A Brevard County commissioner is taking on Puerto Rico, in a confrontation that is rumbling through Central Florida’s Puerto Rican population and bound to lead to a showdown Tuesday night at the county commission meeting.

John Tobia, a Republican former member of the Florida House of Representatives who now represents southeast Brevard on the county commission, introduced a resolution for Tuesday night’s meeting that would have the county requesting Congress to “refrain from extending statehood to he commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”

The statehood issue arose anew last month after a June 11 referendum in Puerto Rico. Turnout was quite low, 23 percent, but the  islanders who voted overwhelmingly supported statehood.

Tobia’s resolution notes the low turnout, and also charges that the commonwealth’s socialist ways have caused Puerto Rico’s unpayable debts totaling $123 billion including the pension system, bankruptcy and other problems. “Whereas, the burdens placed on federal taxpayers to remedy the decades of mismanagement and socialization by the government of Puerto Rico would be untenable.”

Outside of Brevard County, Democrat and Republican Puerto Rican leaders alike are expressing surprise and many are expressing aghast that a county commissioner would want his county to get involved in the Puerto Rico statehood issue.

State Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, a Republican, sent two letters to Tobia and the other Brevard commissioners over the weekend and Monday urging them to vote down the resolution and instead consider supporting statehood for Puerto Rico. One letter was cosigned by Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando, and Democratic state Rep. John Cortes of Kissimmee, as well as Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park.

Puerto Rico Bar Association of Central Florida President Anthony Suarez, a Republican, sent a separate letter protesting on behalf of the bar association.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, a Democrat, called the resolution “a joke,” adding, “This is a matter for Congress, and this seems like a publicity stunt.”

State Rep. Amy Mercado or Orlando, a Democrat, called the resolution offensive, and said people in the growing Puerto Rican population in Brevard are feeling personally attacked and frustrated, “as they should be.”

Orlando Puerto Rico political activist Peter Vivaldi said he and others intend to attend and speak out against the resolution at Tuesday’s meeting.

Tobia said the issue is simple to him, the prospect that the United States might take on a new state that has such huge debt, which he said would spread out to equal roughly $380 apiece for every American. He said he wishes the Florida Legislature could take a stand, but the next Florida Legislative Session is too far off, so it is up to counties to do so

“This is a serious financial issue. This has nothing against any of the people living in Puerto Rico or the people that have come to the United States…. It’s just about the debt that would come along with Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state,” Tobia said. “It is absolutely scary, the amount of money each of the folks in my district could be saddled with.”

He said he’s heard from both sides, “Republicans for this, Republicans against this, Democrats for this, Democrats against this,” and welcomes airing the issue Tuesday night.

Vivaldi, Mercado, and several other Puerto Rican Florida leaders suggested that Tobia does not understand the debt. The debt is currently being restructured under Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy, and would remain Puerto Rico’s problem. Soto noted that if Puerto Rico becomes a state it would obtain sovereign immunity and could deal with the debts as other states do, as they see fit.

“If Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state, the U.S. would not be bailing them out,” Bob Cortes said.

Tobia replied, “I told Bob Cortes if he is willing to personally cover the $123 billion I would be more than willing to withdraw my resolution.”

The Brevard County Board of County Commissioners meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Puerto Rico resolution is the second action item on the agenda.

One Response

  1. Dennis Freytes


    INTRO: HI! I’m Colonel Dennis Freytes, US Army Retired. As an American Veteran who has been inducted into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame, by our FL Governor; former Trustee of Valencia College; confirmed by the FL Senate twice; former Professor (PMS)/ Commandant Officer School University of Puerto Rico; Former Commander of Infantry, Special Forces, Airborne, and other Units; now a Community Servant Leader-Fighter for a just cause—

    I respectfully say to this Honorable Body: Millions of loyal US Citizens from the US Territory of Puerto Rico, and Others here– are on a QUEST for INSTITUTIONAL EQUALITY! WE ask you SUPPORT; not HINDER our fight for JUSTICE!

    Please, VOTE NO on Commissioner’s Tobia’s Resolution against Puerto Rico’s STATEHOOD because– it lends itself to discrimination against patriotic and loyal Hispanics-Puerto Ricans, including American Veterans residing in the US Territory of Puerto Rico—which have sacrificed; shed sweat, blood and tears for YOU; help ensured the security, peace, freedom, and prosperity for Florida, and our noble USA—the greatest Nation in the annals of Human History!

    FACTS SUMMARY– Please, read the email I sent you on 5 July 2017 with details, reason and FACTS– based on our US Constitution, US Supreme Court Decisions-including the racist Insular Cases (1901-1925+), Presidential, Congressional (CRS-Congressional Research Service, GAO-Government Accounting Office), US Department of Justice Reports… other jurisprudence. As an American Floridian Boricua Patriot, we must stand up for millions of disfranchised US Citizens! “Canto claro como un Gallo Boricua de Manati-Monte Bello!”— Even if at times the Federal Government has been benevolent, SOME FACTS are:
    • In 1898, the United States invaded; took Puerto Rico, by force, made it an “un-incorporated” US Territory (“…more foreign than domestic…). This keeps Puerto Rico a perpetual US Territory with our US Congress empowered to discriminate in applying the US Constitution to Puerto Rico; allowing for a covert federally undemocratic and discriminatory 2d Class US Citizenship! Plus, it places Puerto Rico in a strait jacket in being able to resolve by itself the Fiscal, Economic, Status (which affects everything Puerto Rico does), and Humanitarian Crisis—that has created an exodus to the States, including here, taxing local resources!
    • Remember, “We the People” is made up of Equal US Citizens! But, Congress in 1917– created a federal Voter segregated Group of 2d Class US Citizens—where, those residing in Puerto Rico can’t VOTE for their US President-Head of State; don’t have just representation in the US Congress that determines their destiny; don’t have full earned benefits; NO parity in Federal Laws—like in 42 Federal Programs, Puerto Rico only gets 40-60% of Federal Funds received by the States! Also, Statutory (by Law, under the Territorial Clause) US Citizens, no matter where they reside, don’t have a permanent US Citizenship!
    • Plus, the Federal Government controls PR’s Economy/ Free Market, Currency, Security, Borders, Shipping (with higher consumer costs for all goods), Taxes, earned Benefits, Federal Votes…; oversees all local laws; can cede PR to another Nation…; can differentiate (discriminate) in applying the US Constitution or Federal Laws (like it has done in many Federal Programs and earned Benefits that cost dearly Puerto Rico’s and the MACRO American Economy)…!
    • Puerto Rico Federal Status is a US Territory– under the US Constitution’s Territorial Clause; not a Commonwealth or ELA-Free Associated State–terms not found in the US Constitution, but, are political distorted terms– used to fool People as to the true PR Constitutional Status!
    • All the cold numbers mentioned in the Resolution are one sided; don’t take into account the Federal Government’s unilateral control over Puerto Rico nor its responsibilities in resolving the complicated Puerto Rican Economic, Fiscal, Status (affects everything Puerto Ricans do), and Humanitarian Crisis… nor the over 45 billion dollar Money Flow net gain for the Federal Government; net loss to Puerto Rico (a negative impact on its fiscal crisis)…!
    • Please, remember, almost all US Territories before Puerto Rico had economic problems or were poor or had low Statehood Referendum participation Rates…; treated differently than Puerto Rico (which suffers discrimination)! But, ALL former US Territories, after achieving Equality and Parity in Federal Laws, made economic progress and contributions to our USA!
    • Besides, it’s the duty of all to Vote; the majority to democratically decide! Many elections here, especially in off years, have very low participation rates…, but, the majority rules!

    Loyal Puerto Ricans and Ancestors have made great contributions to our USA—deserve to be treated as EQUALS! Remember, the 1st Governor of Puerto Rico—Ponce de Leon—organized the Trip and sailed from Puerto Rico, most probably landing in Brevard County– which opened the doors to the advance civilization (of the times) for our now USA—107 years before the Pilgrims! Natives and Immigrants together-have made the USA a land of fairness, Liberty, and opportunity—the best in the World!

    The way Puerto Ricans are Voter segregated and discriminately treated, is a travesty to our US Republic’s Representative Democracy—where all US Citizens (including American Veterans) should have EQUAL protected Individual Civil Rights; “consent of the governed” (as our Declaration of Independence calls for)! We must guard against the Tyranny of a Majority!

    IN CLOSING, Puerto Rico’s Economic, Fiscal, and Status Crisis must be dealt and resolved concurrently! WE hope you will stand with Patriots of True Grit-for EQUAL treatment under just Laws; VOTE NO on this discriminating Resolution against US Citizens residing in Puerto Rico– as they have democratically VOTED twice for EQUALITY through STATEHOOD; to be admitted to the “Union of States”– with own STATE Identity, Sovereignty, Flag, Constitution, and parity in Federal Laws–like other States, and US Citizens have!

    Please, arm yourself with knowledge; don’t listen to those poorly informed that provide excuses; a twisted logic or political distortion that sustains oppression! Help Stop discrimination! Support Equality, in a Non-Partisan way, for ALL US Citizens—including Puerto Ricans! Like Dr. ML King said—THE TIME IS NOW! Let the cry for REASON and JUSTICE prevail, as we work TOGETHER for the good of all: Family, Community, USA, and Humanity!

    With truth, reason, courage, and Civic ACTION—WE will overcome! THANK YOU!
    Any Questions? THANKS! (BY: American Veteran Dennis O. Freytes)


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