Statehooders rally in DC, Orlando, PR
The rallies were stated on the 96 anniversary of the Jones Act, a federal law passed in 1917 that extended U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rico residents.
The demonstration at Lafayette Park outside the White House was headed by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s sole representative in Congress.
“Under our territorial status, my people have lived a partial and second-class citizenship for 96 years,” Pierluisi said. “But last Nov. 6 our long journey to equality took a big step forward. It was on that day that, for the first time, more Puerto Ricans voted to become a state than continue as a territory.”
Pierluisi, president of the New Progressive Party, was joined by other statehood leaders including NPP Rep. Jenniffer González and Rep. José Aponte, both former speakers of the island’s House of Representatives.
Among the other participants was Vietnam veteran Michael Quiles, who noted thatserved the nation on the battlefield without having the same rights as his comrades from the states.
“As an organization that has consistently fought to ensure that the 3.7 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico are able to exercise their full rights as U.S. Citizens, LULAC is marching in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico tomorrow,” said League of United Latin American Citizens National President Margaret Moran
The pro-statehood NPP is organizing the rallies to demand that the U.S. government honor the results of the most recent referendum regarding the Caribbean island’s political status.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but are not allowed to vote for a president and have a representative in Congress with limited voting rights.
In the first question of November’s two-part referendum, 54 percent of voters said they were not content with the current commonwealth status.
The second question asked what status was preferred. Of the about 1.3 million voters who made a choice, nearly 800,000 supported statehood, some 437,000 backed sovereign free association and 72,560 chose independence. But nearly 500,000 left that question blank.
The White House has said “the results were clear, the people of Puerto Rico want the issue of status resolved, and a majority chose statehood in the second question.”
“Now is the time for Congress to act and the administration will work with them on that effort so that the people of Puerto Rico can determine their own future,” reads the statement by the White House issued in early December.
The Puerto Rican Independence Party and NPP maintain that the results of the two-step plebiscite represent a clear rejection of the continuation of the current territorial status. Those voting “no” included statehood supporters, as well as advocates of independence and free association.
Gov. Alejandro García Padilla and his commonwealth Popular Democratic Party argue the ballot was rigged against the current status and that the empty ballots represent a protest against commonwealth’s exclusion from the second question. He has pledged to hold a constituent assembly on the status issue in 2014.