Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rico political parties’

Where is the Status Issue Headed?

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, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on June 25, 2011 at 8:40 PM
An abridged walk through Puerto Rico’s self-determination process 

Impossible to write the entire history of the 113-year-old sisterhood between the States and Puerto Rico, the ups and the many downs, but the status timeline can be surmised into a few superficial attempts to placate a people’s yearning for citizenship equality.

That the island’s American citizens consented in 1952 to the current relationship of “united but unequal” is an undisputed fact. While rhetorically different from “separate but equal,” the relationship remains institutionally the same. At that time, the people of Puerto Rico placed dependent security above sovereign rule and citizenship equality. In 1967, 1993, and 1998, Americans in Puerto Rico delivered inconclusive results in three status plebiscites, under political settings unique to each. The unequal status quo won by default. Today, the fourth plebiscite is in the final stages before implementation, but its birth was on the day Puerto Ricans elected Governor Luis Fortuño and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. “Every vote for the PNP,” their campaign declared, “is a vote for statehood!”

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)

On May 19, 2009, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi introduced H.R. 2499 in the U.S. House of Representatives where it eventually passed with the Foxx Amendment poison pill. The Foxx Amendment introduced the non-permanent “Commonwealth” status quo into the column of permanent choices and made the self-determination mechanism within H.R. 2499 irrelevant. The beauty of H.R. 2499 was the simplicity of its solution. The foundational idea behind the Pierluisi bill is that the territorial “Commonwealth” status needs to change and that the only way it could be kept was through a majority vote. Even though such an approach lent some legitimacy to the status quo “Commonwealth” option, the bill restricted the potential extension of the status quo to a temporary period and only through majority-rule. Consisting of two votes, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 (H.R. 2499) asked the Puerto Rican voters to first vote on whether they wished to maintain the current status or seek a permanent status through statehood or independence/free association. If Puerto Ricans chose to remain a “Commonwealth,” the bill would self-execute the entire process eight years later—until the Americans of Puerto Rico voted for a permanent, non-territorial status.

One year-to-the-date later, the U.S. Senate shelved the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, but not before it issued a sober note on the question of “enhanced Commonwealth.” The idea of “enhancement” became popular immediately after the adoption of the “Commonwealth,” and it was the then-omnipotent PPD’s way of holding on to power. Originally meant as a temporary status, “Commonwealth” built a following that now surpasses 700,000 supporters. The corner stone of “enhancement” is the PPD’s belief that the nature of the relationship between the States and Puerto Rico is not territorial in nature. Instead, the PPD believes, the nature of the relationship is one driven by a Compact (a Treaty), or a bilateral agreement between two sovereigns. From that belief emanates the idea of “enhancement” because it seeks to “improve” the so-called Compact. The PPD’s proposals for improvement have included (and are definitely not limited to): recognizing the governor internationally as a head of state, giving concurrent authority to the governor and the legislature to veto federal law, transferring federal lands to the government of Puerto Rico, guarantying the American citizenship of Puerto Ricans and their right of movement to the States in perpetuity, increasing the flow of federal dollars to parity with the States, and allowing Puerto Rico to conduct its own foreign policy and join international bodies. “The free beer and BBQ option,” as Sen. Jeff Bingaman called it. According to the U.S. Senate, it is not going to happen—it cannot happen!

The PPD’s coveted Compact is what the serious world refers to as Public Law 600, which amended the Jones Act of 1917 (the same act that granted American citizenship to Puerto Ricans). Altogether, this body of law is referred to as The Puerto Rico-Federal Relations Act. This law passed by Congress alone cannot (does not!) constitute a bilateral Compact. Congress never relinquished its plenary powers over the territory when it agreed to give it “local autonomy” through a local constitution–ironically, Congress amended that, too. Congress, in fact, made clear its intent when it wrote into the legislation:

[Pulic Law 600] would not change Puerto Rico’s fundamental political, social, and economic relationship to the United States. Those sections of the Organic Act of Puerto Rico concerning such matters as the applicability of United States laws, customs, internal revenue, Federal judicial jurisdiction in Puerto Rico, representation in the Congress of the United States by a Resident Commissioner, et cetera, would remain in force and effect. […] The sections of the Organic Act which [Public Law 600] would repeal are concerned primarily with the organization of the insular executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government of Puerto Rico and other matters of purely local concern.

S. Rept. 81-1779, at 3-4. (almost verbatim on H. Rept. 81-2275, at 3.)

This series of laws concerning Puerto Rico is not showing us the statecraft of bilateral diplomacy but the depravity of colonial unilateral management.

Almost concurrently with the introduction of the Pierluisi bill in the House of Representatives, the White House put into motion the conclusion of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status—created by President Clinton, executed by President W. Bush, and expanded by President Obama. After three delays, the Task Force’s report emerged to almost universal praise.

In essence, much of the praise for the report seems to be the product of its substance and scope. President Obama’s Task Force, under the leadership of White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director Cecilia Muñoz and Justice Department Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, produced a comprehensive set of recommendations on various issues:

“This Report presents the Task Force’s recommendations to the President and Congress. The first section provides recommendations relating to the question of Puerto Rico’s status. Following the discussion of status, the Report is divided into three sections: (1) economic development overview and economic recommendations; (2) recommendations for building competitive industries; and (3) recommendations with respect to the island of Vieques. Each recommendation in these three sections sets out the specific issue, the recommendation designed to address that issue, and a realistic timeline for implementing the recommendation.”

President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status Report, Executive Summary, page 1

The release of the Task Force’s report culminated with a welcomed visit by President Barack Obama on June 14, 2011. The praise for the report, however, faded when placed under the equality microscope. It is true that the Obama report goes into much-needed detail in the issues affecting the island. Nevertheless, one cannot miss that these recommendations will be carried out under the territorial “Commonwealth” status—with all of its structural limitations intact. The fact is that none of the Task Force’s recommendations makes sense within the context of the status quo. These are exactly the right steps to take on behalf of Puerto Rico, but not before solving the status question; otherwise, it will mean more money thrown at the colonial beast.

For example, many of the “recommendations” are based on continued dialogue between the Government of Puerto Rico and the relevant federal department, agency, and/or bureau. Some of the recommendations are outright incongruent with plans already in motion. For example, the first of its “economic recommendations” suggests growing the size of the civil service in the island as a solution. “The Task Force proposes to con­sult with the Puerto Rico government to increase capacity in its civil service,” states this specific recommendation, “particularly in the areas of grant and program management [emphasis added].” The recommendation on page four of the full report continues, “Based on the results of the consultation, representatives of key Federal agencies should work with officials from Puerto Rico to identify an institution or training program that would provide the necessary skills to future professional civil servants.” In essence, the Task Force is recommending a new bureaucracy that would be dedicated to searching for federal grants, which would presumably fund some of the other initiatives recommended by the Task Force. Forget that the current governor was forced to layoff thousands of civil workers to meet the demands of an out-of-control budget deficit in the “Commonwealth.”

The funding formulas will not change. They cannot change until Puerto Rico is a state. This is nothing more than the old parity-without-equality game Washington is comfortable with. Therefore, the Americans of Puerto Rico will continue to fight a losing battle in which they are not represented at the budget pie-cutting, but continue to demand a fair and equal share of the pie. Most importantly, on the central question of the status (i.e. the mechanism and the options’ definitions) the White House did two things: 1) it did not endorse any specific mechanism, but lightly recommended a two-vote plebiscite based on citizenship; and 2) it endorsed “Commonwealth” as a valid option.

For the first time, an Administration decided to frame the issue of Puerto Rico’s status as one of allegiance and citizenship. On the first vote, the Task Force proposed the Americans of Puerto Rico vote on whether they “wish to be part of the United States or be independent.” On the second vote (limited by the first vote), Puerto Ricans would have a chance to vote for statehood or “Commonwealth” for permanent union, or vote for separation through independence (with or without a treaty of free association). This is a question of nationalism, allegiance, and citizenship, but the simultaneous endorsement of the territorial, “Commonwealth” status quo as an acceptable “permanent” option is anathema to the very patriotic spirit on which said principles are founded.

With all that said about the Task Force’s report, the governing party in Puerto Rico (the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, PNP) put the status campaign in motion when the party’s directorate unanimously approved a plebiscite roadmap. The PNP plan consists of a two-vote plebiscite. In the first vote (scheduled for November of 2012), citizens will be asked to choose a permanent option first (i.e. statehood, independence, or “free association”). The winner of the first vote would then face the territorial “Commonwealth” status on a heads-up match (presumably during the first half of 2013).

Although the PNP plebiscite diverges a bit from the Task Force’s tacitly recommended mechanism, the result is the same: a statehood-versus-“Commonwealth” face-off. The flaw continues to be, however, the inclusion of “Commonwealth” as a valid option of change when the dogma of “enhancement” cannot evolve. Puerto Ricans will continue to provide unclear results because they see through the inherent ambivalence in these “Commonwealth” solutions. Why offer them as a legitimate option the very option everybody agrees is the problem? How can this “Commonwealth” problem be its own “Commonwealth” solution?

Soon after the PNP put its plan on the table, the Popular Democratic Party (pro-“Commonwealth,” PPD) symbolically introduced a bill sponsoring the Task Force’s preferred mechanism and accused the PNP super-majority of going against the White House and Congress. With his party unanimously behind a plan, Governor Fortuño set up a tri-partite commission composed of a representative from each of the status parties (i.e. statehood, “Commonwealth,” and independence). The commission had a month to reach consensus on a path forward, but the deadline came and went without any substantial agreement. However, the PNP and the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) came out of the talks with a plan that—if agreed to by the two parties—could revive the once-dead H.R. 2499 and its two-vote plebiscite mechanism. The final details are unknown, though. The PPD is furious over both the ostensible pact between its two rivals and the unilateral plan of the PNP. Why would that be? It is because the leaders of the PPD do not wish to go into a second plebiscite against a victorious statehood option. How would they campaign for the status quo when they themselves have proclaimed it inadequate?

The following is how one gets to the convoluted PPD reasoning on the status; it goes something like this (Pay attention!):

The current territorial status is NOT (they say) territorial. Puerto Rico has a bilateral Compact with the United States (i.e. we are equal partners). Said Compact can only be ended with the acquiescence of both PR and the USA. After that joke of a statement, the PPD will once again advocate for a change in the territorial status. Their preferred path to “solving” the status problem is enhancement. (Notice that “enhancement” does not allow room for the permanent options of statehood or independence; instead, the “enhancement” idea seeks to undercut the argument of change. Why change when you can build upon?) Technicalities to the PPD, though.

So, with these inconsistencies how does the PPD move forward? Easy: mix everything up. Ask that your convoluted status continue to be included in any and every plebiscite. When it is finally included, change your definition. When your new definition catches up to you as unacceptable to other stakeholders, change the subject from plebiscites to constituent assemblies. When the constituent assembly does not seem possible, change the subject once again from one round of voting to two rounds of voting. In addition, remember to misdefine statehood while simultaneously not bothering to consider your own status definition. Finally, should a schism over status preferences occur within your own party ranks, ignore it until one side is about to secede and then open a “statehood” block within your own anti-statehood party. Voila! Default Victory.

The PNP-PIP alliance against the PPD on the question of the option legitimacy is a natural alliance built on the idea that the former two offer permanent and recognized status solutions and the latter one nothing but constitutionally impossible pie in the sky. The PNP claims statehood is a possible status option, the PIP does likewise about independence, (both accepted universally as valid options), and the PPD continues to claim the current status is unacceptable while simultaneously pressing to include said “Commonwealth” status in any island plebiscite. Further, if the plebiscite includes the “Commonwealth” option, then the PPD wants a constituent assembly to solve the status and not said plebiscite. Plebiscite versus constituent assembly is another way for the PPD to obstruct the status process. After all, the members of the PPD cannot even define their own vision for a permanent, non-territorial status. They continue to fight over definitions: ELA versus Free Association versus Enhanced Commonwealth versus Permanent Union versus Sovereign Union versus Sovereign Association, etc., etc., etc.—but in their own words “not statehood or independence.”

Then what?

One-vote plebiscite versus two-vote plebiscite. Should the question be limited to the options that will end the territorial status? Should the “Commonwealth” territorial option be included? Why? How? H.R. 2499 was the first plan to establish a two-vote plebiscite. Basically, it asked the Americans of Puerto Rico to first vote on whether to keep the current “Commonwealth” status or to reject it. If rejected—and most voters would have—the second part of the plebiscite asked the Americans of the island territory to vote for a permanent, non-territorial option: statehood, independence, or “free association.”

Defining the possible options has become as controversial as the underlying status problem itself. The reason is that when local parties are allowed to define what their status options mean, some are honest and some are not. The PPD pretends to define a valid option when it speaks of “enhanced Commonwealth,” but the fact remains that enhancement of the current territorial status does not change the status. In fact, the so-called “Commonwealth” status (i.e. Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act) is an enhancement of the traditional American territorial status. Culminating with President H.W. Bush’s executive order instructing federal departments to “treat Puerto Rico as if it were a state,” the enhancement of the traditional American territorial model began a long time ago and included the granting of American citizenship, an elected executive- and legislative branch, a judicial branch, a locally written constitution, and the establishment of a quasi-autonomous local structure of governance. In fact, the sustenance of this enhancement has been the idea of parity pursued by both the PNP and the PPD over the past 60 years since the creation of the Estado Libre Asociado (Free Associated State, ELA, or “Commonwealth”). Though pursued by both major parties, “parity” was the same mean to get to two very different goals. For the PPD, “parity” is a vehicle of “enhancement.” For the PNP, “parity” is a vehicle for “equality.” The PPD plan protects the status quo. The PNP plan seeks to change it.

For their parts, the PNP and PIP continue to tell the people of Puerto Rico the truth about their options. Statehood in essence means equality in responsibilities and benefits under the American Constitution. Independence would liberate Puerto Rico of it colonial past, but it would also separate it from its American citizenship. “Enhanced Commonwealth” seeks to create the Independent Republic of the State of Puerto Rico—equivalent to Estado Libre Asociado on steroids! Under this “status,” Puerto Rico would have the power to veto federal legislation, continue to receive federal funds, retain American citizenship for all Puerto Ricans born in the island, participate in international bodies (beyond the Olympics), and not pay federal taxes.

In all likelihood, the next plebiscite will include the “Commonwealth” status as an option somewhere. The real question is, “where and under what terms?”

The only permanent, non-territorial options for Puerto Rico and its American inhabitants are statehood or independence (with or without a free association treaty). Even if the statehood option has to compete with two forms of independence on a ballot, it will prevail because 97 percent of Americans in Puerto Rico wish to keep their American citizenship in perpetuity for themselves, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren! The status problem is one of citizenship. American union under statehood or “Commonwealth” versus Puerto Rican independence, with or without association. In the former options, Puerto Ricans secure their American citizenship, and in the latter two they renounce it. With statehood, Puerto Rico’s American citizenship would be elevated to equal footing with that of the other states; under “Commonwealth,” Puerto Rico’s American citizenship would continue to be second-class in nature and the status problem would remain conspicuously latent. Independence would see the American presence and citizenship in the island disappear.

The central element in the status problem is the PPD and what it can live with. Unfortunately, to the PPD the answer is “nothing but the status quo.” The PPD is not interested in solving the status problem. After all, the PPD is the status quo; it is a matter of political existence. Puerto Rico’s status problem seems to be complicated thanks to the shenanigans of the PPD. In reality, Puerto Rico’s status problem is a decision away from ending. The decision is about whether the Americans of Puerto Rico wish to continue to be Americans with all benefits and responsibilities or Puerto Ricans without American citizenship and/or association. The upcoming plebiscite will be crucial to answering this question, but the chosen mechanism has to be straightforward with the Americans of Puerto Rico. If it is not, then the status problem will continue to rage into the future and to the dire detriment of a people and their American Dream.


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.

“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.


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.



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.




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,


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



(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!”





(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.



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.




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