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San Juan Mayor: Puerto Rican Statehood Like 'a Slave Becoming a Slave Owner'

San Juan mayor Carmen Cruz stands with a hat in a yellow and white shirt in front of water bottles.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz gained national media attention after attacking President Donald Trump, sparking a war of words between Trump and yet another Cruz. The San Juan mayor has made some very dubious remarks in the recent past that have nothing to do with Trump, however.

In a June interview with Britain's liberal The Guardian newspaper, Cruz compared Puerto Rico's current status as a U.S. territory to slavery and said that Puerto Rico becoming a U.S. state would be tantamount to a slave becoming a slave owner.

"You don't fight injustice by asking to become part of the system that committed the injustice against you in the first place," Cruz told The Guardian. "That's like a freed slave striving to become a slave owner."

"The issue of eradicating colonialism is extremely important, not for us as a country that's going through very hard times, but for the US which has been a beacon of freedom around the world, or at least has portrayed itself as that," Cruz added.

The San Juan mayor placed a heavy emphasis on the fact that the United States has engaged in imperialism, an ironic fact of history given that the United States threw off the imperial yoke of Great Britain. This irony is similar but not as egregious as the irony of the U.S. — a country founded on the idea that "all men are created equal" — harboring race-based slavery for nearly a century after its founding.

Cruz is a member of the opposition party, Partido Popular Democrático (PPD). The PPD does not advocate for Puerto Rican statehood, but a sort of middle ground between full independence and statehood. Her party supports full sovereign powers for Puerto Rico, but close ties to the U.S.

The U.S. territory held a referendum on statehood in June, and a full 97 percent of voters elected for the territory to become the 51st U.S. state. The turnout was only 23 percent, however. Puerto Rico also voted for statehood in 2012, but opponents said the voter turnout was too low to accurately reflect the will of the people.

President Trump signaled during his presidential campaign that he is open to Puerto Rico becoming a state. The governor plans to implement his "Tennessee plan," which involves choosing two senators and five representatives to go to Washington, D.C., and request statehood.

Cruz's attack on statehood by comparing it to slave ownership seems outrageous, but it is in keeping with the new tradition of slamming America's history as irredeemably tainted by racism and colonialism.

Leftist writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates argue that America was founded on white supremacy and still enshrines racism in its social structure, a sin that cannot be expunged without ultimately rejecting the Constitution itself. Coates also argued that white supremacy is the force that elected Donald Trump.