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Posts Tagged ‘statehood’

Indecisiones y Desconciertos

In Citizenship Equality, Jose Celso Barbosa y Alcala, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Independence, Puerto Rico Statehood, Self-Determination, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on July 27, 2011 at 10:03 AM

Dr. José Celso Barbosa y Alcalá | El Tiempo, 11 de mayo de 1913

Con motivo del inusitado triunfo de los demócratas en los Estado Unidos y de la toma de posesión de Mr. Wilson, el cual, por haberle cogido de improviso su triunfo, no ha tenido tiempo de prepararse para la intervención en los grandes problemas nacionales y exteriores de la República Norteamericana, y al que las gentes, en alas de la exaltación imaginativa de los soñadores políticos, atribuyen conceptos, ideas y determinaciones sobre asuntos acerca de los cuales ni aún ha tenido tiempo de pensar; está bullendo otra vez en esta Isla, el hervidero político, y sería motivo de risa, si no causara mucha pena, ver la falta de fijeza de algunos hombres a quienes se tenía por inteligentes y conocedores de la política, o, por lo menos, dotados de un buen sentido práctico, andando por esas calles, y saltando de sitio en sitio, como el colibrí va de flor en flor, esparciendo ideas tan contrarias y sin ilación con los hechos, que asombra oír en sus pareceres, y algunas veces se pregunta uno, si estamos en una casa de locos, o si estamos en una sociedad civilizada que tiene el ardiente deseo de asegurar lo mejor posible su bienestar y su porvenir.

Hay por ahí personas muy serias que hablan de cartas recibidas de los Estados Unidos y atribuídas al Presidente, que hasta ahora el buen señor ni siquiera ha pensado escribirlas; se atribuyen pareceres a personajes que todavía no han hablado ni dicho siquiera esta boca es mía; y sobre todo, aquellas imprudentes frases que dijera el presidente Taft acerca del futuro de Puerto Rico cuando expresó su parecer de que la tendencia política de los Estados Unidos respecto de Puerto Rico no iba por el camino del Estado, imprudencia que sólo puede mitigar el deseo que tuvo el anterior Presidente de dar a entender, como así creemos, que es realmente, que la concesión de la ciudadanía a los puertorriqueños, en nada prejuzgaba la constitución política definitiva de este país, han servido de norte a algunas personas para asegurar enfáticamente que no hay más camino para nuestro porvenir que la independencia o la autonomía colonial; esto es, un riesgo o un desacierto.

Ciertamente que sólo llevamos catorce años de convivencia íntima con la nación americana, y ha sido poco tiempo para acostumbrarnos bien a lo política americana, y para curarnos de los resabios de la política europea que no encajan en ésta, por la fundamental diferencia entre una y otra, de que la europea se inspira en la tradición monárquica y la americana descansa en la soberanía del pueblo. Pero ese poco tiempo no sirve de disculpa para que exista tanta indeterminación en el pensamiento de algunos políticos puertorriqueños, y para que por no haberse obtenido en seguida todo lo que se deseaba, se cambie de rumbo y se modifiquen ideas, lo que viene a sembrar una grandísima confusión y hacer que no nos entendamos, por todo lo cual no debe sorprendernos que luego nos digan los de afuera que no saben lo que queremos, ni lo que pensamos.

Para el mejor examen y discusión de nuestro problema local, no nos olvidemos de dos puntos esenciales: uno, cuál es la solución más adecuada a nuestro propio bienestar; otro, cuál es la solución más conforme a la política norteamericana.

Examinemos ligeramente el primer punto. No sólo por el natural sentimiento de todo pueblo llegado a su madurez política y social, de gobernarse por sí mismo, sino por la manera como se desarrolló nuestra vida cuando formábamos parte de la nación española, todo puertorriqueño aspira a la independencia de su país, y, como es natural, surge en seguida el problema de cómo se ha de entender y organizar políticamente ese sentimiento de la independencia para el funcionamiento del gobierno propio.

Afortunadamente, nos encontramos casi a la mitad del camino, porque por el influjo de la democracia americana, hemos resuelto todos los fundamentales problemas de la política general de un país, que todavía están dando mucho que hacer en naciones tan diestras en el manejo de los negocios públicos como Francia y España, que sucesivamente llegaron a dominar en el mundo entero. La más amplia libertad en el orden del pensamiento, de la conciencia, de la palabra, y de la acción, tanto en el individua considerado en sí, como actuando en el ambiente social, está asegurada afortunadamente en este país: se van desarrollando progresivamente todas las fuentes de la producción, y la paz está garantida. Son pocos los pueblos que hoy gozan de esas tres magníficas condiciones, y por lo que a América se refiere, no hay más que tres territorios que las disfruten: las colonias inglesas, la República Norteamericana, y la isla de Puerto Rico.

Examinando el resto de América, esperamos que se nos diga cuál de los otros de los distintos pueblos que existen en este continente, goza en mejor grado de las condiciones de libertad, de desarrollo en su riqueza y de paz, que nuestra isla de Puerto Rico.

Ahora bien: al desarrollar nuestro sentimiento de independencia para organizar el gobierno propio, debemos tener presente no sólo las condiciones del pueblo, sino el territorio en que ese pueblo se extiende, y las condiciones generales interiores y exteriores de ese territorio, a fin de que pueda realizarse una obra durable, de paz, de orden de felicidad y de justicia.

Puerto Rico es un territorio muy pequeño para fundar una nacionalidad. La gran concentración de ideas, de sentimientos y de relaciones científicas, industriales y mercantiles que existe hoy en el mundo entero, exige la constitución de grandes grupos sociales que puedan equilibrarse para mantener el orden y la paz y seguir adelante el progreso en todas sus manifestaciones. Los hombres ya no se atreven a hacer las cosas por sí solos, como las hacían antes. Buena prueba es lo que sucede en las profesiones, en las cuales cada día se van especializando en un solo detalle, y dentro de la especialidad, se asocian unos y otros para el mejor desempeño de sus funciones y el más seguro éxito.

Pues lo mismo sucede en los pueblos: hace tiempo que las colonias inglesas se sienten pequeñas y se encuentran muy separadas de su Metrópoli, y buscan el medio de agruparse para formar confederaciones y entrar juntas con la poderosa Metrópoli en la dirección e influjo de los negocios mundiales.

A medida que el progreso asciende en su maravillosa carrera, el choque de intereses es más fuerte, y más intenso el encono de los que desgraciadamente caen por su debilidad, pereza o negligencia. Hoy no se respeta más que a pueblos que tienen muchos soldados y muchos barcos, porque son los que representan una fuerza efectiva. Obsérvese lo que acontece en Europa, en donde vemos ahora mismo que está sucumbiendo Turquía desde que empezó el decaimiento de su poderío naval y militar, y cómo han tenido que unirse para combatirla a pesar de todo, las cinco pequeñas naciones que juntas le están haciendo la guerra.

Aquí en América, el problema no es tan urgente por ahora, porque existe la egida protectora de la República Norteamericana, desarrollando la doctrina de Monroe, que ha venido a salvar a las repúblicas hispanoamericanas; pero muy pronto comenzaremos a sentir los efectos de la debilidad en nuestras nacientes repúblicas, si no se encuentran fuertes y poderosas, cuando el impulso del progreso traiga a América indefectiblemente, la hegemonía política y mercantil que tiene hoy Europa.

No se funda, pues, un pueblo como nación, para hoy, ni para mañana, ni para luego, sino que se constituye para siempre. Y es preciso convenir en que la isla de Puerto Rico no se encuentra en condiciones para ser una república independiente, fuerte y vigorosa por sí misma. En tales condiciones, necesita Puerto Rico del auxilio ajeno que le proporcione la fuerza y le dé la consistencia de que ella desgraciadamente carece.

Tres soluciones se presentan hasta ahora para resolver el problema: o el Estado, o la independencia, o la autonomía colonial. No hay más, ni es fácil que pueda inventarse otra, porque el pensamiento humano no alcanza a establecer nuevas creaciones políticas.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Soberanistas versus Autonomistas within the PPD

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

 

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

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

Let us, first, get some facts straight:

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

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

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

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

All that before the PPD met!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Intra-Party War Prevents Viable PPD Status Definition

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 2, 2010 at 4:59 PM
Fas-Alzamora vs. Colberg-Toro Fight Over Citizenship Emblematic of Irreconcilable Ideological Differences within Party

 

For 58 years, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and its leadership have been quite successful in selling “Commonwealth” to any who would listen—and many “bought.” The great success was due to the relative ease with which the U.N., the U.S. Congress, the President, Puerto Ricans, and mainland Americans were able to sell to each other certain ambiguous ideas about what the changes in Puerto Rico meant.

The U.S. government and the U.N. wrongly agreed that Puerto Rico was no longer a colony; consequently, the U.S. government did not need to report to the U.N. anything about Puerto Rico. The American people—both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland—decided everybody was happy, so they looked the other way and have not looked back since. The subsequent “Commonwealth” governments of Puerto Rico (under the PPD and the PNP) went in search of “Parity” without and to the detriment of equality.

To be clear, everybody knew what the changes meant; they meant self-government without external autonomy or change in the application of Congress’s plenary powers under the Territorial Clause. Everybody, nevertheless, got away with his particular explanation of what happened. The biggest winners were the leaders of the PPD and its membership.

The PPD, under the leadership of its dear leader Luis Muñoz-Marín, so successfully advanced its bent view of what the 1952 constitution did for Puerto Rico (i.e. Puerto Rico was a self-governing and sovereign body politic) that soon the original temporary nature of the “Commonwealth” status was replaced by an elusive construct of what the PPD though could be possible—never mind the U.S. Constitution, or what Puerto Ricans can really get.

From then on, Puerto Ricans have had to view their political status problem not from the traditional lens of previous territories (i.e. statehood versus independence); rather, they have had to endure a farce of the highest quality. They have been asked to choose permanent options from among permanent and territorial options with the idea they will continue to harbor those feelings of never-ending ambivalence that comes with status politics and to which Puerto Ricans have grown quite accustomed.

Now, the PPD finds itself unable to appease its own ranks over the proper definition for their “Commonwealth,” and their permanent option for Puerto Rico.

On one side, Sen. Antonio Fas-Alzamora (PPD)—the longest-serving member of the P.R. Legislative Assembly—is at the forefront of his party’s internal status politics. On the other side is Rep. Jorge Colberg-Toro representing the wing of the PPD that indirectly admits the only ways to secure American citizenship permanently are statehood and the current territorial status, which the PPD would have a very difficult time trying to defend and/or advance as a permanent status.

The recent spat between two wings of the same bird (reported on by El Nuevo Dia on July 30, 2010) began when Colberg-Toro criticized Fas-Alzamora’s recently introduced Pact of Association (see below in “Must Axxess Files” box) as unable to garner the necessary votes within the PPD to be accepted as part of the party platform. Colberg-Toro claims that the document is too much like the free association treaty between the U.S. and Palau, which does not guarantee American citizenship in perpetuity (because the U.S. Constitution does not allow it!)

In response, Fas-Alzamora indicated that his Pact does, in fact, protect “the permanence and transmission of American citizenship of Puerto Ricans, as well as any acquired rights,” and noted that “one thing is to educate, another is to misinform,” referring to Colberg-Toro’s assertions. Fas-Alzamora added that Colberg-Toro cannot speak to what the PPD membership will or will not accept in committee.

To most political observers, such an inconspicuous incident passes as inconsequential, but here at La Chuleta Congelá’ we think that the dispute highlights the biggest problem brewing within the PPD and it has the potential to bring down the “Commonwealth” status with it.

At stake is American citizenship.

In Puerto Rico, there are those who want an independent Republic of Puerto Rico; they account for 3 percent of the total population. The other 97 percent divides between statehood and the status quo of “Commonwealth,” but the two largest parties agree that American citizenship must be protected in any final status solution. Therefore, what we have is roughly 45 percent of the voting population in Puerto Rico wanting American citizenship, placing it outside the bounds of any status negotiation, AND clamoring for some form of government—that is not independence or statehood or the status quo—that will perpetually protect said citizenship.

In an effort to disentangle the PPD’s Gordian knot of securing sovereignty and American citizenship through non-statehood or –independence measures, Sen. Fas-Alzamora has decided to make it his responsibility to get the PPD to confront its status problem.

The problem: the U.S. Constitution recognizes only three statuses for jurisdictional purposes (i.e. statehood, independence, and territorialism (albeit “Commonwealth”). Within the three constitutionally viable statuses, American citizenship can only be granted to states and territories. The U.S. Constitution does not allow American citizenship to be naturally granted to citizens of another country in perpetuity of blood; nor should any country really want to grant citizenship without allegiance.

This is where the PPD’s intra-party dispute between Fas-Alzamora and Colberg-Toro comes in.

Fas-Alzamora’s Pact of Association has four titles: Title I, Intergovernmental Relationship; Title II, Economic Relationship; Title III, Defense and Security Relationship; and Title IV, Conflict Resolution and the Pact Court.

The Pact of Association discusses “Citizenship” in Title I, Article III. In six sections, Fas-Alzamora’s Pact enumerates various legal points on citizenship, from naturalization rights and procedures to the loss of American citizenship by request or conviction of treason, but the Pact’s outline only works as a bridge between the “Commonwealth” territorial status and independence. The Pact makes it clear that all Puerto Ricans who enjoy American citizenship before the Pact becomes operational will be able to keep it. However, and this is where Colberg-Toro’s argument takes hold, Fas-Alzamora’s Pact does not guarantee American citizenship perpetually, which 97 percent of Puerto Ricans want.

After the Pact becomes operational, people born in Puerto Rico to at least one American parent will be able to claim dual citizenship, while any other birth will be conferred with only Puerto Rican citizenship, but said person will have the right to apply for American citizenship through the normal legal channels (and likewise lose it).

Therefore, the Pact does not guarantee American citizenship—perpetually. That’s one of the catches of the Pact. Another is the fact that Fas-Alzamora tries to hide the independence factor by claiming that the U.S. and Puerto Rico governments could sign the pact fast enough to have no need to declare Puerto Rico “independent” before declaring it “associated.” This is a  crock! If “sovereignty” will be the result, as Fas-Alzamora claims, then the vehicle will be statehood or independece as Colberg-Toro knows well.

Members of the PPD who find themselves agreeing with Colberg-Toro claim the document is a backdoor entry into independence, which they do not want because they understand the citizenship consequences. Fas-Alzamora claims his plan is the ultimate solution because it “solves” the quandary of permanent American citizenship AND provides Puerto Rico with sovereignty. The Pact does the latter, but not the former.

The truth is that both the “sovereignty” and the “autonomy” wings of the PPD are scrambling to tone down the criticism that is coming down on them from all sides since the release of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status reports of 2005 and 2007, which hold that “Although the current territorial status may continue so long as Congress desires, there are only two non-territorial options recognized by the U.S. Constitution that establish a permanent [citizenship] status between the people of Puerto Rico and the Government of the United States[;] one is statehood … the other is independence” (2005).

With this in mind, it is time supporters of Puerto Rican self-determination and citizenship equality think big!

If the New Progressive Party, which claimed, “Every vote for the PNP is a vote for statehood,” sees its hands tied until 2011, then let its leaders and members loosen their tongues in the intervening time. Let no Puerto Rican legislator who believes in equality for the Americans of Puerto Rico under the statehood banner remain quiet. Instead, leaders and members of the PNP must speak loudly when questioning the Enemies of Equality about their status solution for Puerto Rico that guarantees American citizenship perpetually. They do not have one!

The PPD and all Enemies of Equality have their work cut out for them as they attempt to extend colonialism by consent (or, as some suggest, bring independence to Puerto Rico through the backdoor), but the PNP has an opportunity to deliver the coup de grâce on the unequal “Commonwealth” status.

We will see.

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