Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla speaks during a state of the commonwealth address at the Capitol building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

Opinion: For Puerto Rico to ever progress, the politics of status must disappear

Imagine if President Obama and Vice President Biden were publicly disagreeing every day on a major policy issue because one was a member of the Electric Car Party and the other was a member of the Gas Car Party, losing focus of the country’s bigger picture problems, because even though they are members of the same Administration, they would rather obsess over their own narrow interests.

Such is the case of Puerto Rico, where Governor Alejandro Padilla, a Democrat but the leader of the island’s status quo commonwealth party, and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat but the leader of the island’s pro-statehood party, continue to promote a failed political tradition that has gone on for decades in a place that has yet to shed its colonial relationship with the United States.

In the past week, Pierluisi—a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives—trumpeted his introduction of H.R. 2000, also known as the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act:

The purpose of this Act is to provide for a federally authorized ratification vote in Puerto Rico on the admission of Puerto Rico into the Union as a State and, if a majority of voters ratify Puerto Rico’s desire for statehood, to describe the steps that the President and Congress shall take to enable the admission of Puerto Rico as a State of the Union.

Quite frankly, Pierluisi is taking a huge political gamble, based on a November plebiscite vote that rejected Puerto Rico’s current commonwealth system with the United States and favored statehood. However, the results of last year’s plebiscite were still murky, enough for García Padilla to criticize his Administration’s representative to Washington. In a piece the governor wrote for The Hill this week, he states:

Every Puerto Rican agrees that any self-determination that is fair, transparent and democratic should give an equal opportunity to each and all of the viable options with respect to our relationship with the United States. I commend President Obama for his proposal to hold a new plebiscite in Puerto Rico, which is an act that acknowledges that any fair self-determination process must include all valid options: statehood, independence, free association and Commonwealth.

García Padilla sees no need to support H.R. 2000, instead choosing to waste more energy on yet another ambiguous plebiscite that doesn’t do anything to finally resolve the island’s status quandary. By the way, what does Pierluisi do after reading García Padilla’s piece in The Hill? He contacts The Hill and submits his own response to the response. What a surprise.

The result is an eternal and frustrating cycle of status posturing that does not move Puerto Rico forward. Pierluisi and García Padilla bicker, and the consequence is continued division among Puerto Ricans, those who live on the island and on the mainland.

Such a cycle has been going on for decades. Ever since Luis Muñoz Marín switched his allegiances from independence to a commonwealth arrangement in the early 1930s as a way to gain political power, all the way to when Luis Ferré formed a statehood party that resulted from his losses to Muñoz Marín in gubernatorial races of the 1960s and beyond, the obsession by the island’s politicians with playing the status game continues. Puerto Rico still lacks true self-determination, and the bigger problems of unemployment, crime, and economic opportunity get ignored.

The matter only worsens when Pierluisi goes so far as to say that the Puerto Rican diaspora living in the United States should have no say in the island’s political future. That comment will not sit well with actual voting members of Congress, such as New York’s José Serrano. And the slanted language of the statehood bill won’t win the support of Illinois’ Luis Gutierrez.

In the end, this only solution is one binding vote with two options: statehood or independence. The vote should be open to all Puerto Ricans born on the island. This is not the ideal for García Padilla, who is still stuck in defending a status quo many Puerto Ricans no longer want. Allowing all Puerto Ricans who were born on the island to vote in this new voting arrangement will ruffle Pierluisi’s aspirations.

But this option will force Pierluisi and García Padilla to actually work together and prioritize the interests of all Puerto Ricans over the selfish interests of two status-dependent political parties that belong in a bygone era.

True leaders know when to adapt, and I ask my fellow Puerto Ricans to form a united front and demand that such a solution is put in place. Only then will we put all this behind us, and only then will Puerto Rico truly advance.

Opinion: For Puerto Rico to ever progress, the politics of status must disappear julio nbc final politics NBC Latino News

Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the NationNPRUnivisionForbes, and The New York Times.

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