Monday, July 27, 2009
By: Phillip Arroyo Rodriguez
Various days ago, I had a conversation with a good friend with whom I consistently exchange viewpoints on the everyday issues of Puerto Rico and our nation. We discussed local and national politics, formed opinions on President Obama’s Health Care Reform Crusade and Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno’s economic public policy on the island to confront the worldwide financial crisis. As usual, sooner or later, the topic of Puerto Rico’s political status dilemma resurfaced and once again we found ourselves analyzing the current situation of the island’s political status debate and its discussion in US Congress.
As open self determination supporters, we expressed how frustrating it was to watch HR 900 The Puerto Rico Democracy Act die in the past 110th Congress. Hundreds of emails, letters and educational videos were not enough for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ultimately decide to bring HR 900 down for a House floor vote. Not to mention over 120 Co Sponsors among her fellow members of Congress who supported the bill and openly requested a floor vote, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Nonetheless, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives did not budge, adding fuel to allegations of her loyalty to the local Status Quo Party on the island which promotes Puerto Rico to remain as a US territory and preserving its colonial nature within the United States. “In order to solve Puerto Rico’s political status issue, there must be consensus from the people of Puerto Rico, in order for legislative action to be taken by this Congress”, expressed Pelosi back in 2007.
Two years have gone by, and not surprisingly, history does seem to repeat itself. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act was once again filed in the new 111th Congress, under Bill number HR 2499, by Puerto Rico’s newly elected non voting member of Congress, Pedro Pierluisi. As of today, the Bill enjoys the support of over 161 Co Sponsor in Congress. Sounds like consensus to me! Yet once again we observe the opponents and non facilitators of democracy moving their pawns with the sole historical and consistent objective of obstructing any self determination process that would give the 4 million American citizens a federal endorsed and final say on their political relation with the rest of our nation. It is indeed grotesque to watch how these individuals, social groups and even a minority of members of Congress lobby to deny the American citizens of Puerto Rico that opportunity.
“A constitutional convention should be held in Puerto Rico to attend the island’s political status issue”, says New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. Congresswoman Velazquez has stated that a group of political and civic leaders on the island should meet and decide the future political fate of Puerto Rico and not the people of Puerto Rico. Velazquez takes pride in expressing her die hard motivation and vocation to serving the less fortunate, the needy and the voiceless under our beloved Democratic Party, most famously known as “The Party of the PEOPLE”.
Yet, with her consistent and instrumental obstructive influence on this issue, she almost seems as though she has jumped party lines and acts as if she was a Republican, at least on this issue! I mean, last time I checked, it is the Republican Party that prefers to put important and critical decisions in the hands of the priveleged and powerful or as President Bush so arrogantly stated in 2003, “the nation’s elite”. The voice of the people is what has defined our Democratic Party for decades, having maximized this vision during the 1960’s civil rights movement.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois has also expressed his shared support with Nydia Velazquez in stopping the voice of island Puerto Ricans to be heard. Some say, these members of Congress have leverage when it comes to the political status debate of Puerto Rico. Some even interpret their expressions as ones that are reflective of the will and desire of the people on the island. And yet, they are hardly seen on the island, with exception of sporadic trips made to raise funds for their campaigns. Having lived, in Congressman Gutierrez’s case, their entire lives in the continental United States, today they create the perception in Congress that not only are they the voice of their respective constituents in New York and Illinois, but of the people of Puerto Rico as well. This notion is entirely false and is geared and designed in coordination with the local Status Quo Party to kill any self determination mechanism for Puerto Rico in Congress.
If we look for a clearer example or solid evidence of my allegation of partial and unobjective views by them on this issue, we need look no further than the tenure of Nydia Velazquez as the New York Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Director under former Puerto Rico Governor Rafael Hernandez Colon. Guess what party banner Hernandez Colon ran under. That’s right, it’s too easy, the local Status Quo Party. Velazquez used the bully pulpit of her office to prepare her run for Congress. Most probably a strategy carefully crafted by Governor Hernandez Colon and the Status Quo Party to insert one of their own in Congress and put a halt to an already anticipated and growing pro statehood movement on the island.
Now she represents a mainland congressional district as a VOTING representative. Yup, the same person that believes Puerto Ricans should continue to have a NON VOTING member in Congress and should not vote for the President. Hypocrisy? Maybe… Contradicting? Without a doubt. A doctorate in political science is not required to conclude the agendas of the above mentioned members of Congress who despite of proudly preaching their Puerto Rican pride on stages and at political rallies, today they turn their backs on their own people.
Today, Nydia Velazquez and Luis Gutierrez advise our President Barack Obama on Hispanic issues and have already mentioned that HR 2499 The Puerto Rico Democracy Act is NOT a priority for this 111th Congress. They seem to forget or purposely avoid remembering the historical landslide the Pro Statehood Party in Puerto Rico obtained during the past November elections. Over 1 million 25 thousand Puerto Ricans voted for the party, representing 54 % of the electorate. Such a large margin of victory had not been reached for almost half a century.
Also known as the “New Progressive Party”, the political organization took control of practically all elective positions within the local government, having won the Governorship, Non voting Congressional seat, all state Senate districts, super majority in the House, and a vast majority of the municipalities as well. And most recently, newly elected pro Statehood Governor Luis Fortuno appointed three new members to the local Supreme Court who appear to share the Governor’s vision in regards to Puerto Rico’s political status discussion. I’m no expert on election day results and analysis but I believe it’s safe to say there was a very clear and solid mandate sent to US Congress by the people of Puerto Rico.
Therefore, and in summary. All the eyes of our nation, if not the world, will be on Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the next 3 years. Will our Speaker decide to do the right thing and bring down HR 2499 down for a vote like she has insurmountable times on issues pertaining to injustice and inequality of American citizens? Will she and our President choose to listen to 2 Puerto Rican members of Congress who have openly exposed their agendas or will they in turn listen to the PEOPLE, the millions of American citizens of Puerto Rico who sent a crystal clear message to Washington,DC on November 4th, 2008?
I bet all my marbles that our Party’s leadership and our President will make good on our Democratic Party’s legacy and as Robert Kennedy once expressed at a civil rights rally during the 1960’s.......
“ We will not stand by or be aloof. We will move".......
Saturday, July 25, 2009
President Obama delivers remarks at a primetime press conference focused on health insurance reform, before taking questions from the media. The President explains how his plan will benefit every American, and where the plan currently stands. July 22, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Sonia Sotomayor LULAC Rally keynote address
By Kenneth D. McClintock
Secretary of State
United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Madame President, Mrs. Zoraida Fonalledas, former Senator José Garriga-Picó…Someone just announced that Sonia Sotomayor’s family members are running late. Actually, today, we are all Sonia Sotomayor’s family, whether we live in Barrio San Antonio in Aguadilla or the city of San Antonio in the state of Texas---Somos Familia!
496 years after Puerto Rico’s first Governor, Juan Ponce de León, reached the shores of La Florida to become the first European to discover what would once become the continental United States and had been discovered by Native Americans long before…233 years after 56 men risked their “vidas” and their “haciendas” to declare that Britain’s colonies in America, which included citizens who still spoke Dutch, German, Spanish and French better than they spoke English, citizens who practiced different religions, and citizens who lived in distinct agricultural, urban or industrial communities, would thereafter be a separate nation defined, not by geography, or language, or climate, or religion but by common values set forth in a Declaration of Independence…
222 years after those 13 former colonies agreed to establish a common national government, a republic with three separate and equal branches that would bring stability to the post-colonial experiment begun eleven years before…164 years after the United States of America began annexing lands populated by Hispanos…Seven-score and six years after that nation abolished slavery in the midst of the bloodiest and most painful of wars, a civil war…
111 years after that nation added and retained a Spanish-speaking territory, Puerto Rico…
97 years after our nation has at least six states it names in Spanish---California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Nevada and Nuevo México,…48 years after a President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, appointed Reynaldo Garza as the first Hispanic Federal District Court Judge...
30 years after another President, Jimmy Carter, made Judge Garza the first Hispanic to sit as a Federal Circuit Court Judge28 years after President Ronald Reagan appointed the first female member of the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor…President Barack Obama, the first man of color in the Oval Office, has appointed the third female, and first Hispanic, to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor…
As a puertorriqueño I feel a great pride, un gran orgullo, that Puerto Rican blood flows through Sonia Sotomayor’s veins, the same blood that Puerto Ricans have shed for our nation in every war from the First World War to Afghanistan.As residents of the Bronx or citizens of New York, many of you feel the same orgullo that Sonia was born in your borough, in your city and in your state.As Hispanos, whether we live in East L.A., toil the fields in Idaho, live near the border in Tejas, Nuevo Méjico or Arizona, whether we hail from México, Cuba, Sur América, Centroamérica or el Caribe, we should all feel proud that one of our own has finally been selected to sit in the highest court of the land.
She is Hispana, but will not judge us as a Hispanic. She is Puerto Rican, but she will not be there to decide on the basis of any particular Puerto Rican perspective. She is a New Yorker, that state of so many colors, religions and cultures, but she’s not there to favor her home state. She is a woman, but she’s not there to tilt the balance in favor of her gender.Sonia Sotomayor is an American and she’s going to America’s Supreme Court to follow America’s Constitution, to look after the rights of every American, whether black or white, Latino or Oriental, male or female, Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist, straight or gay, Democrat or Republican.There are still a few fellow Americans that can’t get used to the idea that while all men and women are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we are all equal but can never be exactly the same.
For 34 years, only older people sat on the Supreme Court until President Madison appointed 32-year old Joseph Story to sit among justices many years his senior.For nearly 190 years, only white men sat on the Supreme Court, until Thurgood Marshall stepped away from the plaintiff’s lectern and rose to sit on the bench as the first of two African-American justices.
For nearly 200 years, only men, white or black, sat on our highest Bench, until Sandra Day O’Connor broke the gender barrier.This year, 222 years after our Constitution was drafted, Sonia Sotomayor is poised to become our 111th American, the third woman and the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court of this nation.A nation of over 311 million people, over 150 million of which are women, and over 50 million of which are Hispanics.Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee, a committee composed of 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans, 17 men and only 2 women, and none of the Senate’s two Hispanics, begins hearings on Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.Today, the rubber meets the road. For months, opposition research has scrutinized every breath she’s taken, every document she’s written, every thought that has crossed her mind and they’ve found zilch, nothing, ¡nada!
Today, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee can begin to unify this nation, proudly assuring this nation, Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike, that Sonia Sotomayor is qualified to sit where John Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, Franfurter, Earl Warren and Sandra Day O’Connor have sat.Today, each member of that Judiciary Committee has to choose between using this confirmation process to divide a nation that needs no more division or turn this into an opportunity to help this nation mature, grow and become more united.
Today, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have the golden opportunity to restate that all Men and Women are created equal and that we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, that Sonia Sotomayor’s life has been devoted to protect the liberty of all Americans in their pursuit of happiness, regardless of race, color, creed or ethnic background.
¡Que viva Sonia Sotomayor!And may God bless America and all Americans, from Alaska to the Virgin Islands, from Maine to Guam, including Hispanic American leaders meeting here today in America’s Shining Star in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico.