The administration of President Donald Trump will be represented at Friday's hearing. (semisquare-x3)
The administration of President Donald Trump will be represented at Friday's hearing. (AP)

Washington - On Friday´s hearing, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will analyze complaints from pro-statehood sectors that denounce that the United States violates human rights of Puerto Rican residents and they will also listen to the first participation of the Trump administration in a public forum regarding the island´s political status.

Although there are those who may think that any position of the Trump administration regarding the political status of Puerto Rico would have occurred in Congress, almost 16 months after the 2107 plebiscite, none of the Committees has evaluated the issue.

Due to the October recess in the House, it will not be until mid-November that the Committee on Natural Resources may hold a hearing on the political status of the island and on Jennifer González pro-statehood bill.

The issue is not on the Senate agenda and, getting close to the final stage of the 115th Congress, there is not even a bill on the issued was introduced.

Meanwhile, President Trump gave an "absolute no" to statehood last week, justifying his position on an "incompetent leadership" in Puerto Rico, and - sparking recent feuds - he pointed at the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, who supports free-association.

The complaints

On Friday, the IACHR will examine the complaints filed against the US by attorney Gregorio Igartúa and former Gov. Pedro Rosselló González, regarding the fact that Puerto Rican residents cannot vote for President or have voting representatives in Congress.

The session is part of the 169th IACHR´s 169th period and will take place at the University of Chicago Law School, in Boulder.

The IACHR summoned Igartúa, former Governor Rosselló González and a representative of the Trump´s administration.

In requesting the dismissal of the complaints, Kevin Sullivan, Interim Permanent Representative of the United States to the Organization of American States (OAS) -contrary to the position of the Barack Obama administration when pushing PROMESA- intended to emphasize that Puerto Rico has self-government and people vote for their local officials.

On the federal level, Sullivan sought to defend the United States arguing that, Puerto Rico holds presidential primary elections are held and that they have a non-voting delegate in the House.

But he also said that if the government of Puerto Rico wants, they can hold a symbolic presidential election and that residents have the right to move to the United States and participate in the US electoral process.

Sullivan acknowledged the victory of statehood in the 2017 plebiscite by highlighting, in a footnote, the percentage of votes for that formula (97 percent) and also the low voter turnout (23 percent).

But he ended up ruling out - as a point of reference for the Trump administration - the 2012 plebiscite suggested by George W. Bush government and that the New Progressive Party (PNP) government wants to project as the first victory for statehood.

The US representative said that the political process to consider a statehood proposal is in the hands of Congress, and that, although all territories that requested it, have achieved it, he cannot predict the result of the PNP government´s petition.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, who, like the M-18 (Junte de Mujeres) movement, has requested to appear at the hearing, does not close the door to any action in Congress.

"I trust in the Commissioner's ability to do her job," said Rosselló Nevares last week when asked if, like Gonzalez, he expects the House to approve the statehood bill during the 16 sessions it will hold after the November 6th mid-term elections.

 Resident Commissioner González said that it was up to the Equality Commission to promote the issue in the US Senate. "The Equality Commission is there to make its contribution in the Senate and the House," said Rosselló Nevares.

Although two Democratic senators - Bill Nelson (Florida) and Ron Wyden (Oregon) - and Republican Marco Rubio (Florida) expressed their support for statehood, none of the three has introduced a bill to promote the idea.

Republican Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said that the issue is not on her agenda. Since the beginning of 2018, Rubio was clear on the fact that there are not enough votes to pass a statehood bill, so he prefers not to press for this legislation now.

Why isn´t there a bill in the Senate? the Governor was asked. "We are discussing, we are working with collaborators, they will have their bill in due time, and we are going to advance in this issue as soon as possible," stressed Rosselló Nevares.

The governor wrote to President Trump on September 19 stating that to speak about local self-government while ignoring Congress plenary powers and the imposition of PROMESA does not make sense.

For Rosselló affirming that Puerto Ricans who want to vote for president and have voting representatives in Congress can move to the United States is a “sordid logic”.

The request of the M-18 is also pending. On their September 25 letter to the IACHR requesting for a turn in Friday´s hearing, they advocated for the debate on Puerto Rico´s political future to be addressed as a free determination matter and not merely for the lack of participation in the federal government.


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