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Time to end 'colonialism,' says Puerto Rican governor, who wants referendum to become a US state

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, that would allow Puerto Rico to hold a referendum in 2023 to determine its official political status and how it is governed.

The burning question would have three possible choices: Puerto Rico would become either an independent nation, a sovereign territory associated with the United States, or the 51st U.S. state.

The bill passed 233-191, but still needs to overcome some barriers. First, it would of course need to pass in the Senate. As well, the bill would need to survive the Republican takeover in 2023, when the party assumes control of the lower chamber.

Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi traveled to Washington to observe the bill's passing, making some incendiary remarks while on continental soil.

The bill "is one more step towards the end of colonialism on the island and to respond to the demand for equality of my people," the governor said.

"This is the first time that the House of Representatives has approved a bill that seeks to permanently resolve the territorial status of Puerto Rico and obliges Congress to implement the will of the people," Pierluisi continued.

History has not been kind to similar iterations of the bill; three prior bills for a plebiscite passed by the House failed to pass the Senate, according to Yahoo News.

Pierluisi's New Progressive Party prefers an outcome that sees PR become a U.S. state. The island has been a U.S. territory since 1898 but cannot vote in presidential elections, nor can its representatives vote in Congress.

Opposition party the Popular Democratic Party prefers that PR remain as is.

"The project approved at the end of the Democrats' mandate in the federal chamber has no chance of becoming law," said PDP President Jose Luis Dalmau. "Once again the leadership of the PNP has preferred its ideological aspirations to the true needs of Puerto Rican men and women," he claimed.

While the governor leads the PNP party, it is the PDP that holds the most seats in the territory's house of representatives, with 25 to the PNP's 21. A smaller, "anti-colonial" party holds two seats, while an independence party, Christian party, and an independent representative all hold one seat.

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