Monday, July 27, 2009

All eyes on Speaker Pelosi

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".......

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