone’s mind and agenda. While some think that the $10 billion recovery expenditure, on top of the previous debt, should render Puerto Rico out of the running for statehood, since they would not be of added value to the United States. On the other hand, many Americans believe that to deny statehood to the Puerto Ricans is an abuse of our fellow citizens, and then to leave them in a $10 billion lurch, and what is effectively a humanitarian crisis, is unacceptable.
Governor Rosselló has stayed prudent in his handlings with Congress and the President during this crisis. He knows that, in the long term, sparking animosities with Trump, who lashed out at Puerto Rico a few times, would only cause grief later on. Governor Rosselló entered office with the goal of achieving statehood and equality. He has asked the federal government several times, both before and after the hurricane, how can they believe in freedom and democracy while holding territories? Rosselló has been in regular contact with President Trump asking questions about recovery, statehood, and status since the hurricanes. He also wrote a letter to the congressional leaders that resulted in a $5 billion dollar to help keep the Puerto Rican government funded during this time. Following Hurricane Maria, Governor Rosselló demanded recovery aid equal to that of other states.
While the battle for statehood will still rage on for Puerto Rico, it will take longer than originally anticipated for the movement to regain its speed and momentum. For the now the people are trying to recover. But Puerto Rico is now in the foreground of American politics, and this could be a huge asset for challenging the status of Island of Puerto Rico.