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Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009’

“Enhanced Commonwealth” Rejected … AGAIN!

In Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Puerto Rico Statehood, Self-Determination, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on December 4, 2010 at 2:21 PM
Bingaman and Murkowski Send Letter to White House after Senate Gives up Chance to Take up H.R. 2499

In what should come as no surprise, Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (which has jurisdiction over the American territories), officially sent a letter to the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status (Task Force) in which they say the federal government has “failed” to make Puerto Rico’s status options clear to voters of the American island-territory. In the missive, the committee’s top members made clear that the idea of an “enhanced Commonwealth” status is not constitutionally viable.

According to various reports, Bingaman and Murkowski have asked the Task Force to recognize only four status options: 1) the territorial “Commonwealth”; 2) statehood; 3) independence; and 4) independence in free association. With those viable status options on the table, the senators went further and asked the Task Force to unequivocally reject the Popular Democratic Party’s (PPD) idea of the so-called “enhance Commonwealth,” which seeks to combine the best features of both independence (at the international level) and statehood (at the national level). In essence, the idea is a form of confederacy in which Puerto Rico would be allowed to veto federal legislation and take part in international bodies, but it is wholly incompatible with the U.S. Constitution because it would give Puerto Rico more powers than states themselves have.

Although it is not a surprise to all who have followed the Puerto Rico status debate, for the PPD it is just another reality they wish not to entertain. To the  PPD “Commonwealth” party, the idea of “enhanced Commonwealth” is the biggest invention since that of the wheel! And anybody who does not agree with its supposed constitutional viability–including the federal government itself–is an enemy who is simply trying to upset their plans, so they will not recognize any negative conclusions on the idea. For example, even though the same Senate committee killed H.R. 2499, Rep. Hector Ferrer (president of the PPD) now he has attacked Bingaman and Murkowski as “allies” of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP). Allies? One would think that these powerful “allies” would have done more to push forward on the PNP-sponsored legislation. Ferrer and the PPD, however, are not interested in following the process; instead, they are interested in confusion, chaos, and misinformation as the only way forward–which is “Commonwealth” territorialism by default.

These are important developments, but some facts remain unvoiced. For example, why should the Americans of Puerto Rico have in any ballot the very option they are trying to change? In other words, why, if the “Commonwealth” status is territorial, should Puerto Ricans suffer it as an option? Further, why should two versions of independence appear on the same ballot? Could this be another way to keep any status from gathering a majority of the votes?

These are important points. Here at La Chuleta Congelá’, we believe in the simplest way: Statehood vs. Independence. After all, if independence wins, Puerto Ricans could always have another vote to choose between the two flavors of independence, with or without a free association treaty with the U.S. This is important because in Puerto Rico those parties that want “free association” are beginning to sound much like the early leadership of the PPD when it devised the “Commonwealth” status. In essence, they speak out of both sides of their mouths. Today, nobody in the Sovereign Union Movement party (MUS), which is a new Puerto Rican party interested in “sovereignty in association,” calls their status option by its real name of “independence.” There is plenty of good reasons for them not to. After all, Puerto Ricans hate the idea of independence–in ANY flavor. But at least, they are pushing a viable idea and that has to be lauded.

In the meantime, we still wait for the latest installment of the White House report on the status.

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NOTE FROM LCC: Soon we will be publishing a long piece on the economics of the territorial “Commonwealth” status in Puerto Rico. Stay tuned!

 

 

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.

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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!

The Status: 2011

In Enemies of Equality, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth", Self-Determination, Commentary and Analysis, Citizenship Equality, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Puerto Rico, Tennessee Plan, H.R. 2499 on October 21, 2010 at 12:31 AM

H.R. 2499’s Failure in Congress and Its Success in Puerto Rico

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) has confirmed to El Nuevo Dia that once the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico Status (Task Force) releases its report at the end of December, the territory’s New Progressive Party (PNP), pro-statehood government will begin the necessary work to carry out a local (not congressionally sanctioned) plebiscite, which means a vote could happen by mid-2011. During the roundtable with various Spanish-speaking newspapers and news agencies, Res. Comm. Pierluisi expressed his support for the White House’s work on the Puerto Rico status, although the administration postponed to December the release of the report, which was due in October. The territory’s sole (non-voting) representative also expressed his contentment with the administration’s reestablishment of its commitment to the status issue.

Puerto Rico's governor-elect Luis Fortuño, left, and Resident Commissioner-elect Pedro Pierluisi, elected nonvoting delegate to U.S. Congress, celebrate during the victory rally in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Puerto Rico’s representative in Washington specifically said that “Once the White House recognizes the status options available to [Puerto Rico], we will be ready to carry out the next plebiscite in the island.”

A day before the Resident Commissioner’s remarks, President Obama (during his own press conference) restated his administration’s commitment to ending the citizenship inequality that exists in Puerto Rico. Although the President has also said that his principal focus is on the status of the territory, the Task Force has been charged with immediate economic development of the island—regardless of whether the status gets resolved or not.

The comments by Res. Comm. Pierluisi and the President are the latest in the status debate in the “H.R. 2499 Era.” The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009/10 (H.R. 2499) began as the most bipartisan effort on Puerto Rico’s status, only to see its Republican (and some Democratic) support in the House erode in the hours before the final vote in the lower house. It passed the House with a comfortable margin, but only after it came really close (four votes close) to capitulating to a motion to recommit, which would have sent it back to committee never to be seen again.

A year after having been introduced in the House, H.R. 2499 was handed to the Senate for consideration, where it was received by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with the usual senatorial disdain; the bill died before it arrived in the upper house—or at least once it entered the chamber, who knows? What we do know is that senators could not find “consensus” on the measure to move it out of committee and into the full senate.

Although Res. Comm. Pierluisi’s bill did not make to the President’s desk, the work that the House Committee on Natural Resources and many other devoted members of the chamber did on behalf of H.R. 2499’s passage cannot be understated. As such, the Resident Commissioner must walk a fine line between encouraging his New Progressive Party about a locally sanctioned status plebiscite, and keeping with the letter of the bill his peers did report out of the House (post-Foxx Amendment H.R. 2499). The reason is that the Resident Commissioner still has two more years in office because he is the only member with a four-year term, and he will need friends when he goes back.

This is a tough spot in which to be for Res. Comm. Pierluisi. After all, H.R. 2499 in its original form was a (just) stroke of genius. As introduced, the bill did three important things in the history of the “status”: 1) it separated the permanent, sovereign options (i.e. independence and statehood) from the non-permanent, territorial option of “Commonwealth”; 2) because of (1), it allowed the “Commonwealth” a chance to vie for continued existence through a democratic majority vote; and 3) because of (2), it placed an eight-year cycle on the “Commonwealth” status so that voters in Puerto Rico could only extend the status quo temporarily (because the territorial status cannot be permanent).

That was on May 19, 2009; a year later, however, things had changed—H.R. 2499 had changed. Although the bill surmounted many frivolous obstacles and underwent a few insignificant changes (e.g. Congress mandated bilingual ballots and put the financial burden of the plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s government), it lost its originality on the status question (and its likely solution) when the House adopted the Foxx Amendment. The effect of the amending motion upon the bill, arguably, might have made it viable and likely to succeed out of the House, but it turned it into a useless bill fit for recommittal—and even withdrawal in conspicuous protest.

Post-Foxx Amendment, H.R. 2499 became an instrument of perpetual obstruction because it now asked the Americans of Puerto Rico to first vote on whether they wanted to change the current (“Commonwealth”) territorial status, and then included the status quo in the second round of voting—you know, the round that was supposed to give Puerto Ricans a permanent solution. All that, with the added bonus of legitimizing the “Commonwealth” status once again as a possible permanent option.

Cynicism was not the only reason for the drastic change; instead, it was a combination of cynical congressional paternalism, ignorant political calculus, and ill-willed irrational policymaking at their best.

The prevailing argument against H.R. 2499 was that it was not “fair” because it separated the “Commonwealth” option from the statehood and independence options in a supposed attempt to “stack the deck” in favor of statehood. While it is true that under the original terms of H.R. 2499 Puerto Rico would have most likely been on track to statehood than to independence, the essential aspects of the status matter need not be ignored once that “conclusion” has been reach.

For example, whether statehood (or independence for that matter) “appears” like the likely “winner” upon the letter of the bill, we need not forget that the “status problem” is the “Commonwealth” status, and that any permanent option’s winning is what victory in the status problem looks like. Is that not what Congress, the President, all parties in Puerto Rico, the United Nations, Castro and Chavez all want? Why, then, should Congress mix two distinct status classes (i.e. permanent non-territorial and non-permanent territorial) in any plebiscite? A minority of Puerto Ricans cannot be allowed to hold the status issue hostage to progress. Concurrently, there should have been no problem with granting Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth” supporters an opportunity to extend temporarily the territorial status if (and only if) they could garner a simple majority. Supporters of equality for the four million American citizens of Puerto Rico detest the idea of extending the territorial status any further, but given the fact that the only way that could happen was through a majority vote, we were satisfied that this was “the right way.”

H.R. 2499 in its original form might have failed in Congress, but the Puerto Rican electorate approved it long before that occurred. In fact, Governor Luis Fortuño and Res. Comm. Pierluisi campaigned on the plan; they won by the largest margin in Puerto Rico politics. Their slogan: “Every vote for the New Progressive Party is a vote for Statehood.”

Now, the Americans of Puerto Rico must accept the consequences of their stalled efforts for self-determination. A Congress that cannot pass a bill that will certify the permanent status options for Puerto Rico that most everybody understands are available (i.e. statehood and independence); a White House that insists on promoting territorial economic development to the dual detriment of equality and—ironically—true (democratic) economic development; an ever-growing series of political parties vying for their own (detached from constitutional reality) versions of a permanent status; and the vast majority of Americans in the states not having a clue as to what all of this means—all place the legislature of Puerto Rico in the unenviable position to take the lead in solving this problem, finally.

As such, the territory’s legislative chambers should implement their own recipe for status success; one bolder than the original Pierluisi bill. H.R. 2499 may not have had “consensus,” but it enjoyed an abundance of equity and moral fortitude. If the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) did not like H.R. 2499, it should like the legislature’s new plan even less. The plebiscite that will ultimately be carried out in Puerto Rico should not look like H.R. 2499. It ought to take out any concessions made to the enemies of equality, mainly the promotion and promulgation of the “Commonwealth” status as a viable permanent option.

Any plebiscite in which the people of Puerto Rico are asked to vote for legitimate, permanent, sovereign options should (and will) be welcomed by all sides; it just has to be done! H.R. 2499’s failure in Congress and the ostensibly weak-on-substance report expected from the Obama Administration’s Task Force should not deter supporters of self-determination in the Puerto Rico legislature from instituting what they think will, once and for all, rid Puerto Rico of its colonial history and pseudo-democratic “Commonwealth” status.

 

 

 

PNP, PIP, PPD, PPP, MUS … SOS!

In Enemies of Equality, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth", Self-Determination, Commentary and Analysis, Citizenship Equality, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Puerto Rico, Tennessee Plan, H.R. 2499 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.

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!”


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