Show an ad over header. AMP

AOC and fellow progressives counter push for Puerto Rico statehood, propose self-determination

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velázquez are pushing ahead with a bill in Congress that would let Puerto Rico decide its future — a proposal threatening Gov. Pedro Pierluisi's determination to pursue statehood for the island.

Why it matters: There's an urgency among supporters of statehood to get it done while Democrats control both chambers of Congress, and President Biden has been publicly supportive. But there's a growing divide within the party about whether statehood is actually the best solution for the U.S. territory.

  • During a joint phone interview with Axios on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said she still hasn't heard from Pierluisi, and Velázquez said she met with him virtually a few weeks ago.

Driving the news: A coalition of over 80 grassroots groups across 16 states and Puerto Rico sent a letter Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, urging them to pass the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2020.

  • The bill, drafted by Ocasio-Cortez and Velázquez, calls for self-determination to decide the island’s future and doesn’t advocate for one solution, like statehood.
  • Instead, a group of delegates — elected by Puerto Rican voters — would study the issue and come up with a plan for the island’s territorial status, which includes such solutions as statehood, independence or a free association.

The big picture: This is progressives' counter-movement to Pierluisi — who campaigned on statehood and discussed the matter with "Axios on HBO" — and fellow Democrats.

  • On Tuesday, two Puerto Rican members of Congress — Reps. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's non-voting member — introduced pro-statehood legislation.

What they're saying: Ocasio-Cortez and Velázquez say their proposal would help the decolonization process for Puerto Rico and provide a more serious way of deciding its future.

  • "The principled position — especially for the head of that colonizing power — is to say that people should have a process of self-determination and to not put your thumb on the scale of one direction or another," Ocasio-Cortez said.
  • Puerto Rico has held several non-binding referendums on its status, including becoming a U.S. state, since 1967.
  • Last November, Puerto Rico residents voted narrowly in favor of statehood (52% support to 47% against).

"This plebiscite that was conducted by the New Progressive Party was a political trick to entice people to come out to the polls," Velázquez said. She said that during her virtual meeting with Pierluisi, he told her he'd be in D.C. more often, lobbying for statehood.

  • "It's highly suspect when anyone is trying to prescribe an outcome for millions of people," Ocasio-Cortez said.
  • "We have to think about how ridiculous this is that the entire future and status of a colony of the United States should just be determined by a simple ballot referendum."

Pierluisi believes now is his time to achieve what his party wants — statehood — because Democrats control Congress. But he's learning early on in his administration that it’s not that easy, especially if progressives have a say.

  • Democrats are divided on whether statehood is the right move, and some say the reality of getting it done in this Congress remains slim because there are so many other things both parties are prioritizing.
  • The congresswomen say the outside support for their bill is a win because they're focused on building momentum outside of Congress and with constituents who are part of the Puerto Rican diaspora.
  • "It is important for members of Congress to get educated on this issue and know we cannot play political football with Puerto Rico," Velázquez said.

"Nine minutes and 29 seconds": Prosecutors begin closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less

European soccer goes to war over wealthy clubs' plans for exclusive "Super League"

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Keep reading... Show less

81% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive earnings surprise for Q1

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

Keep reading... Show less

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hopping the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

Keep reading... Show less

All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, meeting Biden's April 19 deadline

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.

Keep reading... Show less

Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

Keep reading... Show less

Russian authorities say jailed opposition leader Navalny has been transferred to hospital

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been hospitalized, one day after his doctor warned that the jailed Putin critic "could die at any moment," Russia's prison service said Monday.

Why it matters: News that Navalny's condition had severely deteriorated on the third week of a hunger strike prompted outrage from his supporters and international demands for Russia to provide him with immediate medical treatment.

Keep reading... Show less

The state worst hit by the pandemic

Data: Hamilton Place Strategies; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the job facing governments was to save lives and save jobs. Very few states did well on both measures, while New York, almost uniquely, did particularly badly on both.

Why it matters: The jury is still out on whether there was a trade-off between the dual imperatives; a new analysis from Hamilton Place Strategies shows no clear correlation between the two.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories