After naming three Democrats and a future Hall of Fame baseball player last week to an equality commission that will promote Puerto Rico’s push for statehood, on Monday governor Ricardo Rosselló added three Republicans to the seven-member board, according to a media release from the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.
Former governor Luis Fortuño —one of the island’s most prominent pro-statehood voices— was one of the three Republicans. The other two were Zoriada Fonalledas, the GOP’s national committeewoman for Puerto Rico, and Félix Santoni, a retired two-star general and former deputy commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command in Panama. Fonalledas, a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities under President George W. Bush, is the only woman on the commission.
Fortuño, Fonalledas and Santoni join the commission’s other four members: Democrats Carlos Romero Barceló, Pedro Rosselló Nevares (the governor’s father) and Charles Rodríguez, along with baseball player Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez, the commission’s only independent. Days before a non-binding June 11 plebiscite led to an overwhelming (and controversial) victory for Puerto Rico’s statehood proponents, Puerto Rican lawmakers passed a Tennessee Plan (modeled after Tennessee’s 18th-century efforts to become a state) that called for an equality commission of seven Puerto Ricans, who would then travel to Washington, D.C. Once approved by the Puerto Rico legislature, the commission would the nation’s capital to ask for two seats in the Senate and five seats in the House of Representatives.
However, statehood for Puerto Rico has earned the support of Democratic National Committee chair Tom Pérez. Last month, a White House spokesperson said that Congress was the ultimate arbiter of determining Puerto Rico’s territorial relationship with the United Sates. Over the weekend, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) reaffirmed its support for statehood, too.