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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Puerto Rico’s Exclusion From Welfare Program

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court this week rejected a bid to extend a federal program offering benefits to low-income elderly, blind and disabled people to residents of Puerto Rico, finding that Congress had the authority to prevent those living in the American territory from receiving the assistance.

The justices ruled 8-1 in favor of President Joe Biden’s administration, reversing a lower court’s ruling that a 1972 decision by Congress to exclude Puerto Rico from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program violated a U.S. Constitution requirement that laws apply equally to everyone.

The ruling denies the welfare benefits to an estimated 300,000 people on the Caribbean island who otherwise might qualify. The federal government has said an expansion covering Puerto Rico would have cost $2 billion a year.

“Enough of this colonial status that discriminates against us and affects our quality of life. The only and the best solution is statehood,” Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood governor, said in a statement.

Puerto Rico’s status is a divisive issue on the island, with some favoring remaining a territory while others push for statehood or even independence from the United States.

The ruling, authored by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, found that Congress acted validly under a constitutional provision letting lawmakers treat territories differently than states.

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Puerto Rico's Exclusion From Welfare Program
Visitors walk their dogs across the Supreme Court Plaza during a storm on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 22, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

Kavanaugh said a ruling extending benefits to Puerto Rico could have “far-reaching consequences” inflicting additional financial burdens on its residents — including that they be required to pay federal income tax, which they do not currently do.

“The Constitution does not require that extreme outcome,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were from Puerto Rico, was the sole dissenter. Sotomayor pointed out that as the island does not have voting representation in Congress, its people cannot rely on Congress to recognize their rights.

“Equal treatment of citizens should not be left to the vagaries of the political process,” Sotomayor wrote.

A provision extending SSI benefits to Puerto Rico is part of Democratic-backed social spending legislation that has stalled in Congress.

Jose Luis Vaello Madero, the disabled 67-year-old man at the center of the case, received SSI benefits when he lived in New York but lost eligibility when he moved to Puerto Rico in 2013. The U.S. government sued him in federal court in Washington in 2017 seeking more than $28,000 for SSI payments he received after moving to Puerto Rico.

“It is unfortunate the court failed to see the discrimination faced by the most needy Puerto Rican Americans whose only distinguishing feature is that they choose to remain in Puerto Rico, their home on U.S. soil. This is a devastating day for Mr. Vaello Madero and for Puerto Rico,” said Hermann Ferre, Vaello Madero’s lawyer.

The United States Justice Department declined comment.

Many Puerto Ricans have long complained that the island’s residents are treated worse than other Americans despite being U.S. citizens. Puerto Rico, which is not a state, is the most-populous of the U.S. territories, with about 3 million people.

SSI benefits are available to American citizens living in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and the Northern Mariana Islands, but not the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

The Supreme Court has been instrumental in defining the legal status of Puerto Ricans dating to a series of rulings starting more than a century ago called the Insular Cases, some suffused with racist language. Those rulings endorsed the notion that the people of newly acquired U.S. territories could receive different treatment than citizens living in U.S. states.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch in a separate opinion said the court in a future case should overturn the Insular Cases, saying they “rest on racial stereotypes” and “deserve no place in our law.”

Congress decided not to include Puerto Rico when it enacted the SSI program. Puerto Ricans are eligible for a different benefits program, called Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled, that allows for more local control but not as much federal funding.

The government’s appeal originally was filed by former President Donald Trump’s administration. Biden’s administration continued the appeal while also urging Congress to extend SSI to Puerto Rico.

—REUTERS

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Puerto Rico Says It Made Putin’s List of ‘Unfriendly Countries’ … BVI, Too

MIAMI — A Miami Herald columnist is reporting this morning that no “Latin American” country has made Putin’s list of “unfriendly countries.”

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, so I guess Andres Oppenheimer gets a pass.

“(red pyramid emoji) OMG (red pyramid emoji) We (PR flag emoji) have been included in Russia’s list of “unfriendly” countries/territories,” PR Informa said today.

Puerto Rico Says It Made Putin's List of 'Unfriendly Countries' ... BVI, Too

But some surprising Caribbean countries made Russia’s “Shi-ite list” such as Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.

If Road Town, Tortola poses a threat to the Kremlin, the world really has turned upside down.

The list of course includes: the United States and Canada, the EU states, the UK (including Jersey, the BVI, Anguilla and Gibraltar). Also: Ukraine, Montenegro, Switzerland, Albania, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, North Macedonia, and also Japan, South Korea, Australia, Micronesia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan (considered a territory of China, but ruled by its own administration since 1949).

In all, some 43 countries were blacklisted by the Russian Federation, according to Tass.

Russia’s economy has come under immense pressure from the international sanctions, with the rouble weakening to 133.5 to the dollar — a 40 percent drop in value compared to before the invasion of Ukraine.

Puerto Rico Says It Made Putin's List of 'Unfriendly Countries' ... BVI, Too
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a 2019 meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. ALEXEI DRUZHININ RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS AND INFORMATION OFFICE

Russian state media has portrayed the measures as a retaliation to the sanctions brought in, which have almost entirely cut the Russian people from international payment systems.

https://tass.com/politics/1418197?utm_source=google.com&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=google.com&utm_referrer=google.com

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Puerto Rican Music Producer Flow La Movie Dies In Dominican Plane Crash

SANTO DOMINGO A private jet crashed minutes after taking off outside Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, killing all nine people on board, including Puerto Rican music producer Flow La Movie, according to the airline and airport operator.

The small plane was attempting to land minutes after beginning a flight to Florida when it crashed on Wednesday. The Puerto Rican music producer José Ángel Hernández is better known as Flow La Movie. The aircraft’s operating company reported the crash. Helidosa Aviation Group said on its Twitter account that the Gulfstream jet was carrying two crew members and seven passengers.

The plane had departed from El Higüero airport for Orlando, Florida, shortly before seeking to land at Las Americas International Airport in the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo, the company said. The company gave no details on why the pilots aborted the flight or possible causes of the crash.

FlightRadar24.com posted a map of the plane’s flight path:

The airport shut down operations after the accident, canceling hundreds of flights.

Hernández, 38, also known as Flow La Movie, produced Urban Latin songs such as “Te Boté” sung Bad Bunny and Ozuna. He also produced “La Jeepeta” by Nio Garcia, Brray and Juanka and “Wow Remix,” in which artists Bryant Myers, Arcangel, Nicky Jam, El Alfa and Darell participated.

Helidosa Aviation said Hernandez was accompanied by six relatives and colleagues. It identified them as Debbie Von Marie Jimenez Garcia, Keilyan Hernandez, Hayden Hernandez, Yeilianys Jeishlimar Melendez Jimenez and Jesiel Yabdiel Silva. The crew members were Luis Alberto Eljuri and Víctor Emilio Herrera, the company said.

J Balvin was among several artists who paid tribute to Hernandez on social media.

“José Ángel THANK YOU FOR YOUR VIBRA ALTA ALWAYS !! Rest in peace,” Balvin wrote in Spanish on Instagram.

[wpedon id=23995]

https://www.instagram.com/p/CXhcHT2rA2v/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=4feed0c8-fa5a-46b3-b981-92a972b19577

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Venezuelan, Dominicano and Puerto Rican Arrested With 90 Pounds Of Cocaine

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Three men were arrested for smuggling 90 pounds of cocaine by boat into St. Thomas early Sunday morning, authorities said.

On November 22, 2021 Erickson Bolivar, a Venezuelan national, Keisy Jesus, a Dominican Republican national, and Yehudi Robles, a United States citizen from Puerto Rican living in St. Thomas, had their initial appearances before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller on criminal charges related to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

According to court documents, on November 21, 2021 at approximately 4:37 a.m., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine (AMO) agents and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents detected a vessel located off of the northwest coast of St. Thomas.

The agents launched their AMO interceptor vessel to investigate. AMO encountered the vessel traveling west toward Puerto Rico under the cover of darkness without any navigation lights. Once the vessel was stopped, agents detained the three men.

The boat and men were transported to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Fajardo, Puerto Rico for further investigation. A CBP narcotics detection K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics on board the vessel.

Agents discovered 41 kilograms of cocaine in two separate vessel compartments.

On November 23, 2021, Judge Miller ordered Bolivar and De Jesus detained pending resolution of the matter. Robles was released to the custody of a third-party custodian and placed on house arrest pending the resolution of the matter.

All three men are charged with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance pursuant to 21 U.S.C §§ 841(b)(1)(B) and 846. If convicted, all three men face up to life in prison.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other
statutory factors.

CBP, AMO and HSI are investigating the case, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands is prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Puerto Rico Ponders Racial Identity Amid Surprising Census Results

SAN JUAN — The number of people in Puerto Rico who identified as “white” in the most recent census plummeted almost 80 percent, sparking a conversation about identity on an island breaking away from a past where race was not tracked and seldom debated in public.

The drastic drop surprised many, and theories abound as the U.S. territory’s 3.3 million people begin to reckon with racial identity.

“Puerto Ricans themselves are understanding their whiteness comes with an asterisk,” said Yarimar Bonilla, a political anthropologist and director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. “They know they’re not white by U.S. standards, but they’re not Black by Puerto Rico standards.”

Nearly 50% of those represented in the 2020 census — 1.6 million of 3.29 million — identified with “two races or more,” a jump from 3% — or some 122,200 of 3.72 million — who chose that option in the 2010 census. Most of them selected “white and some other race.”

Meanwhile, more than 838,000 people identified as “some other race alone,” a nearly 190% jump compared with some 289,900 people a decade ago, although Bonilla said Census Bureau officials have yet to release what races they chose. Experts believe people likely wrote “Puerto Rican,” “Hispanic” or “Latino,” even though federal policy defines those categories as ethnicity, not race.

Among those who changed their response to race was 45-year-old Tamara Texidor, who selected “other” in 2010 and this time opted to identify herself as “Afrodescendent.” She said she made the decision after talking to her brother, who was a census worker and told her how people he encountered when he went house to house often had trouble with the question about race.

Texidor began reflecting about her ancestry and wanted to honor it since she descended from slaves on her father’s side.

“I’m not going to select ‘other,’” she recalled thinking when filling out the census. “I feel I am something.”

Experts are still debating what sparked the significant changes in the 2020 census. Some believe several factors are at play, including tweaks in wording and a change in how the Census Bureau processes and codes responses.

Bonilla also thinks a growing awareness of racial identity in Puerto Rico played a part, saying that “extra intense racialization” in the past decade might have contributed. She and other anthropologists argue that change stemmed from anger over what many consider a botched federal response to a U.S. territory struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria and a crippling economic crisis.

“They’ve finally understood that they’re treated like second-class citizens,” Bárbara Abadía-Rexach, a sociocultural anthropologist, said of Puerto Ricans.

Another critical change in the 2020 census was that only a little over 228,700 identified solely as Black or African American, a nearly 50 percent drop compared with more than 461,000 who did so a decade ago. The decline occurred even as grass-roots organizations in Puerto Rico launched campaigns to urge people to embrace their African heritage and raised awareness about racial disparities, although they said they were encouraged by the increase in the “two or more races” category.

Bonilla noted Puerto Rico currently has no reliable data to determine whether such disparities have occurred during the pandemic, noting that there is no racial data on coronavirus testing, hospitalizations or fatalities.

The island’s government also does not collect racial data on populations, including those who are homeless or incarcerated, Abadía-Rexach added.

“The denial of the existence of racism renders invisible, criminalizes and dehumanizes many Black people in Puerto Rico,” she said.

The lack of such data could be rooted in Puerto Rico’s history. From 1960 to 2000, the island conducted its own census and never asked about race.

“We were supposed to be all mixed and all equal, and race was supposed to be an American thing,” Bonilla said.

Some argued at the time that Puerto Rico should be tracking racial data while others viewed it as a divisive move that would impose or harden racial differences, a view largely embraced in France, which does not collect official data on race or ethnicity.

For Isar Godreau, an anthropologist and professor at the University of Puerto Rico, that type of data is crucial.

“Skin color is an important marker that makes people vulnerable to more or less racial discrimination,” she said.

The data helps people fight for racial justice and determines the allocation of resources, Godreau said.

The major shift in the 2020 census — especially how only 560,592 people identified as white versus more than 2.8 million in 2010 — comes amid a growing interest in racial identity in Puerto Rico, where even recent surveys about race prompted responses ranging from “members of the human race” to “normal” to “I get along with everyone.” Informally, people on the island use a wide range of words to describe someone’s skin color, including “coffee with milk.”

That interest is fueled largely by a younger generation: They have signed up for classes of bomba and plena — centuries-old, percussion-powered musical traditions — as well as workshops on how to make or wear headwraps.

More hair salons are specializing in curly hair, eschewing the blow-dried results that long dominated professional settings in the island. Some legislators have submitted a bill that cites the results of the 2020 census and that if approved would make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their hair style. Several U.S. states already have similar laws.

As debate continues on what sparked so many changes in the 2020 census, Bonilla said an important question is what the 2030 census results will look like. “Will we see an intensification of this pattern, or will 2020 have been kind of a blip moment?”

By DÁNICA COTO/The Associated Press

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Can Congress Prohibit Cockfighting In Puerto Rico Via Its Commerce Power?

Ángel Manuel Ortiz‐​Díaz is the owner of two cockfighting venues and a breeder and owner of more than 200 gamecocks. Deeply ingrained in Puerto Rico’s history, tradition, and culture, cockfighting is commonplace on the island. The heavily regulated industry has grown to support more than 11,000 jobs and injects approximately $65 million annually into Puerto Rico’s economy.

Under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, each “state” (including Puerto Rico) was left to decide whether it wanted to engage in intrastate cockfighting. Enacted pursuant to the Commerce Clause, the act only punished cockfighting that was intertwined with interstate or foreign commerce; anything purely intrastate was off limits for Congress to prohibit. That changed when the act was amended in 2018, making cockfighting in Puerto Rico a criminal offense even though it remained locally legal and outside the scope of interstate and foreign commerce.

Seemingly unconvinced that there is any meaningful limit on Congress’s commerce power, the First Circuit rejected Ortiz-Díaz’s argument that wholly intrastate non‐​economic activity cannot be reached by the commerce power. By allowing the criminalization of a non‐​interstate, non‐​commerce activity through a clause designed to give Congress power over interstate commerce, the First Circuit decided that realistically, no activity is safe from federal control.

Cato, joined by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown Law Center (and Cato senior fellow), has filed a brief supporting Ortiz-Díaz’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Commerce Clause, in conjunction with the Necessary and Proper Clause, was originally meant to act as a restriction on federal involvement in local affairs, not a rubber stamp for congressional legislation. Regardless of the merits of Congress’s desire to outlaw cockfighting, good intentions must not be allowed to erase constitutional safeguards.

We urge the court to grant certiorari to articulate a judicially administrable standard restricting Congress’s power to regulating actual interstate commerce along with activities that are demonstrably necessary to effectuate that regulation. Such a standard would allow localities to remain in control over the decisions that most affect their daily lives. In the 20th century, with a few exceptions, the Court validated Congress’s attempt to have jurisdiction over everything via the argument that in order for Congress to have effective power over commerce, it was necessary and proper for Congress to have power over everything. Since the Constitution explicitly and unquestionably grants Congress limited powers, that cannot be what the Constitution means, and the Court should take this case to make that clear.

By Trevor Burrus and Stacy Hanson

SOURCE: CATO INSTITUTE

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Social Security Delivers The Most Popular Baby Names In Puerto Rico For 2020

SAN JUAN — The Social Security Administration today announced the most popular baby names in Puerto Rico for 2020. Liam and Valentina topped the list.

The top five boys and girls names for 2020 in Puerto Rico were:

Boys: Girls:

1) Liam 1) Valentina

2) Sebastián 2) Victoria

3) Thiago 3) Emma

4) Dylan 4) Mia

5) Mateo 5) Amaia

Social Security Delivers The Most Popular Baby Names In Puerto Rico For 2020

The agency announced last week that Olivia and Liam were the most popular baby names in the U.S. How does Puerto Rico compare to the rest of the country? Check out Social Security’s website — www.socialsecurity.gov– to see the top national baby names for 2020.

Social Security encourages everyone to enjoy the baby names list and, while online, create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount my Social Security is a personalized online account that people can use beginning in their working years and continuing while receiving Social Security benefits.

Social Security beneficiaries have instant access to their benefit verification letter, payment history, and complete earnings record by establishing a my Social Security

account. Beneficiaries also can change their address, start or change direct deposit information, and request a replacement SSA-1099 online. People receiving benefits can request a replacement Medicare card online.

Social Security Delivers The Most Popular Baby Names In Puerto Rico For 2020

People age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can also sign up for a my Social Security account to get their personalized online Social Security Statement. The online Statement provides workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information, and estimates of future benefits they can use to plan for their retirement. Residents of most states may request a replacement Social Security card online if they meet certain requirements.

The agency began compiling the baby name list in 1997, with names dating back to 1880. At the time of a child’s birth, parents supply the name to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security card, thus making Social Security America’s source for the most popular baby names.

In addition to each state’s top baby names (and names for U.S. territories), Social Security’s website has a list of the 1,000 most popular boys and girls names for 2020.

To see the fastest rising girls and boys names in 2020, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases/2021/#5-2021-2.

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Rival Puerto Rico Bills Dim Democratic Hopes Of A 51st State: Bloomberg

SAN JUAN — Two competing bills trying to end Puerto Rico’s status as one of the world’s oldest territories threaten to undermine each other — damping hopes that the island might become the 51st U.S. state and a decisive power in Washington.

On one side are those who want to make Puerto Rico a peer of New York, California and Wyoming. A rival measure would explore all status options for the island, including independence, statehood, a compact between sovereign states “or any other option other than the current territorial arrangement.”

The efforts come as some Democrats, who long to address the structural imbalance of the Senate and Electoral College, see statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as a way to solidify control of Congress for years to come. Puerto Rico leans Democratic, and if it were a state it would be eligible for two Senate seats and five House seats.

Rival Puerto Rico Bills Dim Democratic Hopes Of A 51st State: Bloomberg

While both bills have Democratic support, they echo the century-old debate on the island about the benefits of statehood versus more autonomy, said Pedro Reina-Perez, a political analyst and columnist. And the net effect is that “they cancel each other out.”

“They’re going to fail not because there are two of them, but because each one is an independent effort,” he said. “When you go at it alone, the other side will always have veto power over what you do. It’s like mutually assured destruction.”

Staggering Forward

The struggle comes as the Caribbean island of 3.2 million people — more than that of 20 U.S. states — is still recovering from hurricanes, earthquakes and the global pandemic. It’s also crawling out of a historic bankruptcy aimed at reducing nearly $18 billion of debt, and reckoning with the turmoil created by the 2019 ousting of Governor Ricardo Rossello. The member of the New Progressive Party and registered Democrat was driven from office amid disclosures that he and aides cruelly mocked consituents.

The island has been a U.S. possession since 1898 when William McKinley’s administration seized the colony at the end of the Spanish-American War. Since then, La Isla del Encanto has progressively won greater autonomy, but is still at a disadvantage when it comes to federal funding, programs and representation.

Although Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, residents don’t have the right to vote for president and don’t have a say in Congress.

A change in the island’s territorial status could have dramatic financial consequences. Although both sides say their bills won’t affect continuing bankruptcy negotiations, a move toward autonomy might threaten the commonwealth’s heavy reliance on federal funding for everything from education to health to social security. And embracing statehood might undercut Puerto Rico’s niche as a tax haven for wealthy mainlanders.

This month, Florida Democratic Representative Darren Soto — with the support of the island’s Republican non-voting member of Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez and Democratic Governor Pedro Pierluisi — introduced the “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.” That bill would trigger a binding island-wide referendum on statehood. If that option won, the Biden administration could potentially be sewing a new star on the flag before the end of his first term.

Days later, Representative Nydia Velazquez, a Puerto Rican-born New York Democrat, introduced the “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act.”

That law creates a body elected by island residents that would attempt to settle the status issue by studying all the options. Whatever the “status convention” decided would have to be be ratified by a plebiscite.

Rival Puerto Rico Bills Dim Democratic Hopes Of A 51st State: Bloomberg

Self-Determination

On Monday, Velazquez told supporters that her proposal is the only one that offers a true choice.

“Puerto Ricans are sick and tired of being played by politicians in D.C. and San Juan,” she said in a statement. “The collective political future of a people is not some trivial partisan matter and needs to be addressed in a serious and constructive way.”

One of her co-sponsors, New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said a single-choice referendum like the one Pierluisi is pushing is tantamount to the island’s leadership putting its “thumb on the scale” for statehood.

Sixth Time a Charm? Puerto Ricans Vote on Statehood Once Again

There have been several attempts to untangle the Puerto Rico status knot, including three nonbinding referendums since 2012. In November, 53% of voters on the island said they favored statehood. They also narrowly elected a Pierluisi, an ardent statehood advocate, as governor.

Those votes and Gonzalez’s bill were giving statehood momentum, said George Laws Garcia, executive director of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council. Velazquez’s initiative slams on the brakes.

“You would have to be naive to think that her bill is not an active effort to oppose statehood,” Laws said, citing Velazquez’s track record of opposing statehood initiatives in Congress.

Island Elite

Gonzalez, who is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular politicians, said Velazquez’s plan to create a deliberative body is antidemocratic.

The “legislation looks to delegate Puerto Rico’s future to a select few, instead of allowing the majority to decide for themselves,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “There is nothing more colonial in nature than imposing other’s views over us.”

The chief Senate sponsor of the opposing Self-Determination Act, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, said the status-deciding body “ensures that the people of Puerto Rico will have a robust, inclusive, and democratic process to consider the future of their political status.”

“When Puerto Rico decides its future, the people on the island deserve to fully understand all their options,” he said in a statement Friday.

With the battle lines drawn, each side has enlisted supporters and dozens of community groups. But both bills will likely face headwinds. While Democrats are split on the bills, many Republicans are wary of the political implications of statehood. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken repeatedly against Democratic efforts to make Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia states.

But Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, who is up for re-election next year in a state where many Puerto Ricans have resettled, has supported statehood.

“Our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico have democratically expressed their support for becoming a state,” Rubio said in a March 2 statement. “I urge my Senate colleagues to keep an open mind and learn more about statehood before taking a firm position in opposition. I will continue to do my part to one day achieve the 60 votes needed in the Senate for admission.”

Reina-Perez, the analyst, said the status issue is so divisive and complicated that until everyone is on the same page, there’s little hope for a lasting resolution.

“This is a case of a death foretold,” he said of both bills. “There’s a lot of hype, a lot of posturing, a lot of theater and drama — only for it to all die in the procedure.”

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

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Puerto Rico Has A Newly Elected Governor Named Pedro Pierluisi

SAN JUAN — Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party won a majority of votes to become the U.S. commonwealth’s next governor, according to official preliminary results released late Saturday.

Pierluisi received nearly 33 percent of votes compared with nearly 32 percent obtained by Carlos Delgado of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the current territorial status, with 100% of precincts reporting.

The results come four days after Puerto Rico held general elections, an unusual delay blamed on a record number of early and absentee votes that overwhelmed officials. It’s also the first time that Puerto Rico’s two main parties fail to reach 40 percent of votes.

“These are times to unite wills and purposes,” Pierluisi said in a statement.

Pierluisi had claimed victory the night of the election as Delgado refused to concede, noting that his opponent was leading by a very slim margin and that thousands of votes still had not been counted.

On Saturday, he congratulated Pierluisi: “The island needs consensus, dialogue and convergence so that we can face the great challenges of the future.”

Saturday’s results were released hours after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden won the election in the U.S. mainland, a victory that Pierluisi said would help Puerto Rico finally gain statehood. He congratulated Biden and said he looked forward to working with him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “for the benefit of all Puerto Ricans in their fight for progress and equality.”

Voters in Puerto Rico participated in a non-binding referendum the day of the local general election that asked, “Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the union as a state?” More than 52 percent of voters approved, but any changes to the island’s political status needs approval from U.S. Congress. It is the island’s sixth such referendum.

Biden has promised to work with local government officials who support a variety of political status for Puerto Rico to “initiate a just and binding process” for the island to determine its own status.

Biden also promised to fight against austerity measures sought by a federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances amid an economic crisis; accelerate the disbursement of federal funds for hurricane and earthquake reconstruction; and push for equal funding of Medicaid, Medicare and Supplemental Security Income, since Puerto Rico receives less than U.S. states.

Other results released late Saturday included those of a tight race for the mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital. New Progressive Miguel Romero received more than 36 percent of votes, compared with more than 34% obtained by third-party candidate Manuel Natal of the Citizen Victory Movement. Natal rejected the results and said not all votes have been counted.

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Puerto Rican-Owned Movie Theaters In The U.S. Virgin Islands Shut Down Due To ‘Lack Of Blockbuster Movies’

CHRISTIANSTED — The only movie theaters in the U.S. Virgin Islands — owned wholly by the same Puerto Rican company that currently owns the Sunny Isle Shopping Center in St. Croix — has decided that the show cannot go on any longer in the territory.

Officially called “Sunny Isle Developers” the Puerto Rican people behind the closure did not want their names printed in this article for fear of negative exposure, but they said that “Caribbean Cinemas” would be closing in St. Croix and St. Thomas immediately and until further notice.

Caribbean Cinemas, owned exclusively by a Puerto Rico firm claiming to be “the largest movie theater chain in the Caribbean,” said that it has been adversely affected by the coronavirus epidemic and can no longer stay in business in the territory.

“Caribbean Cinemas re-opened their movie theaters in St. Thomas and St. Croix on July 11th, after being closed for almost three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation,” the anonymous owners in Puerto Rico said today.

The unnamed Puerto Rican company, which also owns the Sunny Isle Shopping Center in St. Croix, said that it “implemented new social distancing guidelines and safety protocols, as per Government requirements, expecting that the summer blockbuster movies would be released in the following weeks.”

“While the theaters in the U.S. are closing due to the raise [sic] of the COVID-19 cases, and the lack of new releases, the organization finds themselves in the same position as before, without new films at this time,” the unnamed Puerto Rico movie theater owners said.

“Because of the absence of anticipated blockbusters like Warner Bros.’ ‘Tenet’ and Disney’s ‘Mulan’ as well as several other release dates for several other new movies have been postponed, the company has decided to close the theater locations in Sunny Isle and Market Square until further notice.”

No other positive information was available from the unnamed, unknown Puerto Rican-based owners of the movie theaters in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rican-Owned Movie Theaters In The U.S. Virgin Islands Shut Down Due To 'Lack Of Blockbuster Movies'