How the American Citizens of Puerto Rico Will Overcome Inequality and Be Free At Last in the Face of an Ostensibly Impotent PNP
On July 29, El Nuevo Dia’s Washington correspondent, Jose A. Delgado, blogged an update on H.R. 2499 and the goings-on of status politics in both Washington and San Juan. Here is a rough, paraphrased translation of the original (Spanish blog), followed by some commentary about the issues raised in it.
[It starts by noting that the U.S. Senate is heading out for its summer recess without the Energy and Natural Resources Committee having decided what to do with H.R. 2499—“it is not a secret that the bill will not advance and will remain hanging in committee,” states Delgado.
The chairman (Sen. Bingaman, D-NM) and ranking member (Sen. Murkowski, R-AK) still have to have a “formal conversation” to determine if it is possible to approve legislation after the November elections—a la Lame Duck—that would indicate which status solutions Puerto Rico can have that would be constitutionally valid.
Delgado quickly notes, “Nobody seems to be in a hurry about this issue.” That includes the New Progressive Party (PNP-statehood), which has proposed, maybe, having a plebiscite in 2011 because of Gov. Fortuño’s ostensibly unpopular local policies. Get this, apparently, a few days ago former pro-statehood governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Roselló, warned Gov. Fortuño that now was not the time to pursue a status plebiscite because any anger the public may have over the pro-statehood-led government’s policies could “adversely affect the statehood movement” in the polls. (Apparently, this is what Mr. Roselló learned from the “Great Misunderestimation of ‘93”—but so did the vast majority of status-tuned mind, except here at La Chuleta Congelá’.)
Gov. Fortuño, however, has voiced his concerns over the slow process to the White House, which promptly retorted that Puerto Rico would have to wait until October when the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status report is due.
Delgado finishes with the observation that there are those who doubt—most notably the U.S. Senate—that 2011 will be the “appropriate” time for Gov. Fortuño and the PNP legislature to propose a local plebiscite. Nevertheless, he continues, others think it will be very difficult for the PNP—which has the executive and the legislative branches under their firm control—to explain to its fiercely pro-statehood base how their party leadership missed an opportunity to order a status plebiscite.]
Now, let us cross some T’s and dot some I’s. The U.S. Senate continues to ignore Puerto Rico and the citizenship inequality of millions of American citizens; that much is crystal clear. After 112 years, are we to accept that two U.S. senators still have to have a “formal conversation” to discuss the possibility of passing a bill after the mid-term elections with the purpose of establishing which options Puerto Rico can have? It appears so, but if we, as Mr. Delgado does, understand the U.S. Senate is the reason Puerto Rico has never gotten a congressionally approved plebiscite—ever—then is should come as no surprise.
However, the issue here is the substance of the blog’s last paragraph, which notes that some doubt whether 2011 will see a local plebiscite and, most intriguingly, how others ask how the PNP will explain itself to its statehood base. That is a good question.
The PNP, today, enjoys a supermajority in the house and senate of Puerto Rico. The party has control of the resident commissioner’s office in Washington and the governorship of the island. Above all, the party enjoys the protection of a majority-PNP Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ready to reject nonsense applications of the law meant to derail any possible resolution to the status issue like in 1998 when, against the ropes, the Enemies of Equality introduced the island territory to “None of the Above” with the blessing of a misguided court.
So, how did the PNP miss out, again? According to Delgado (and, perhaps, common wisdom), Gov. Fortuño’s conservative politics have engendered anger amongst the people of Puerto Rico, which has a third of its workforce in the public sector. Front and center is Gov. Fortuño’s decision to cut government employment to the tune of 10 percent by the end of 2010 in an attempt to reduce considerably Puerto Rico’s projected $2 billion deficit. There are other measures in the pipeline attempting to alleviate the territory’s budget woes, but this is the big one.
In addition, the rebellion of thousands of students across Puerto Rican universities has not been favorable to the party in charge. The ill-conceived picketing was supported by the marginal independent movement in Puerto Rico, the colonialist PPD party, and the more formidable independence movements sponsored by presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel “Cuba and Puerto Rico Are Wings of the Same Bird” Castro of Cuba. Moreover, weighing in is the national agenda in Washington, D.C.
When is any of this NOT going to be happening?
When will local politics be under control and the people’s temperament “ready”? When, will somebody answer, will Chavez and Castro see it in their interest not to interfere in American domestic policy-making in Puerto Rico? Moreover, when–this question of the utmost importance–will the Popular Democratic Party stop obstructing Puerto Rican sovereignty and citizenship equality?
The answer to all is “NEVER!”
There is no organized conspiracy here. What is going on here is stalling of the highest magnitude. But why and to what end? Here is a secret for the readers of La Chuleta Congelá’: everybody knee-deep in the status issue knows Puerto Rico will be a state of the United States.
What is most irritating to those who support fair self-determination for Puerto Rico is that, now, even the statehood party leadership is waffling about what needs to be done.
Here is the bottom line:
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, no more, no less. Period. It is not equal and its American citizens withstand the worst of this inequality every day of their poverty-stricken lives. They ARE Americans in body and soul and proud of the land that gave them forth. Period. The island has a tiny independence movement with a legitimate, sovereignty-granting option that needs to be represented in the final plebiscite, but roughly, 97 percent of Puerto Ricans in the island are not willing to negotiate American citizenship in any final status, so there goes independence. Period. The 97 percent of Puerto Ricans that does not support independence divides about evenly between the two largest parties in Puerto Rico. One party, the New Progressive Party, claims statehood as its solution to the status issue and an end to citizenship inequality in Puerto Rico; the other party, the Popular Democratic Party, claims everything and supports nothing, by default its leadership and its supporters (preposterously) propose the unequal current status as the final solution Puerto Rico. Period. The Congress has voiced support for Puerto Rican self-determination even though it has never made it official through legislation, and many presidential administrations have supported self-determination for Puerto Rico—most presidents since Ford supporting statehood outright. Period!
The only end-of-sentence ellipsis here is the Puerto Ricans on the territory who continue to believe in an imaginary (unconstitutional) status arrangement that will secure their American citizenship without having to assume the rightful duties that go along with that highest of privileges. If citizenship equality is to materialize in the island territory, if all Americans want to get out of the status quagmire, it is time to get serious about the issue and invoke the only solution available: a statehood-versus-independence plebiscite. Let us end the perpetual economic, political, and democratic stagnation palpable in Puerto Rico.
The path is there; it just needs to be taken. The PNP can provide the vehicle.