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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.

 

———————————————————————————————————————

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!”

|

|

|

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.

———————————————————————————————————————

GOOD LUCK, PUERTO RICO!

PNP, PIP, PPD, PPP, MUS … SOS!

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 17, 2010 at 12:57 AM
How Puerto Rico’s Territorial Status Has Gotten out of Congressional Control and What It Means for Citizenship Equality

The Americans of Puerto Rico still wait for a chance to vote between statehood and independence, Congress wants nothing to do with legislating on the matter until petition, the U.S. House votes against and for the “Commonwealth” status quo in the same bill, the U.S. Senate is simply not interested and says nothing, the White House wants to focus on economic development of the territory while ignoring the biggest (democratic and economic) stimulus offered by certainty and equality, the Americans in the states are misinformed about the most elemental points of the status question, and the political parties of the island territory continue to clamor for everything under the status sun—it is official: Puerto Rico’s status is out of control!

Statehood or Independence? How about "Commonwealth" or "Free-Association"? ... Congress?

To be sure, Puerto Rico’s status per se (i.e. constitutionally) has not changed. In 1898, Puerto Rico was a “colony,” by 1917 it was a “territory,” in 1952 it became a “Commonwealth,” and in 1998, when Puerto Ricans revoked the 1952 mandate for “Commonwealth” status, Puerto Rico returned to its colonial status. Moreover, through that century the only status alternative that continues to grow is statehood.

For all that can be said about Puerto Rico’s status, one has been a constant: the enemies of equality are relentless in their obstructionism. So much so that the U.S. Congress (with its limited attention span) has punted again on the status question and the unequal citizenship that results from it. Congress has no other option. It hides under the constitutional principle that one Congress cannot bind another Congress (other than through constitutional amendment) to deny a law that unequivocally states Puerto Rico’s sovereign status options (outside the Territorial Clause powers), which the readers of La Chuleta Congelá know are independence or statehood. Their defense is to continue to say that Puerto Rico already has “authority” to call forth a referendum on the matter.

When Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) offered her amendment to the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009/10 (H.R. 2499) ordering that Puerto Ricans be offered the “Commonwealth” status quo after (presumably) having voted against it in the first round of voting, supporters of self-determination knew they were not dealing with a reasonable adversary. Once a reasonable compromise, Puerto Rico’s (constitutionally temporary) territorial transition has morphed over the past six decades (both at the national and local level) into a sort of permanent thought experiment on political organization in which all “scientists” are offering their unique projections.

In Puerto Rico, there are now five political parties. One, for all purposes, remains irrelevant to solving Puerto Rico’s status ills; the PPP, Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico, is a policy-only party, not a status-and-policy party, and enjoysmarginal support among voters in Puerto Rico. The New Progressive Party (PNP) advocates for statehood, and the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) does so for independence; these are the only two constitutional options available to territories. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) advocates for the “Commonwealth” status quo and now finds itself divided from within. The Movement for a Sovereign Union (MUS), will undoubtedly draw most of its support from members of the PPD who do not want to continue with the “Commonwealth” status and who want something more akin to Free-Association, which is independence with a treaty of association with the U.S.

On its face, the MUS appears to (and does) hurt the PPD the most because it threatens to decimate its ranks, but there are direct consequences for the supporters of statehood because—as far off as a plebiscite victory might be because the Americans of Puerto Rico do not want to lose their American citizenship—the MUS can have the same effect that the PPD has had on the ballot for the past 60-year period in the island.

The PPD depends heavily on the number of its ranks to “prove” to everybody else that it is a “legitimate” option. Thus, if the MUS achieves enough support for its status option of, basically, Free-Association, then it can vie for control of certain legislative spots in 2012. All that will happen with the hopes of appearing on any future plebiscite on status in Puerto Rico.

Those developments could be harmful to self-determination for the Americans of Puerto Rico if there is not a concerted effort to keep the status plebiscite as a two-option plebiscite. Whether it is the PPD on the ballot as an equal and permanent status option (which it cannot be), or any other (third) status option, the results will be the same: the current “Commonwealth” status will prevail by default. Coupled with the fact that Congress, once again, has refused to intervene and rule on the matter, the prospects of more territorialism by default ought to be rejected and fought against.

The idea of statehood—its core philosophy, its definition of the future, its constitutionality, its promise—rests on fact. Territories are not perpetual. Their sub-constitutional order ends the minute the people of said territory vote in a democratic plebiscite for an option that is equal in law, balanced in civil burden, and absolutely clear in democratic representation.

The Americans of the territory want to keep their American citizenship, and statehood is the only non-territorial option that will give them equality in citizenship and secure it in perpetuity. No other party in the island territory can affirm as much. With American citizenship in mind, the push for self-determination, which hereto has been the means for the statehood end, must hence become the end to the statehood means. In other words, instead of pushing the idea of self-determination, which has been accepted universally, let us now push for statehood. Under a statehood mentality, we need not think of a political party made up of individuals who cannot make up their minds vis-à-vis the status issue because even those voters have made up their minds that their American citizenship will not be compromised.

Self-determination for Puerto Rico is far from complete, but the fact that all parties involved (and of consequence) have thus far admitted that Puerto Rico can become an independent republic or a state of the union leaves supporters of statehood free to carry out the necessary policies. The principal policy of statehood-centered attack on the enemies of equality must be the approval of a two-option plebiscite: statehood versus independence. The independence option would cover all such forms of the status; thus, “free-association” would be covered under the independence definition because the notion of free-association does not change the constitutional reality that Puerto Rico would be a nation of Puerto Rican (not American) citizenship.

Let the plebiscite be about what we all know it is about: citizenship!

A statehood-versus-independence plebiscite will cut through the status bickering, and the endless posturing by the PPD and PIP about Puerto Rican “nationhood.” Let us put the measure on the ballot as a matter of citizenship and let them vote for their preference. Be it in the PIP, or the PPD, or the MUS, or the PPP, they all have their preference of citizenship. Those of the PNP have unequivocally stated their preference, now the rest must be pushed to make theirs known.

Soberanistas versus Autonomistas within the PPD

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 30, 2010 at 6:10 PM
Forthcoming Schism Presents Existential Threat to the “Commonwealth” Party

 

On August 2, La Chuleta Congelá’ commented on the feud that occurred between state senator Antonio Fas-Alzamora and state representative Jorge Colberg-Toro as the Popular Democratic Party leadership and membership were trying to compose the party’s platform on the various policy problems facing the island-territory. The Fas-Alzamora vs. Colberg-Toro dispute, we stated, is illustrative of a forthcoming schism in the PPD; a divide that will finally bring down the curtain on the almost-sixty-years-old farce they named the “Commonwealth” status.

Today, we bring you more up-to-date information on the continuing battle between the two camps represented by Fas-Alzamora and Colberg-Toro: Soberanistas and Autonomistas (respectively).

Let us, first, get some facts straight:

The Autonomistas represent what the Popular Democratic Party in Puerto Rico has always wanted since the founding of the “Commonwealth”: unequal territorial status with more local autonomy (without describing any real constitutionally viable status option). They are the so-called establishment wing of the party. The Soberanistas represent a growing movement within the party that seeks to gain international autonomy for Puerto Rico through (real) sovereignty. Both wings wish to retain perpetual American citizenship, and claim not to want independence (per se) for Puerto Rico. There are two “pacts” circulating within the PPD. The first—the Autonomistas’—is the official (work-in-progress) party platform, el Pacto de Futuro (Pact for the Future), and Autonomista Colberg-Toro is in charge of its assembly; the second—you got it, the Soberanistas’—is the 52-page treatise put forth by Soberanista Fas-Alzamora, el Pacto de Asociación (Pact of Association) [see “Must-Axxess Files” box below].

Moreover, the only permanent and sovereign status forms the U.S. Constitution accepts (according to the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status 2005 and 2007 reports) are statehood and independence. Of these two, the only status option that guarantees permanent American citizenship—not only to the current inhabitants of the island, but also their children—is statehood. Whether an independent Republic of Puerto Rico wished to enter into what is called a Pact of Free Association is up to the presumed president and congress of Puerto Rico and their counterparts in the United States of America. Nevertheless, “Free Association” means independence first, association later—like some current pacts currently in force, mainly the pact between the U.S. and the Republic of Palau.

Now, with those facts in mind, let us proceed to the feud at hand.

The intra-party war began when Soberanista-in-Chief Fas-Alzamora raised his newly penned Pact of Association for consideration into the PPD’s platform, the Pact for the Future. The Fas-Alzamora Pact is the result of outside pressures asking for definitive answers from the PPD on what it considers an acceptable definition to its status option, one that is both sovereign and permanent. Soon after the Soberanistas presented their document, Autonomista state representative Jorge Colberg-Toro, a member of the PPD’s internal Junta de Gobierno and point man in the crafting of the party platform, came out predicting that the Pact of Association stood no chance of being accepted as part of the party platform because the document resembled the Palau treaty and did not guarantee American citizenship perpetually. Fas-Alzamora and the Soberanistas criticized Colberg-Toro and the Autonomistas and asserted that nobody could predict what the party would accept as part of the platform. The Soberanistas also claim their document does, in fact, protect perpetual American citizenship and incorporates the “17-point PPD Autonomista program on status.”

All that before the PPD met!

Finally, on August 17, the PPD met. As the party committee met, supporters of both camps rallied for their causes. One of the verbal shots fired from an Autonomista was captured by El Nuevo Dia: “The word ‘sovereignty’ is [in Puerto Rico] associated with ‘separation’ and we cannot separate from the United States. If [the Soberanistas] want sovereignty, they can go to Panama, the Dominican Republic, to Haiti and see what sovereignty does.” Harsh!

Another PPD member, this time a Soberanista, stated that “Sovereignty is not in play; we are 800,000 strong.” (An overwhelmingly telling exaggeration.)

Earlier that same morning, Fas-Alzamora delivered scathing criticism against his party’s secretary for federal affairs, Autonomista Jose A. Hernandez-Mayoral for dismissing the Soberanistas’ Pact of Association during the intra-party deliberations. Hernandez-Mayoral claimed that the Pact of Association was but a “plagiarized” version of the pact between the U.S. and the Republic of Palau. Fas-Alzamora was indignant and went on a rant about Hernandez-Mayoral’s political past and even characterized him as a coward who was offered the party leadership on a “silver platter” and “ran” at the thought of it. Ouch!

The PPD civil war has already escalated to threats of secession from the Soberanista side, threats of exile from the Autonomista side, and personal insults between the two—and by now the “meeting” was not even over. The five-hour, marathon-long meeting between the two camps shows that the argument over citizenship is an irreconcilable difference. It is important to note that a large portion of Independentistas (of course, independence supporters) in the island, who suffer from extremely low popular support, have allied with the PPD in the past, but now have began to talk about pulling all support for the party. They claim the PPD has reneged on the principles of autonomy and sovereignty that it has sold for the past 60 years.

Subsequently, after the meeting ended and the PPD party platform (el Pacto de Futuro) was voted on, the cleavage was even more pronounced.

Remember how Colberg-Toro, Hernandez-Mayoral, and the Autonomistas warned that the party would not accept the Soberanistas’ Pact of Association? Moreover, how Fas-Alzamora and the Soberanistas derided the Autonomistas’ prognostications? Well, turns out, now the Autonomistas claim that they have accepted and incorporated “most” of the Soberanistas’ Pact, while the Soberanistas now claim their plan was “wholly” ignored (as predicted by their enemies on the other side)! Both sides claim the other has not “read” their document.

What is going on? Each side is claiming that its respective “pact” incorporates the other side’s ideas; while the “other” side claims it was ignored. Well, both sides cannot be right, and it turns out they are both wrong!

One the one hand, the Soberanista Pact of Association is acceptable under the U.S. Constitution as a permanent, non-territorial, sovereign form of government for Puerto Rico—but it does not guarantee American citizenship in perpetuity—if it did, it would be incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. The Pact of Association only guarantees American citizenship to those who already have it and their children. However, after a generation or so, all persons born in Puerto Rico will be regarded Puerto Rican citizens. Therefore, the wishes of the American people in Puerto Rico for a permanent status solution that perpetually and universally guarantees American citizenship have been ignored by Fas-Alzamora and the Soberanista camp.

On the other hand, the Autonomista platform (the Pact for the Future) does guarantee American citizenship in perpetuity, but it does not afford the Americans of Puerto Rico an equal, sovereign status; instead, the Autonomista plan seeks to “enhance” the unequal “Commonwealth” status while simultaneously keeping the territorial (unequal) status quo.

While the intra-party war has remained low-key outside the Popular Democratic Party, there are some hints that a completely new Puerto Rican status political party may be in the works.

[It is important to note that Puerto Rico currently has four parties: three “status” parties and a (more recent) policy-only party. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) is the party of the territorial “Commonwealth” status quo, the New Progressive Party (PNP) advocates for statehood, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) advocates, of course, for independence, and the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party (PPP), the policy-only party, forgets about the status and delves into policy—mainly environmental policy. The PPP has been less successful than the PIP in getting the people’s vote.]

In a piece published in El Nuevo Dia, Nika Estrada Resto contends that a new Soberanista party is in the works. “We will have to wait,” states Resto in the opening line of her piece, “until later in the year to see if Puerto Rico will count with a Soberanista party. A real one.” The reason Resto talks about “a real one” is because for almost 60 years the PPD has campaigned for “sovereignty” and “autonomy” while achieving none. Their promises have been so forceful in the past that even some portions of the independence movement have formed ad hoc coalitions with said party, and this coalition has been instrumental to many island-wide PPD victories.

No more.

With the specter of a new status party forming out of the PPD’s own viscera, the Independentistas breaking the ad hoc coalitions of the past due to their dissatisfaction with broken promises, the Estadistas (statehooders) gaining more and more support as status politics reach critical mass, and Washington asking more detailed questions about the PPD’s status alternative, the PPD finds itself barraged from all sides.

The demise of the PPD and its notion of the territorial “Commonwealth” is always good news to supporters of self-determination, but the PNP better watch out!

Puerto Rico’s territorial status is different from all other past American territories (albeit those that became states) in one crucial way: Puerto Ricans have more than one option. In other words, when the territories of Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii (to name but a few) sought a change in their territorial status, all they had to do was vote, basically, “statehood: yes or no,” but in Puerto Rico there is also the possibility of independence and even though the party enjoys only marginal support, independence is a real option that offers Puerto Rican sovereignty—though it cannot guarantee American citizenship. Therefore, between statehood and independence Puerto Ricans have their future cut out for them; all they have to do now is make a choice.

However, and this is the reason the PNP must be careful, a plebiscite that counts three options (or more) will only help perpetuate the territorial “Commonwealth” status because it is very had to get a simple majority in support of one option; it is even harder to get the insanely high (75 percent plus) numbers that have been reached in the aforementioned territorial votes. For example, Hawaii voted 90 percent in favor of statehood, and Alaska was right up there too. Consequently, how does Puerto Rico get to those levels of support (not just for statehood) for any one option?

Simple. The plebiscite must be a two-option plebiscite: independence or statehood. But what about the Soberanistas who may want free association? Well, considering that free association is independence first with a pact later, they can vote for independence and later on (if their party were to win) they could ask the United States of America to sign a pact of free association with the Republic of Puerto Rico.

If, however, a plebiscite were to include three (or even four) options, then Puerto Rico can be guaranteed another one hundred years of colonial rule because the U.S. Congress will not accept any vote that predicts a potentially divided state of Puerto Rico with half of the population having vote against statehood. This would be good news for the PPD—whole or broken off. This was one of the Puerto Rico Democracy Act’s (H.R. 2499) most striking shortcomings. H.R. 2499 proposed a three-way race between statehood, independence, and free association. In other words, statehood was competing against two forms of independence!

In conclusion, whether a new status party is established in Puerto Rico or not, the demise of the PPD’s “Commonwealth” is inevitable because it cannot deliver what Americans in Puerto Rico want: perpetual and universal American citizenship. However, the party currently in control of all important levers of governance in Puerto Rico (the pro-statehood PNP) must make sure that the voters in Puerto Rico are aware of their choices. For example, do Puerto Ricans know that statehood is the only permanent status option that can protect their American citizenship? Do they understand that anything other than statehood is independence, which does not carry the rights, duties, and priviledges of American citizenship? Do they understand what “free association” means for their future?

No matter what happens within the PPD this year, the PNP must show leadership and determination in designing the right kind of plebiscite to settle the 112-year status question in Puerto Rico.

 

Parity versus Equality

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 12, 2010 at 3:27 PM
Why Parity Cannot Achieve Citizenship Equality … But Can Undermine It

 

“Parity” is a term well known to the American citizens of Puerto Rico. Simply put, parity is a principle by which politicians of both major parties in Puerto Rico (i.e. the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and the pro-status quo Popular Democratic Party) avoid pushing a solution to Puerto Rico’s status while simultaneously pushing for more “state-like” treatment of Puerto Rico in federally sanctioned programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)–to name but a few–that are currently applied to Puerto Rico in an inequitable manner as compared to the states. Parity applies to just about any federal policy question, from education and healthcare to crime prevention and business ownership and everything in between.

On of the latest parity binges came on the hills of the Healthcare Reform debates in Congress.

In a public letter straightforwardly entitled “Parity for Puerto Rico: Memorandum of Agreement,” (MoA) Gov. Fortuño and a wide coalition of relevant leaders in the territory (the PPD’s irrelevant legislative leadership included) agreed to a “common position to present to policymakers in Washington as they debate national health care reform.”

The MoA starts from one “basic proposition[:] Puerto Rico must be brought into the healthcare system on an equal basis with every other American jurisdiction.” It further claims that “it makes no sense from a strictly policy perspective to have a system where the same U.S. citizens who receive healthcare impaired by lesser federal funding while residing in Puerto Rico can access better-funded care merely by moving to [one] of the states.” The MoA also points to an Obama “pledge” to include Puerto Rico without “inequalities in treatment,” and proceeds to highlight some of the most egregious disparities in Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP—with the added bonus of looking at what will happen in the area of Medicare Advantage, the so-called Part D.

Here are the charges, albeit quickly (look below in Must-Axxess Files for the complete MoA):

  • Medicaid is flawed in two ways because Congress has capped not only its share of the costs in terms of percentage but also in terms of absolute dollars. In other words, based on per capita income, Puerto Rico would be entitled to a federal contribution of 83 percent toward the costs, but Congress has capped the federal share at 50 percent for Puerto Rico and capped the absolute dollar amount, which today represents only 17 percent of the total burden of the costs of Medicaid (basically flip-flopping federal-statal burdens).
  • Medicare treats Americans in Puerto Rico and their healthcare providers differently in four ways: 1) no automatic enrollment in Part B; 2) unfair payments under the Disproportionate Share Hospital; 3) limited block grant funding of Part D, instead of need-based funding; and 4) lower reimbursement payments for in-patient hospital services.
  • SCHIP for the Americans in Puerto Rico is based on a “limited set-aside basis” and not on the real number of low-income children.
  • The Bonus: Part D. Because of the aforementioned inequalities, Puerto Ricans have enrolled in Part D plans in higher proportions, so any changes by Congress to the plan will affect the Americans on the territory disproportionally.

Gov. Luis Fortuño’s pro-statehood PNP likes parity because it seems to seal the fate of Puerto Rico as the 51st state through the implementation of “state-like” treatment for the island territory; the Enemies of Equality like parity because it keeps the voters “happy” and they do not have to mess with the pesky details of having citizenship inequality or defining their status preference.

Both parties’ perspectives are wrong.

Nothing will keep the PPD’s farce from being exposed. The very fact that we are having to pursue “parity” shatters their argument of an equal Puerto Rico. But they are not interested in hidding the inequality; they just want to stall the inevitable changes for as long as they may.

It is because of the stalling nature of parity that the PNP cannot continue to indulge in the parity scheme; it feeds every notion that the Enemies of Equality through the PPD seem to support—mainly the “Best of Both Worlds” notion is indeed possible–it isn’t. In fact, there is no threat that the Congressional cow will give up all of its milk to Puerto Rico without full integration, which in and of itself points to the futility of “parity.”

Let the rest of us, subsequently, not confuse “Parity” with “Equality,” for doing so amounts to an odd principle of “United but Unequal.”

This is not to ignore the very real inequalities spelled out above, in the MoA, and in many other sources, but parity is not the answer. As stated before, the idea of parity cuts across every policy area. So, are supporters of citizenship equality supposed to believe that piecemeal changes through parity in different policy areas over many years can achieve the universal parity we all know a vote on self-determination can achieve immediately?

The idea of universal parity includes within it essential aspects of Puerto Rico’s inequality that are not covered under the current vision of parity, which is the scaffolding of the MoA and many other issue-specific parity campaigns. Parity as we know it under those terms cannot provide for the democratic and civil injustices that occur outside of the year-to-year budget talks or the considerations of this or that federal programs on the territory because it ignores the underlying constitutional premise: Puerto Rico is not equal; therefore, Congress can treat it as such.

It is understandable why the PPD and the Enemies of Equality would love to continue on the parity binge, halving inequality perpetually without providing for a complete end to it. Nevertheless, for the PNP and all supporters of citizenship equality, the idea of parity ought to be anathema to their beliefs and goals of full citizenship equality.

Instead, said supporters should focus their energies on exposing all the inequalities that exist, not just the policy-related ones, which are simply products of Puerto Rico’s constitutional inequality. Facts are facts, but how we use those facts will have tremendously serious repercussions on the lives of four million American citizens in Puerto Rico. Let the Enemies of Equality pursue parity if they want to, but let us not fall into their trap.

Let us fight for Universal Parity through self-determination.

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