Obama to Puerto Rico: The U.S. Congress Decides Your Fate

By Julio R. Varela

In a much-heralded White House Roundtable Discussion today with journalists from Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL, President Obama offered his views about Puerto Rico’s quest to finally resolve its 113-year-old status debate. Here is the video of what he said:

Although President Obama said “the key here is that the status of Puerto Rico should be decided by the residents of Puerto Rico,” he also said that it comes with certain conditions:

  • Puerto Ricans must show an overwhelmingly majority for one option.
  • In the end, the US Congress is the FINAL VOICE of determining Puerto Rico’s political future. A plebiscite vote will only “influence” Congress to act.
  • If the island is split on status options, “it is hard to imagine that Congress would be wanting to impose a single solution on the island.”

The reality is that President Obama, even with his actions to form a new White House Task Force on Puerto Rican Status behind him, has basically reiterated the truth about Puerto Rico: Puerto Ricans on the island do not have the right to self-determination — the final voice and authority on determining Puerto Rico’s status is and always will be Congress.
The colony of Puerto Rico is alive and well, even after the world has seen cosmic changes in new governments being formed in places such as Cairo and Tripoli.
Puerto Ricans, according to President Obama, can vote for their future, but Congress will have the final say. And if the next non-binding plebiscite is not a slam dunk for one of the four options (independence, statehood, the commonwealth status quo, or free associate state), then nothing will happen and Puerto Rico will still be stuck, as it has been so ever since 1898, the year the United States invaded the island during the Spanish-American War.

This kind of reminds us of that famous line from The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

When will Puerto Rico wake up and realize that leaders from the United States and the island’s own leaders from all three major political parties are just feeding into the current status quo? When will the island and its people say that they won’t get fooled again?

[Photo By SKopp]

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