Puerto Rico's rival advocates of statehood, independence and the colonial status quo vented decades of frustration and anger in a congressional hearing Wednesday, but made little progress toward convincing legislators to back one of their competing plans for the island's future.
The contentious issue of the island's status in relation to the United States has consumed Puerto Rico since it was ceded to the U.S. by Spain in 1898.
Puerto Ricans have held four plebiscites on their status since 1967, though none were authorized or recognized by Congress, which the Constitution charges with overseeing territories.
A slight majority of islanders has supported the status quo, with most of the rest wanting statehood.
During the last plebiscite, in 1998, voters were confused by the options and 50.3% chose "none of the above," a protest option inserted by commonwealth advocates when their preferred ballot language was rejected. Statehood won 46.5% support and independence less than 3%.
Acevedo Vila cast the formula proposed by the task force and in Serrano's bill as the two less popular options being lumped together to defeat the people's first choice, a revised status quo of a territory with enhanced independence.
"That's not just undemocratic, it's un-American," the governor told the panel.
Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative to the House, Luis Fortuno of the pro-statehood party, reminded the governor that his wished-for enhanced commonwealth is not on offer.
"Three administrations have told you what you are proposing is unconstitutional. What part of 'no' don't you understand?" he asked.
Same, statehood, or independence. Not the enhanced commonwealth option. With luck this will be done and over with in the nearish future.
Raise a toast: Here's to the future state of Puerto Rico!