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Why U.S. Statehood for Puerto Rico is Inevitable

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Puerto Rico Independence, Puerto Rico Statehood, Self-Determination, Soberanistas vs. Autonomistas, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on September 26, 2012 at 2:21 PM

THE FOLLOWING ESSAY is from ABC-CLIO‘s World Geography: Understanding a Changing World website
http://worldgeography2.abc-clio.com/

By Javier Arvelo-Cruz-Santana

Puerto Ricans have repeatedly made clear that their American citizenship is non-negotiable. Successive presidents and Congresses have elucidated their official welcome to Puerto Rico as a state if petitioned. The commitment to the union and its ideals borne out in the prolific participation of Puerto Ricans in the armed forces is a matter of record. Both major mainland political parties have enshrined their support of Puerto Rico’s right to statehood in their respective platforms. The precipitous decline in support for the “Commonwealth” has been well documented since the early 1990s.[1] The notion of an “enhanced Commonwealth” status is universally rejected by both chambers of Congress, various presidential reports, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Similarly, Puerto Ricans have rejected sovereignty through independence or free association. The original intent of the U.S. territorial status as temporary has regained its currency and recognition. Inviolable, natural American citizenship is now inextricably coupled with the Puerto Rican desire to be free and equal, and participate in their national government. In so doing, Puerto Ricans will finally control their political, economic, civic, and legal destinies.

These facts necessarily lead reasonable observers to conclude that the small-in-size, but big-in-population archipelago inevitably will become America’s 51st state.

Territorialism

Congress holds, under the U.S. Constitution’s Territorial Clause, all powers over Puerto Rico. When the first Congress established the  Northwest Ordinance (1787) to manage the first of many organized territories, it worked to design a blueprint for administering the powers derived from the Territorial Clause. In Puerto Rico’s case, a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases between 1901 and 1922, known as the Insular Cases, distorted the traditional territory-to-statehood trajectory partly for socio-cultural, religious, and ethnic reasons.

Puerto Rico still struggles with the residue of those biased distortions, mainly the Supreme Court’s concoction of the idea of unincorporated territories “appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.”[2] Before these rulings, every organized territory under the power of the federal government was understood to be on its way to statehood, as territorial status was considered temporary tutelage in republican democracy and economic development. When the residents of a territory with a large-enough population organized a republican system of government, they could petition for admission to the union and Congress would accept them as equals. Things rapidly changed when the U.S. territorial expansion that began with the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and continued with Manifest Destiny through the Mexican-American War (1848) culminated with the acquisition of Pacific and Caribbean islands after the short-lived Spanish-American War (1898). Despite these now-moot, radical decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, Puerto Rico remains an exemplary candidate for statehood. Puerto Rico will be the next state precisely because the Americans of the territory want U.S. citizenship in perpetuity and equality in benefits and responsibilities (as all free people do), and the federal government supports the goal, following Puerto Ricans’ petition.

Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States more than a century ago after the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1898)[3] with the Kingdom of Spain. After American forces landed in Guánica Bay and wrested control of the small archipelago from Spain, most Puerto Ricans welcomed the Americans not as occupiers but as liberators. That sense of liberation was buttressed by the words of General Nelson A. Miles upon the American arrival on July 25, 1898: “We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but . . . to bring you protection . . . to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our Government [emphasis added].”[4]

Despite the promises of “protection,” “prosperity,” and “immunities and blessings,” the sovereign power of Congress over Puerto Rico has remained unchanged since. Though afforded enfranchisement through limited local self-government in 1952, 3.7 million Puerto Ricans remain subordinate to laws enacted by Congress without their participation. The “Commonwealth” status, translated by island-based supporters as “Free Associated State,” is neither free, nor associated, nor a state, and cannot provide citizenship equality with full democratic rights. Puerto Rico can only attain equality through the attainment of statehood, which brings proportionate voting representation in Congress and the right to vote for electors in the presidential election. There can be no political or citizenship equality within the union without statehood.

Citizenship

Myths and lies abound about Puerto Rico’s status and are put forward with the purpose of denying equality to Puerto Rico to benefit a few who have found it politically convenient, and others who find it impermissible. Although U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are routinely linked to immigration and assimilation debates they should not be subjected to, with the intention of marginalizing island residents who are overwhelmingly Hispanic. Puerto Ricans are Americans, residing on American soil, and citizens since 1917 who have fought alongside their mainland fellow citizens. Only a small minority in Puerto Rico would readily discard U.S. citizenship for political independence, but island-based supporters of the territorial status seek to protect the status quo for narrow political and economic ends, and a majority of them would never discard their American citizenship.

Puerto Rico’s American citizenship has three unpalatable classes. Though granted statutory citizenship in 1917—meaning by act of Congress, not by the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment—Congress passed and President Harry Truman signed a law on June 27, 1952,[5] that retroactively declared all persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, to be natural-born U.S. citizens and all persons born between April 11, 1899, and January 12, 1941, to be statutory citizens of the United States as of January 13, 1941.

Thus, one can argue, there are three classes of American citizenship in Puerto Rico. Someone born before 1941 remains a statutory citizen and Congress can take that citizenship away. Comprising the second class are persons born in Puerto Rico who have natural citizenship that Congress cannot take away through law, but who reside in the island without full political rights. Finally, first-class-citizenship Puerto Ricans are those born in Puerto Rico and who for various reasons—principally economic exile—decide to relocate to a state; they enjoy full political equality as bona fide residents of the states.

A further argument can be made that yet a fourth class exists: that of the Puerto Rican unborn, whose impermanent citizenship rests in the hands of future Congresses. This is one of the embroiling differences between a U.S. state and an “unincorporated” territory.

Language & Culture

Arguments offered by opponents of statehood—in the pro-status quo Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and on the mainland—mislead the uninformed, lack foundation, and are often intellectually dishonest. Equality opponents cite Spanish as an obstacle to statehood, a position for which there is no precedent in the admission of new states. Supporters of English-only claim it would protect America’s linguistic culture. Both opponents of statehood and supporters of English-only misrepresent their intentions.

Hawai’i is an officially bilingual state. The States of Maine and Louisiana have no official language, but recognize English and French. New Mexico publishes government documents in English and Spanish. Alaska recognizes Native languages. California has official English, but recognizes eight languages for government documentation, nine languages for a commercial driver’s license, and an outstanding 32 languages for a regular driver’s license. Arizona has made English official but recognizes a variety of Native languages for elections. The States of New Mexico, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Washington promote multiple languages through “English Plus.”[6] The 2010 federal Census was made available in over 60 languages.

Puerto Rico is officially bilingual since 1902, and its constitution is written and its laws promulgated in English and Spanish. No state officially recognized English before Puerto Rico! In fact, most states with “official” English have carved out many exceptions required by statute, state constitutions, and/or the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, most state-based official English laws simply require state governments to print and promulgate their official business in English, at least.

Many states have adopted English as their official language, others have chosen not to adopt an official language, a few have recognized multiple, and one is officially bilingual. As such, choice of official language is an established states’ right. Multitudes of communities throughout the country speak languages other than English without detriment to the national or state social identity.

Opposition to Puerto Rican statehood based on sociological cohesion among island Americans conveniently overlooks that Puerto Rican self-identity is as strong as it was in 1898, and that culture is not static. Puerto Ricans pride themselves in their multicultural ancestry, and have absorbed as much American culture in the last century as they did Caribbean and Spanish culture during the 400-year-long Spanish domination.

Opponents of statehood suggest that social and cultural identity are barriers to statehood and suggest Puerto Ricans could never integrate successfully, ignoring the fact that California, Vermont, and Texas were independent countries, and Hawai’i an independent kingdom, with non-English-speaking populations before their admission as states. To pretend that their identity, culture, language, and nationhood were impediments to their successful integration belie the facts![7]

Neither language nor social identity has ever been a prerequisite for statehood. Rather, a working government and population size have, and Puerto Rico more than meets those requirements. The local economy is what Puerto Ricans have not been able to build to the fullest under the deficient, territorial “Commonwealth” status. That is a problem.

Territorial Economics

While congressional process is integral to ending territorialism in Puerto Rico, the economic promise and benefits of statehood for all Americans cannot be understated. In 2009, federal transfer payments to Puerto Rico cost mainland taxpayers over $22 billion—over $400 per household[8]—and another $11 billion in tax expenditures for mainland and foreign corporate interests on the island. Though economic advances were made after the 1950s, growth has been flat since the 1980s, and the uncertainty of the island’s territorial status is to blame. Some argue federal taxes in Puerto Rico would sink the local economy, but do not mention the disproportionately high local taxes, their effects on the economy, and most importantly the federal income tax thresholds. Once the federal income tax system is integrated, local taxes will require adjustment to rebalance taxpayer burden.

Like mainland taxpayers, Puerto Ricans participate in the federal payroll tax system, which funds Social Security and Medicare. Statehood will alleviate the public costs of inequity with an initial infusion of federal funding, which will be reciprocated to the U.S. Treasury as island-based corporations and individuals pay federal taxes after statehood.

Americans in Puerto Rico do not get their proportionate share of federal healthcare,[9] transportation, or infrastructure funding. For example, Puerto Rico gets 50% of its Medicaid funding from the federal government; if it were a state, the federal formula would award the maximum 83%. Simultaneously, Puerto Rico operates quasi-independently of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) structure with a patchwork of preferential tax treatments for various commercial interests that cost mainland taxpayers billions per year. Territorialism imposes artificial constraints on the island’s economy. With parity, Puerto Rico will be able to manage its economic future with reliability the “Commonwealth” cannot supply. Statehood will reduce the unbalanced fiscal burdens that the “Commonwealth” status forces all Americans to endure, and it will progressively produce billions for the U.S. Treasury.

Statehood for Puerto Rico will not be a burden to Americans on the island or the mainland. Besides, if it were, for justice it should be viewed as the inevitable result of a century of neglect in territorial limbo. Regardless, any “extra fiscal burden” will be short-lived because it is indisputable that territorial economies—after statehood—experience faster-than-average economic growth.[10]

If Puerto Rico had chosen statehood in 1952, instead of “Commonwealth,” by 1994 island real per capita income would have been—conservatively—at least $6,000 higher, or $13,000.[11] Nevertheless, if the island had chosen statehood in 1993, the per capita income would have increased over $8,000 by 2010 and another $15,000 by the year 2025—all in addition to the anemic growth under “Commonwealth.” In other words, if statehood had been achieved in 1994, when the real per capita income of the island territory was $7,000, by 2010 the island’s real per capita income of a little over $16,000 would have stood at about $24,000. That same year, 2010, Mississippi had a per capita income of roughly $31,000, or 93% higher than Puerto Rico’s[12]. In 2010, Mississippi would still have outranked Puerto Rico as a state, but remarkably by only 29%. This “economic opportunity gap” is the direct result of the “Commonwealth” status, sustained by its creators and defenders in the Popular Democratic Party.

‘Commonwealth’ & the PPD

“Commonwealth” status won the 1967 referendum with 60.4% of the vote, and though supporters of statehood boycotted the plebiscite, statehood garnered 39% and independence 0.6%. In 1993, “Commonwealth” won a plurality of the vote with 48.6%, statehood 46.3%, and independence 4.4%. Notably, it was the first time a majority of Puerto Ricans voted against territorial status. By 1998, the territorial option had dwindled to a 0.06% share of the vote with statehood garnering the plurality among the permanent options with 46.49%, independence with 2.5%, and independence in free association with 0.29%. “None of the Above” captured a 50.3% majority.

The pro-status quo PPD, founded in 1938, evolved from an independence party. In the lead-up to the adoption of the local constitution approved by Congress, Luis Muñoz Marín, the charismatic leader of the PPD, settled the fight between the sides that advocated statehood or independence for the island. Muñoz Marín proposed a temporary compromise—the “Commonwealth” status—through which Puerto Rico could build up its government institutions, lagging economy, and civic strength so that at a not-too-distant future, a choice could be made between statehood and independence. Muñoz Marín’s plan succeeded. In 1948, he became the island’s first popularly elected governor since Christopher Columbus claimed the island on behalf of the Spanish Empire in 1493.

Muñoz Marín served four four-year terms as governor. In that longest-of-gubernatorial-reigns, he worked to consolidate power to make his party indispensable to Puerto Ricans. From the beginning, Governor Muñoz Marín decided that the temporary “Commonwealth” status was to remain in place permanently, so the PPD began a campaign to build the arguments in favor. First, the PPD embarked on a scheme to portray the “Commonwealth” status as permanent. In fact, four years later, in 1952, when Congress allowed the island a local constitution, he lobbied Congress to name the new status the “Free Associated State of Puerto Rico,” which the Congress rejected as misleading. Having failed to garner congressional support, the governor used the English-Spanish language divide to promote the misleading title in the island. He chose the word “Commonwealth,” which in English is devoid of meaning as a political status, but once in Puerto Rico, the constitutional convention decided to use “Free Associated State” as the name for the “new” entity.

Subsequently, the PPD leadership moved to build the now-universally-rejected argument that Puerto Rico stopped being a territory of the United States under the Territorial Clause. Their argument’s central point was that Congress ceded its plenary powers over the territory. Simultaneously, dissatisfaction with the “Commonwealth” status began to simmer as the local economy stagnated. Immediately, the PPD began its now-infamous campaign of “enhancement,” which promised Puerto Ricans that the PPD would convince Congress to grant more local autonomy. Congress rejected the idea, stating that the territorial status will remain as is—no more, no less. The PPD still promises “enhanced Commonwealth” as an “acceptable solution,” while continuing to claim (erroneously at best, misleadingly at worst) that Puerto Rico has a bilateral treaty with the U.S.

To add insult to injury, the PPD now rejects any plebiscite put before the people of Puerto Rico. It is clear its leadership is content to keep a majority of Puerto Ricans under the territorial status. Surely, a minority in Puerto Rico does not have the democratic right or the moral authority to keep a majority of its compatriots under the shackles of inequality and the shadow of economic stagnation. That the “Commonwealth” status has cost Puerto Rican families thousands of dollars in economic growth is irrefutable.

Conclusion

Admission to the union does not require extraordinary constitutional measures; neither constitutional amendment nor state convention is required. Statehood merely requires petition, simple majorities in Congress, and the president’s signature on a Statehood Enabling Act. The fact is that after the original 13 colonies, Congress has admitted 37 states and has never refused a petition for statehood. Though it did temporarily ignore eight requests for admission, those states joined through the now-famous Tennessee Plan.

Puerto Ricans have contributed significantly to all facets of American national life and have served in all branches of the armed forces.  Puerto Rico’s participation in the military is one of the highest among the states, yet hundreds of thousands of island veterans do not share the equal rights enjoyed by their mainland counterparts. Unequal citizenship is the result of continued territorial status and the absence of equal representation in Congress. Puerto Ricans elect one delegate with no voting rights to the House of Representatives instead of a full, voting delegation of up to five representatives. They remain voiceless in the U.S. Senate. Without voting representation, Puerto Ricans do not have a say as to whether their sons and daughters will fight wars approved by Congress; similarly, they cannot vote for their commander-in-chief.

That Puerto Ricans have demonstrated their commitment to the United States during this longest-of-territorial-relationships is undeniable. To suggest that a lower class of citizenship is acceptable by virtue of limited self-governance must be anathema to the just principle of equity. That suggestion belongs to times in our national history when paternalism and bigotry once held that minorities desired to be led by others and had neither capacity nor yearning for political rights and empowerment. Such beliefs are unacceptable and opposed to America’s values and principles.

“Almost complete administrative autonomy,” as the PPD claims, cannot supplant full citizenship equality, for the price of being a democratically deficient colony and an economically starved society already has proven too heavy a price. The peddled notion that Puerto Rico should not concern itself with the status issue because of the “more pressing” social issues facing residents exposes the intellectual disconnect the PPD manipulates and exploits. The brain drain, crime, and continued destruction of the social fabric in Puerto Rico due to the lack of economic progress is the true threat to the very society the PPD pretends to defend through its obstruction. The fact is these problems—as serious as they are—are but acute symptoms of a chronic disease called “Commonwealth” status, which is territorial and has stagnated Puerto Rico’s economic progress to the detriment of multiple generations of American citizens. Worse, it continues to give them an uncertain future.

Justice dictates that equal rights and citizenship should not be usurped by intellectual dishonesty. Language, culture, and geography have never been prerequisites for the admission of states; rather, commitments to republican governance, democratic principles, patriotism, population size, and economic considerations have. Puerto Rico meets all those necessary requirements to become the 51st state. Absent statehood, Puerto Rico can never be equal under the U.S. Constitution and will never attain economic parity with the states. Americans in Puerto Rico deserve equal citizenship, democratic and civil rights, and a sovereign voice in their political and economic futures. Equality through statehood, now!


Notes:

[1]    To see the decline of the “Commonwealth” option’s favorability through the three status plebiscites held in Puerto Rico, visit:

1967    <http://eleccionespuertorico.org/cgi-bin/events.cgi?evento=1967>,
1993    <http://eleccionespuertorico.org/cgi-bin/events.cgi?evento=1993>,
1998    <http://eleccionespuertorico.org/cgi-bin/events.cgi?evento=1998>.

[2]    Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901) and Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922).

[3]    A Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain, U.S. Congress, 55th Cong., 3d sess., Senate Doc. No. 62, Part 1 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1899), 5-11.

[4]    Karl Stephen Herrman, A Recent Campaign in Puerto Rico by the Independent Regular Brigade under the Command of Brigadier General Schwan (Boston: E. H. Bacon, 1907), 10.

[5]    Persons Born in Puerto Rico on or After April 11, 1899. United States Code, Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter III, Part I, § 1402.

[6]    Statement of Purpose: Founding document of the English Plus Information Clearinghouse, EPIC, accessed March 18, 2012, <http://www.massenglishplus.org/mep/engplus.html>.

[7]    Of course, it would be a bit disingenuous to say California was a republic without mentioning the fact that the “Bear Republic” lasted less than a month; however, the fact that the land and many of its inhabitants pre-statehood felt and were different: they  were Californianos! In much the same fashion, the people of Texas to this day feel “American” but also strongly “Texan.”

[8]    Alexander Odishelidze and Arthur Laffer, Pay to the Order of Puerto Rico (Fairfax: Allegiance Press, 2005), 11.

[9]    Kathryn G. Allen, U.S. Insular Areas: Multiple Factors Affect Federal Health Care Funding, (Washington, D.C.: Government Accountability Office, October 2005) <http://www.gao.gov/assets /250/248141.pdf>.

[10]    Glenn P. Jenkins and J. Tomas Hexner, Puerto Rico: The Economics of Status (The Citizens Educational Foundation, 1994), 11-20.

[11]    Ibid., 18.

[12]    Personal Income and Per Capita Personal Income, by State and Region, 2006-2010, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed March 3, 2012, <http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/ spi/2011/xls/spi0311.xls>.


MLA:
“Why U.S. Statehood for Puerto Rico is Inevitable.” World Geography: Understanding a Changing World. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

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Popular Democratic Party Rejects H.R. 2499, Puts Forward Its Own Vision for Puerto Rico Self-Determination

In Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on November 14, 2010 at 6:52 PM

We at La Chuleta Congelá’ have decided to take all of the “proposals” and/or “suggestions” made by the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (PPD, the creator and promoter of the territorial status with the name of “Commonwealth”) and put them into a “bill” for Congress to consider.

Of course, this “bill” is crude bologna because most of the assertions made by the PPD are impossible to achieve under the American constitution. As such, though, we have decided to have fun, and make up a bill that illustrates what it is the PPD really wants for Puerto Rico’s future: nothing but the status quo! (But they cannot campaign or say that in Puerto Rico.)

As a matter of fact, here’s a little quote from the founder of the PPD, Luis Munoz Marin, who used to be an independence supporter and then changed his views in favor of territorial “Commonwealth.” Muñoz Marin had a plan. He would name the “new” status “Commonwealth” in English and “Estado Libre Asociado” (Free-Associated State) in Spanish. See the ruse? In Puerto Rico, to Puerto Ricans, Muñoz Marin spoke of “sovereignty and nationhood and equality and compacts,” but in Washington, D.C., to Congress, Muñoz Marin spoke this way:

“There is a wide disbelief here [in Puerto Rico] as to any political status that does not involve a transfer of sovereignty to the people of Puerto Rico. I share this belief because of the [U.S.] constitutional limitations involved. Congress cannot–save in the form of classic statehood–create sovereignty in a territory that continues to be part of the United States. Under this limitation, commonwealth status would have the nature of a loan of authority by Congress that is recallable at will.”

The point ought to be clear, this party and its leaders do not have any real solutions to move Puerto Rico out of colonialism and into statehood or independence. According to the party, even a plebiscite written their way would be “unfair” because statehood promises too much and the other options (independence and “Commonwealth”) cannot compete. Huh. So statehood must be watered down so that other options have a fair chance? More bologna! If statehood is “the better option,” then independence and “Commonwealth” supporters better come up with better arguments. After all, it is the Americans of Puerto Rico who DO NOT want independence. And it will be they who tear down the territorial “Commonwealth.”

With that in mind, dear readers, here’s the mock PPD bill; the way they want it: confusing.

 

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112th Congress, 2nd Session, Last day thereof …

H.R. 1952.2

(y Arroz con Gandules a Bomba y Plena)

To provide an unnecessary federally sanctioned self-determination process for the People of the Sovereign and Autonomous Free-Associated State of Puerto Rico because Puerto Rico is a nation with its own culture and we have a COMPACT with the United States of America and we are equal partners, and Congress does not hold us as a colony. Anyways, some people “don’t like it,” so we are forced to do “something.” Move on.

___________________________________

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

January 2, 2013

The Popular Democratic Party, Holder and Protector of the Truths of 1952 (for himself, EVERYBODY, yep, EVERYBODY because there are too many people behind this bill we couldn’t possibly name them all. Big Pharma, here’s to you! In addition, we must thank for their support all of those in the Popular Democratic Party who have held up the promise of “Mejorando La Raza.” Further, who could forget, to Dependency—because it feels free!) Anyway, uh, introduced this bill for immediate consideration by the House of Representatives Committee of the Whole … no screwing around with that stupid Committee on Natural Resources; they don’t like us.

 

A BILL to provide for a federally sanctioned self-determination process for the Great Nation of the Independent State Territory of the People of Puerto Rico—not a damned colony!

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled and with Puerto Rico’s Permission,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “GREATEST ACT EVER.”

 

SECTION 2. FEDERALLY SANCTIONED PROCESS FOR PUERTO RICO’S SELF-DETERMINATION.

(a) FIRST PLEBISCITE.—The Government of Puerto Rico is authorized—even though they already possess all the power thereto—to conduct a status plebiscite in Puerto Rico or somewhere in the Caribbean, definitely within the Western Hemisphere. The 2 options set forth on the SPANISH-ONLY ballot shall be preceded by the following statement: ‘‘Instructions: Mark one of the following 2 options if you feel like it:

‘‘(1) Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of political status, which has done wonders for the people of Puerto Rico under the power of the Great One they called Luis Muñoz Marin and promoted perpetually by the Honorable DON Rafael Hernandez Colón, former great Governor of this Island Nation. Blessed be he. If you agree, mark here _____________.

‘‘(2) Puerto Rico should have a different political status and possibly begin 100 years of regret about choosing a status alternative that they knew nothing about. God help us if we should pick some status that Puerto Ricans can’t handle. Especially one that will destroy our culture and language … and our kids. If you agree, mark here _.’’.

(b) PROCEDURE IF MAJORITY IN FIRST PLEBISCITE FAVORS OPTION 1.—If a majority of the ballots in the plebiscite are cast in favor of  (the best) Option 1, the Government of Puerto Rico (unless the Popular Democratic Party happens to be in the minority, in which case it) is authorized to conduct additional plebiscites under subsection (a) at intervals of 100 years from the date that the results of the prior plebiscite are certified under section 3(d). Take your time!

(c) PROCEDURE IF MAJORITY IN FIRST PLEBISCITE FAVORS OPTION 2, WHICH WILL DESTROY PUERTO RICO.—If a majority of the ballots in a plebiscite conducted pursuant to subsection (a) or (b) are cast in favor of (the worst) Option 2, the Government of Puerto Rico (unless the Popular Democratic Party happens to be in the minority, in which case it) is authorized to conduct a plebiscite on the following options:

(1) Third World Independence (look at Haiti): Puerto Rico should become fully independent from the United States. You WILL lose your American citizenship and everything good in your life. If you want it, mark here _____.

(2) Sovereignty in Association with the United States (look at Palau): Puerto Rico and the United States should form a political association between sovereign nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution, like the Current “Commonwealth” Status because we ARE NOT under the Territorial Clause. Agree to disagree. If you agree with losing your benefits, mark here _____.

(3) statehood (I want more taxes): mark here _.

(4) If you agree that el Coquí is ours, please mark here, ___________________________.

(5) Enhanced Commonwealth; The Independent Republic of the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico will have the authority to tax the 50 states of the United States, veto any federal law, continue to enjoy all the rights of natural citizenship, conduct international relations through the United Nations, enter into bilateral treaties, etc. At the will of, again, the Popular Democratic Party. If you want the Best of Both Worlds, PATRIOTICALLY MARK HERE ________________.

(6) Commonwealth as is, but with a Constitutional Convention to go with it. At the Convention, popularly elected Popular Democratic Party Spanish-speaking delegados will be responsible for exploring, studying, analyzing, constructing and deconstructing theories about, challenge, support, endorse and repudiate all possible options for Puerto Rico (including but not limited to Independence, Free Association, Enhanced Commonwealth, Independence with American citizenship, Commonwealth as it is, Constitutional Monarchy, Communism in Association with the United States, Parliamentary Government in Partnership with Quebec, Unicameral Sovereignty, Cuban and/or Venezuelan Provincial Sovereignty, Autonomy under the King of Spain … oh, and statehood).

(7) NONE OF THE ABOVE! If you agree, please mark here _________________________, or anywhere in the space below. Comments welcomed!”

|

|

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SECTION 3. APPLICABLE LAWS AND OTHER REQUIREMENTS.

(a) APPLICABLE LAWS.—All Federal laws applicable to the election of the Resident Commissioner shall, as appropriate and consistent with this Act, also apply to any plebiscites held pursuant to this Act. Any reference in such Federal laws to elections shall be considered, as appropriate, to be a reference to the plebiscites, unless it would frustrate the purposes of this Act or the Plans of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico. Viva La Pava!

(b) RULES AND REGULATIONS.—The Puerto Rico State Elections Commission shall issue all rules and regulations necessary to carry out the plebiscites under this Act. Further, only the Popular Democratic Party’s delegate in the Commission shall have the right to vote on said rules and regulations.

(c) ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE.—Each of the following shall be eligible to vote in any plebiscite held under this Act:

(1) All eligible voters under the electoral laws in effect in Puerto Rico at the time the plebiscite is held. Except the leadership of the English-speaking New Progressive Party AND independence supporters not aligned with the Popular Democratic Party.

(2) All United States citizens born in Puerto Rico or elsewhere who comply, to the satisfaction of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, with all requirements (other than the residency requirement) applicable to eligibility to vote in a general election in Puerto Rico. Persons eligible to vote under this subsection shall, upon timely request to the Commission and prompt return to the Popular Democratic Party of a full political profile of your views on Puerto Rico’s status, might be entitled to receive an absentee SPANISH-ONLY ballot for the plebiscite.

(3) All Popular Democratic Party members who have died since the founding of the party in 1938. The Puerto Rico State Elections Commission shall collaborate with the Puerto Rico Department of Health Demographic Registry to gather all necessary records to cast the “dead vote.” Further, Popular Democratic Party Founder Luis Muñoz Marin gets two votes; one for each face.

(d) CERTIFICATION OF PLEBISCITE RESULTS.—The Puerto Rico Popular Democratic Party shall certify the results of any plebiscite held under this Act to the People of Puerto Rico for another vote on whether or not to accept the Popular Democratic Party’s interpretation of the results. After said vote by voters in Puerto Rico, the Popular Democratic Party shall verify and certify that vote, send it to a Blue Ribbon Committee for no less than two years but no more than 5 years. After this period of legislative cooling, the results and all reports and analysis collected thereto, herein, and aforesaid, the Popular Democratic Party shall send every ballot box on a victory lap around the island, visiting all 78 municipalities and 900 barrios of the island where every child under 5 shall be present (unless said absence is accompanied by a doctor’s note). After the island-wide Caravana (building-size speakers optional), the Popular Democratic Party shall call forth a Constituent Assembly to further analyze and scrutinize the vote. After a period of no more than ten years, the Popular Democratic Party shall finally certify the process to the President of the United States and to the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States for immediate action on future changes or vice versa, respectively.

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GOOD LUCK, PUERTO RICO!

U.S. Senate Kills H.R. 2499, White House Delays Task Force on P.R.’s Status Report

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on October 12, 2010 at 4:05 PM
A Lesson on Territorialism and why Supporters of Self-Determination Clamor “TENNESSEE! TENNESSEE!”


Once again, the U.S. Senate refused to be a constructive partner in solving Puerto Rico’s unequal status. After months of claiming senators wanted to wait for the White House task force report at the end of October, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, informed the public that his colleagues could not reach a consensus on moving forward with Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s House-approved Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009/10 (H.R. 2499).

What is there to know, senators?

Let us see:

  • The United States invaded Puerto Rico (a colony of the Empire of Spain) in 1898.
  • Since, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States under the U.S. Congress’ plenary authority under the U.S. Constitution’s Territorial Clause.
  • Congress made all Puerto Ricans United States citizens in 1917 and in 1952 gave them autonomy to organize in a republican form of government under a constitution of their own writing (amended by Congress, of course).
  • After 1952, Puerto Rico remained a United States territory, now called a “Commonwealth” in English and a “Free Associated State” in Spanish—still not a state or an independent country, but an American colony where the citizens have second-class citizenship.
  • There have been three attempts at finishing the current unequal territorial status through a direct, democratic vote. Once in 1967, another in 1993, and yet another in 1998—all of them inconclusive for various reasons, none of which are legitimate reasons not to proceed with a final self-determination vote for citizenship equality.
  • The Americans of Puerto Rico still wait for a congressionally sanctioned plebiscite for a chance to vote for their future.

Facts are facts!

The United States Senate has been singularly instrumental in keeping the four million American citizens of the island territory unequal for 112 years. The Senate has never passed a bill giving Puerto Rico a clear path toward self-determination, while the U.S. House has, at the very least, engaged the political leadership of the territory in short debates about the status. The White House, through the Clinton-, W. Bush-, and Obama Administrations, has been involved in trying to build consensus among the key status factions in Puerto Rico on what the status alternatives mean to Puerto Rico and the U.S. On October 12, the Obama Administration signaled that it would give the President’s Taskforce on Puerto Rico’s Status more time (perhaps until December) to complete its report.

The White House’s decision, reported in El Nuevo Dia by Jose Delgado, also seems to include two key new pieces of information. The first is the notion that the Obama Administration is going to focus heavily on economic development in the American territory. The second, and most Obamaesque, is that  the new report will back away to more “neutral” ground assertions made on the first and second Taskforce reports about Puerto Rico’s true colonial status.

The 2005 and 2007 reports (see Must Axxess Files box, below), ordered originally by the Clinton Administration and concluded under the W. Bush Administration, inflamed the “Commonwealth” PPD Party because they asserted in no equivocal terms that the federal hold on the territory was absolute, so much so that the federal government could give Puerto Rico away to another foreign power with no reason whatsoever.

These not-so-new developments—this federal dance, if you will—is unworkable. This is a political process more than it is a problem. Supporters of Self-Determination cannot allow this to continue!

We have the federal house acting on well-intentioned but mingled bills to solve the unequal status of four million Americans. We have a federal senate that refuses to look at their fellow citizens in the face while, simultaneously, single-handedly denies them even the opportunity to exercise their most fundamental democratic right to self-determination. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a federal executive that seeks neutrality and consensus in that which can have neither the former nor the latter. In the words of a once-bold leader, it is time for Change. Another such political pioneer was a man by the name of George Lehleitner who, according to the University of Alaska’s statehood files, was a “New Orleans businessman who single-handedly convinced the Alaska Constitutional Convention to adopt the ‘Alaska-Tennessee Plan’ in order to lobby for statehood.”

The U.S. Constitution spells out the statehood and territorial processes, but in constitutionally short language:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 & 2

Traditionally, Congress has filled the constitutional gaps through vigorous involvement in the constitutional management of territories, but not always. Since the original Thirteen Colonies (i.e. March 4, 1789 to Present), the territorial map of the United States has had over 100 variations, with as many flags to match an Age that was—long before it was named—Manifest Destiny.

Congress has never made a state. It simply manages territory under the auspices of the federal government, and when, and only when, certain population centers develop to a certain number and write a constitution that forms a republican democracy can they petition the federal government for statehood. That is the way the overwhelming majority of territories became states; of course, powerful interests did get involved in all statehood petitions, but that is not to say that the goal of statehood did not benefit most in the particular territory.

There are other ways.

California never had a “territorial status”; Congress carved it out of the unorganized territory acquired from Mexico after Californians instituted their own version of the Tennessee Plan. Congress organized the remaining territory as the Utah and New Mexico Territories. Texas was meant to be five states, but it was left as one. North Carolina gave up all of its land beyond its present-day western border to the federal government, which turned it into the Southwest Territory and later admitted it as the State of Tennessee—through the Tennessee Plan.

Why these niceties about the territorial process?

Because since 1796, when the Southwest Territory (also called the Territory of Tennessee) became the State of Tennessee four month after it instituted its namesake Plan, a series of other territories have successfully instituted their own bold plan for self-determination. Because today, the enemies of equality seek to portray Puerto Rico’s internal, democratic plebiscite process as one out of synch with the national traditions of statehood simply because Puerto Rico seeks to have Congress clarify the real options for its people through congressional action before the ballots are printed.

However, many in Congress—Doc Hastings their leader during the H.R. 2499 debate in the House—have argued that Puerto Rico does not need a congressional mandate before it carries a local plebiscite on status because they have done it before without congressional mandate; further, they argue, a congressional mandate would do two things that are incompatible with the traditional process: 1) it would put the Congress in front of the proper petition for statehood from the territory; and 2) it would indirectly “bind” Congress into accepting a vote for statehood that might result from a plurality of the votes cast (e.g. a 34 percent vote for statehood, 33 percent for independence, and a 33 percent for “Commonwealth”). This is the same class of congressional impotence that gave rise to the Tennessee Plan.

If the territory of Puerto Rico were anything like the territories that came before, the status issue would have been resolved long ago.

No other territory has ever had to weigh three or more options before petitioning for statehood. There are those for which Congress explicitly stated its intent to grant independence (i.e. Cuba, Philippines, and various post-WWII trusteeships), but in terms of territory acquired, organized, and kept, none has had a “Commonwealth” movement, though they might have had a weak independence movement, like the territory of Puerto Rico does. Congress, for over a century now, has inculcated a sense of perpetuity in the minds of the “Commonwealth” status supporters, and president after president has simply gone along.

Let us not doubt Puerto Rico’s current capacity allows it to fulfill the four traditional requirements imposed by Congress: 1) population; 2) republican form of government; 3) a written constitution; and 4) a petition for statehood. The last requirement, of course, has not happened, and it has much less to do with the aforementioned example of congressional voice approval for a Puerto Rican vote, and more to do with the lack of support for an actual law clearing the way for Puerto Rico’s exercise in self-determination.

What would the first unorganized territory of the United States–which later became the Northwest Territory, and even later the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin–look like had it been left as a territory for one hundred years before Congress acted on its management and advancement on behalf of the American people outside of the original Thirteen? What would the Louisiana Purchase have looked like as a permanent territory under the dubious status of Puerto Rican “Commonwealth”? What about the lands acquired from Mexico after 1848? What would most of the country look like?

After Tennessee instituted its Plan, seven other states successfully followed suit: Michigan, California, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, and Alaska.

The territory of Puerto Rico is unique in this tradition, and not for its language or local culture, but because it has been mismanaged as a territory of the United States of America. Our American tradition of self-determination for the peoples of the territories has always worked, but sometimes some territories had to push harder than others did.

As George Lehleitner said as he concluded his argument for the Tennessee Plan à la Alaska:

You have already seen that it is NOT irregular. Nor is it illegal. For the very first Article of our Bill of Rights, you will recall, guarantees that ‘Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

In its very essence, the ‘Tennessee Plan’ is a forthright and logical form in which to petition the Government for the redress of a monstrous grievance. Because the grievance is real and stubborn, the petition for its correction must be vigorous and dramatic. For these reasons the ‘Tennessee Plan’ has ALWAYS succeeded in the past.

For the Americans of Puerto Rico, their most “vigorous and dramatic” move should be preceded by the equally bold move of passing H.R. 2497 and S.B. 1407 (see Must Axxess Files box, below) in the Puerto Rico legislature. By forcing a vote between statehood and independence, Puerto Rico will be able to present a petition for statehood to the U.S. Congress. After that, in the name of citizenship equality, “TENNESSEE, TENNESSEE, TENNESSEE!”


Independence Supporters in Puerto Rico

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on August 10, 2010 at 6:28 PM
How a Virtuous Argument Ceded its Moral Authority

Any day of the week that Puerto Ricans get to hear the status arguments of Independentistas in the island, they know it is going to be a good day for supporters of equality. The Independentistas‘ attacks on the unequal “Commonwealth” status and the Enemies of Equality capture their long-held view of a sovereign Republic of Puerto Rico in a light consistent with other long struggles for equality.

Take, for example, Fufi Santori’s latest piece in El Nuevo Dia entitled “Pactos sin futuro,” (Pacts without a future). In it, Santori dismantles the Popular Democratic Party’s entire argument that the current unequal status was entered into in “the nature of a compact” and that, as such, it is a bilateral “pact” between two politically equal entities (i.e. the U.S. and its territorial possession of Puerto Rico). It may seem to boil down to semantics, but if the PPD’s version of what occurred with the establishment of the “Commonwealth” status stands unchallenged (as a “Compact”), it would validate the notion that a people can be cajoled into accepting perpetual colonialism through a democratic vote.

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP)

In quite the Socratic mode and with Independentista eloquence, Santori goes on to  note that a law–in this case Public Law 81-600, which established the “Commonwealth” with Congress’s consent–“in the nature of a compact” does not necessarily translate to an actual compact. He points to the fact that the U.S. Congress, where Puerto Rico has no equal representation,  amended Puerto Rico’s democratically drafted constitution. Among other points, Santori questions how a nation (the U.S.) can establish a “pact” with that which it owns (Puerto Rico).

Independentistas use the words of patriots who happen to be poets and some have used the tactics of terrorists though they have called themselves freedom fighters, but theirs is a lost cause.

Puerto Ricans accept the movement as any other reality of status politics, but are very clearly not supportive of their final status solution. Subsequently, the romanticized version of the Independentista is beginning to give way to the realities of the modern independence movement of Puerto Rico.

Once upon a time, all forms of Puerto Rican nationalism rested upon the shoulders of an independence movement–whether against Spain or the U.S.; today, however, things are different because the statehood movement has inculcated in its supporters an equally powerful sentiment of nationalism, but simply for a different nation: the USA.

In addition, with the establishment of the “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico, and over 100 years of American presence, the independence movement has been popularly–not governmentally–marginalized. Their philosophy might not have changed much, but their tactics have. Most obviously, and importantly, the vast majority of independence advocates has refrained from violence and has, instead, taken it to the ballot box. However, that very insistence on democratic venues for “conflict (status) resolution” has eroded all viability the independence movement once enjoyed. So the impending question is, then, through what means will they achieve their end?

Let us continue doing the math.

Regardless of past intimidation by some in the public and the government, and unfair treatment of the viable option of independence, the fact is that today the movement as embodied by the PIP (Puerto Rico Independence Party) cannot achieve any political support greater than 5 percent at the ballot box; in fact, the PIP has lost its electoral certification for failing meet the minimum percentage threshold of 5 percent.

Further, the PIP wields very little power at the local, statal, and national levels, which makes access and exposure just as difficult as it is for any American “third” party. In addition, although they (Independentistas) have a constitutionally valid status alternative that guarantees democratic sovereignty through political nationhood and will always be included as such, they find themselves placing third behind a status alternative that provides neither democratic- nor political‑ nor citizenship equality. Moreover, the movement has to argue against American statehood, which is the only legitimate option that delivers to Puerto Ricans what it is they want: perpetual and equal American citizenship and sovereignty (albeit through federalism).

So the question is, again, through what means will they achieve their end?

We at La Chuleta Congelá’ have made it very clear that the only way to end the inequality of citizenship in Puerto Rico that the “Commonwealth” territorial status has engendered is through a straight statehood-versus-independence plebiscite.

The fact that a plebiscite offers voters “pre-determined” answers to the status problem does not make it any less democratic because, as it is, the status problem has constitutionally “pre-determined” solutions: statehood or independence. There is nothing in the solution to the status problem that is “unknown,” “mysterious,” or “incomprehensible.”

Puerto Rico is not equal and the only way it will be equal is to join the American union of states and share in the benefits and the sacrifices, or to declare its independence from the United States. The only mechanism the Puerto Rican people have at their disposal is a direct, democratic, majority rules plebiscite with only those options that the U.S. Constitution recognizes.

The U.S. Constitution recognizes statehood, territorialism, and independence.

If the point of the plebiscite is to capture the sentiment of the Puerto Rican people on what it is it supports as a sovereign and equal form of government, and the premise for that “point” is that the current status is neither sovereign nor equal, then it does not follow that Puerto Ricans who support the “Commonwealth” status have a “right” to vote for it because they have no right to subordinate their fellow citizens to perpetual citizenship inequality.

As an Independentista once said, “You cannot ask Puerto Ricans to self-determine themselves out of self-determination” by placing the same unequal status that they are asked to change on equal footing with legitimate status options.

The two parties that have the two legitimate options for a free and equal Puerto Rico are the New Progressive Party (statehood) and the Puerto Rio Independence Party (PIP) and they both agree that what Puerto Ricans currently enjoy through the “Commonwealth” is but the crumbs off the Union’s table. Nevertheless, because the Puerto Rican people in the island territory can recognize misery from a mile away, they refuse to accede to independence.

This is where the Independentistas‘ hope for a means to their end hits the wall and the answer to the overarching question posed here materializes.

They cannot achieve a majority for independence, so by following the process spelled out above, they would be, in essence, acceding to statehood because that choice would win by a landslide.

For these reasons, the Independentistas‘ only “solution” (their means) is to wait it out and convince the U.S. Congress that before anything is done with Puerto Rican self-determination it (Congress) must set Puerto Rico free so that, then, an independent Puerto Rico can make a decision on whether it wants to be an independent country or a state of the Union. In other words, an “attractive” package that makes Puerto Rico an independent republic through Congressional dictum and against the express wishes of the Puerto Rican people to retain American citizenship. The proposal also doubles as a ploy that makes Puerto Rican statehood more difficult, if not impossible. Bravo!

So has been the transformation of a once-romantic and -virtuous cause into one for which there is a body but no moral rectitude. The principles of self-determination are now under attack by their own progenitor. Instead of accepting that Puerto Ricans will choose their status preference democratically and that such a choice will stand as a political reality, Independentistas are now employing their own version of stall tactics.

Shame on them!

Puerto Rico’s Status and Citizenship

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on July 31, 2010 at 1:34 PM
Why the Americans of Puerto Rico Want and Deserve Citizenship Equality

Here at La Chuleta Congelá’, we believe that there is but a one-way street for Puerto Rican self-determination and citizenship equality: a statehood-versus-independence plebiscite.

The Enemies of Equality in Puerto Rico must choose what it is they want as a perpetually sovereign form of government with full citizenship for the American citizens of Puerto Rico. No more can the unequal status quo be offered—enhanced or otherwise. Call it colonial or territorial; it is not equal.

The Puerto Rican people have made it clear that this is about citizenship—more specifically American citizenship. Overwhelmingly, 97 percent of Puerto Ricans consider American citizenship uncompromisable in any final status solution. The political status issue of Puerto Rico is a multiple-choice-, not an essay question.

Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment in Korea. During this particular battle against a Chinese Division, they bravely conducted what would become the last documented bayonet charge in the history of the United States Army.

The essay question is the citizenship question, which Puerto Ricans have been filling out in blood for over a century in the name of American values. “Every good citizen makes his country’s honor his own,” said Andrew Jackson, “and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defence and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.

There should be no doubt as to the sacrifice the Puerto Rican people have endured in the name of the United States of America, and, yes, the territories, and their American citizenship. The United States invaded in 1898; in 1899, the “Porto Rico Regiment” was formed. The 65th Infantry Regiment (The Borinqueneers) went on to fight valiantly and honorably from World War I and World War II to Korea and Vietnam. Puerto Ricans stood side-by-side with the U.S. throughout the Cold War with no conflict, no rebellion, no Communism, just adherence to the Borinqueneer motto Honor et Fidelitas.

Moreover, the Puerto Rican devotion for America, for Puerto Rico, has led them into every modern conflict including the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War. Puerto Ricans have fought with other Americans from all states for over a century, concurrently enjoying but the morsel of second-class citizenship.

Those who propose Puerto Rico is not good enough to join the union of American states as equal partners in the democratic endeavor our founders began, refuse to see the overwhelmingly positive evidence because it frustrates their notion of what America or Puerto Rico is supposed to be and look like, but they ignore reality and deprive themselves of the very spirit on which this great experiment of self-government was founded. Those principles are spelled out in our founding documents. The U.S. Constitution (our highest legal authority) and our Declaration of Independence (our highest moral authority) give us our soul and conscience.

We the People of the United States,” begins our soul as written in the Constitution, “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Such is the structure of our soul’s constitution; this is who Americans set out to be. The constructs of American citizenship are but the precious residue of the sweat, blood, tears, and treasury spent over the years by a great people whose conscience encapsulates that highest of American values: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While the America of the Founding Fathers did exhibit a lack of moral fortitude when it came to the true equality of American citizenship, no one can deny that their own vision of “a more perfect union” was meant as a guiding light for future generations of Americans who could—and would—correct past wrongs. “The best principles of our republic secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights,” believed Thomas Jefferson and it is in this spirit that all Americans should answer Puerto Rico’s plight.

American citizenship is not about language, or ethnicity, or economics, or even local culture (none of them found anywhere in the founding documents) though these elements of culture have peripherally affected Americans’ perception of their citizenship throughout our history. American citizenship is defined by the overarching popular principles on which this country was actually founded: collective Union, -Justice, -Tranquility, -Defense, -Welfare, and -Liberty. Necessarily, the blessings of American government are sustained by the mantra that ALL are equal in their allotment.

And for the support of this Declaration,” stated the Founders as they closed their democratic proclamation, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The four million American citizens of Puerto Rico have been deprived of their natural rights to self-determination. The nature of said rights is undisputable, and their insistence to end their 500 years of subservient government is but a Puerto Rican expression of the American values they have consecrated. To trick the Americans of Puerto Rico with political obstruction and to put before them “options” that amount to enhanced colonialism is to trick our founders and our founding principles and to cheat future generations out of the achievements of a more perfect union.

The Declaration of Independence speaks to what it means to be an American, but it also speaks of what Americans must do to rid themselves of bad governance:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

The “Commonwealth” system of government in Puerto Rico is an evil government that Puerto Ricans were tricked into back in 1952, but one they are no longer disposed to suffer. And while none of their tools for deposing this government will be in the arsenal of war, the tools that Puerto Ricans have at their disposal will prove much more morally assertive. As Mark Twain believed, “Citizenship is what makes a republic; monarchies can get along without it.”

It is time Puerto Ricans make a decision on a permanent, sovereign status option. They can choose to construct their own version of citizenship, or they can continue to expand the long course charted thus far, but what they cannot do is keep a majority of their American brothers and sisters bound to a colonial model of governance that only yields ambivalence and uncertainty from cradle to grave.

The overwhelmingly vast majority of Americans in Puerto Rico want a permanent, non-territorial status solution that protects their century-old effort in the name of American citizenship.

Puerto Ricans have earned that much.

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