Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rico Independence Party’

The 3% Way in Puerto Rico’s Status

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Puerto Rico Independence, Puerto Rico Statehood, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on December 18, 2010 at 9:53 PM
What a Minute Party does with an Oversized Voice

The President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), Rubén Berríos, has proposed a “new” way forward on the status. In consultation with the presidents of the two major status parties in Puerto Rico—Gov. Luis Fortuño of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) and Rep. Hector Ferrer of the pro-“Commonwealth” Popular Democratic Party—Berríos seeks to set up a new, three-step mechanism.

The first step, would force the federal government’s hand with a yes-or-no vote in which the Americans of Puerto Rico would ask for a status that is “plainly democratic, not colonial and not territorial.” Then, on the second step, which would occur on the same day of the first vote, the Puerto Rican electorate would vote on the process for solving the status, either a plebiscite (direct vote) or a constitutional assembly (delegated vote). Finally, in the third step, if the plebiscite form wins, the people of Puerto Rico would exercise its right to a direct vote on status, but if the constitutional assembly were to garner the most votes, then the Puerto Rico legislature would be required to vote by a three-fourths supermajority and “in consultation with the diverse promoters of said procedure” (Guess who? The PIP and the PPD) to authorize said constitutional convention. Further, if the legislature does not meet the three-fourths threshold, then it would be up to the next legislature (in 2013) to authorize the constitutional assembly—but only with a simple majority needed.

Recap: 1) pressure the feds with near Puerto Rican unanimity on the status; 2) let the Puerto Rican electorate decide between a direct vote plebiscite and a delegated constitutional assembly; and 3) force the current Puerto Rico legislature to convoke a constitutional assembly through a super majority vote, or the next legislative assembly with a simple majority vote.

The plan is simple and straightforward, and (primarily) unnecessary!

The independence movement in Puerto Rico seems at odds with reality. It commands the support of less than 3 percent of the population and yet it purports to be a power broker. The PIP wants a veto power despite its minute stature in Puerto Rican politics. Because it is such a minor party, with no hope for victory, it must stay “relevant” in some way. Let us remember their strategy is founded on inaction, and while the movement’s aggressive tactics have changed, their powerful rhetoric on behalf of self-determination is now a fading caricature of what it once was. It is the way of Puerto Rican independence. If they cannot win on a straightforward statehood-versus-independence direct-vote plebiscite, then they will continue to develop a way to change the plan.

Degradation of Self-Determination Rhetoric

The first step of the PIP-plan seeks to magnify the current level of consensus in the American island on the current territorial status and its unacceptability. Through a yes-or-no vote, as expected, the American citizens of Puerto Rico would attest to their displeasure with the current unequal status; simultaneously, the electorate would cast its votes in favor of a direct plebiscite or a delegated constitutional convention as the mechanism for solving the status.

The fact that the people of Puerto Rico are being asked to “choose” between doing something themselves and electing somebody else to do it for them should be questioned endlessly, particularly as it relates to the status. A direct vote is the most democratic tool available to the people. The PIP and Ruben Berríos know this; after all, their entire plan rests on the direct vote of the citizens in the territory. Nevertheless, this plan is an optical illusion because while it engages citizens in the direct election of ideas, those ideas steer the citizens’ votes to the establishment of mechanisms diametrically opposed to the democratic principle of direct vote, mainly the “constitutional convention” idea.

The main problem with the idea of a constitutional convention is the notion rests on a flawed premise: the future of the status problem is complex and the people need experts to deal with it. The idea also assumes the convention delegates would be there to “create” a solution, when in fact the solutions are on the U.S. Constitution and are immutable by a Puerto Rican Constitutional Convention. The (simple) solutions constitutionally mandated are statehood or independence, if neither, then perpetual territorial/colonial “Commonwealth” status with no “enhancements” under the U.S. Constitution’s Territorial Clause.

The third and last step of the PIP-sponsored plan is a gratuitous slap in the PNP face. In 2008, the pro-statehood PNP took control of the legislature with supermajorities in the House and Senate chambers. Therefore, in essence, the third step is a trigger meant to override the PNP-led legislature and completely marginalize La Fortaleza. The PNP should never consent to taking away from the people the direct vote of the plebiscite and replace it with a ridiculous constitutional circus. Note, reader, that this part of the plan rests on the hope that the PNP will lose many seats in the 2012 elections because without a massive electoral change there cannot be a simple majority vote in 2013 to establish a constitutional convention, which the electorate presumably would have supported though a direct vote.

If the PIP wants to use its oversized voice to continue territorialism and colonialism by default in Puerto Rico then let it, but if it wants to move Puerto Rico beyond second-class citizenship then it must begin to promote the true answer to the status issue: a direct vote by the people on a statehood-versus-independence plebiscite. No more, no less.


The Status: 2011

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 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.




Independence Supporters in Puerto Rico

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

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

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

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP)

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

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

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

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

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

Let us continue doing the math.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shame on them!

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