Democrats fracture over Puerto Rico statehood

Rep. Darren Soto speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives in the United States Capitol in Washington. | Home TV via AP

TALLAHASSEE – A rift has formed among Democrats on a sensitive issue in New York and Florida: the statehood of Puerto Rico.

Democratic MP. Darren SotoFlorida’s first congressman of Puerto Rican descent accuses Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer to reverse his stance on the island’s statehood for fear of political conflicts in New York. This comes as a liberal branding Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.N.Y.) urges their own measure calling for “self-determination” for Puerto Rico.

Schumer “is trying to appease politics at home,” said Soto, who reintroduced a house proposal last week. H. R. 1522 (117), for the statehood of Puerto Rico. “I’m just ready to fight. I am not frustrated. “

Florida and New York are both home to significant numbers of Puerto Ricans – Florida is home to one of the largest concentrations of Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States – and they have played an increasingly important role in politics, especially in central Florida Region. Statehood is also an issue that could lead to a split between Ocasio-Cortez and Schumer, who can be re-elected in 2022.

In November, 52.5 percent of Puerto Rico’s voters supported statehood in a referendum. Afterward, Schumer, who had previously advocated statehood, said the support wasn’t strong enough to put forward a statehood bill. He later said during a ward meeting in New York City that “I will not support your pro-statehood bill until you sort things out,” he reported the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Dia. He said the referendum could also turn the island into a tax haven for billionaires.

“He had very positive language during the elections,” Soto said of Schumer in an interview with POLITICO. “It was right after Joe Biden said his personal opinion was that Puerto Rico should be a state when he was in our district. So it’s a flip-flop. “

Schumer’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

While Soto is pushing for a bill, Ocasio-Cortez has backed instead legislation This urges the Puerto Rican legislature to create a convention whose delegates “develop a long-term solution to Puerto Rico’s status, be it statehood, independence, free association or an option other than the current territorial regime”.

“It is time to remedy the situation, but it has to be done right. Puerto Rico must be given the freedom to shape its own future. ” She wrote in a comment for NBC News with rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.). Both lawmakers are of Puerto Rican descent.

Soto acknowledged that while there might be “sand shifts” among New Yorkers, there was solid support elsewhere, including 15 Democrats and Republicans from Florida. Soto vowed to get the legislation through the house and force the matter with the Senate.

“So far we have 52 co-sponsors, more than twice as many as last time. I think we’ll see what happens when we get to the Senate, ”he said.

The elected officials in Florida know the importance of the island. Republican Senator Rick scottThe 2018 win over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson was due in part to Scott’s repeated attention to Puerto Rico, particularly after Hurricane Maria devastated the island area in 2017. Even allies like Governor Ron DeSantis made sure they disagree with then-president Donald Trump when the former president claimed Mary’s death toll had been increased and that it was part of a conspiracy to make him look bad.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) Promised to sponsor the Senate bill, but Soto also urged Florida GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and to help Scott. Both have advocated Puerto Rican statehood in the past, but Scott has stepped back from that commitment.

Scott claimed in a statement released this week that the margin in last year’s referendum “shows a remarkable division among Puerto Ricans on this key issue at this moment.”

Scott added that steps must be taken to support the state’s economy. “I also believe that Puerto Rico’s serious debts need to be resolved in order to advance statehood,” he said in his statement. “I will do everything in my power to help Puerto Rico in this regard.”

Rubio did not endorse Soto’s bill, but instead called on Tuesday “his Senate colleagues to remain open and learn more about statehood before they take a permanent position in the opposition”. Rubio also said in a statement that he would continue to help “get the 60 votes needed in the Senate for approval”.

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