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U.S. Senate Kills H.R. 2499, White House Delays Task Force on P.R.’s Status Report

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on October 12, 2010 at 4:05 PM
A Lesson on Territorialism and why Supporters of Self-Determination Clamor “TENNESSEE! TENNESSEE!”


Once again, the U.S. Senate refused to be a constructive partner in solving Puerto Rico’s unequal status. After months of claiming senators wanted to wait for the White House task force report at the end of October, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, informed the public that his colleagues could not reach a consensus on moving forward with Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s House-approved Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009/10 (H.R. 2499).

What is there to know, senators?

Let us see:

  • The United States invaded Puerto Rico (a colony of the Empire of Spain) in 1898.
  • Since, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States under the U.S. Congress’ plenary authority under the U.S. Constitution’s Territorial Clause.
  • Congress made all Puerto Ricans United States citizens in 1917 and in 1952 gave them autonomy to organize in a republican form of government under a constitution of their own writing (amended by Congress, of course).
  • After 1952, Puerto Rico remained a United States territory, now called a “Commonwealth” in English and a “Free Associated State” in Spanish—still not a state or an independent country, but an American colony where the citizens have second-class citizenship.
  • There have been three attempts at finishing the current unequal territorial status through a direct, democratic vote. Once in 1967, another in 1993, and yet another in 1998—all of them inconclusive for various reasons, none of which are legitimate reasons not to proceed with a final self-determination vote for citizenship equality.
  • The Americans of Puerto Rico still wait for a congressionally sanctioned plebiscite for a chance to vote for their future.

Facts are facts!

The United States Senate has been singularly instrumental in keeping the four million American citizens of the island territory unequal for 112 years. The Senate has never passed a bill giving Puerto Rico a clear path toward self-determination, while the U.S. House has, at the very least, engaged the political leadership of the territory in short debates about the status. The White House, through the Clinton-, W. Bush-, and Obama Administrations, has been involved in trying to build consensus among the key status factions in Puerto Rico on what the status alternatives mean to Puerto Rico and the U.S. On October 12, the Obama Administration signaled that it would give the President’s Taskforce on Puerto Rico’s Status more time (perhaps until December) to complete its report.

The White House’s decision, reported in El Nuevo Dia by Jose Delgado, also seems to include two key new pieces of information. The first is the notion that the Obama Administration is going to focus heavily on economic development in the American territory. The second, and most Obamaesque, is that  the new report will back away to more “neutral” ground assertions made on the first and second Taskforce reports about Puerto Rico’s true colonial status.

The 2005 and 2007 reports (see Must Axxess Files box, below), ordered originally by the Clinton Administration and concluded under the W. Bush Administration, inflamed the “Commonwealth” PPD Party because they asserted in no equivocal terms that the federal hold on the territory was absolute, so much so that the federal government could give Puerto Rico away to another foreign power with no reason whatsoever.

These not-so-new developments—this federal dance, if you will—is unworkable. This is a political process more than it is a problem. Supporters of Self-Determination cannot allow this to continue!

We have the federal house acting on well-intentioned but mingled bills to solve the unequal status of four million Americans. We have a federal senate that refuses to look at their fellow citizens in the face while, simultaneously, single-handedly denies them even the opportunity to exercise their most fundamental democratic right to self-determination. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a federal executive that seeks neutrality and consensus in that which can have neither the former nor the latter. In the words of a once-bold leader, it is time for Change. Another such political pioneer was a man by the name of George Lehleitner who, according to the University of Alaska’s statehood files, was a “New Orleans businessman who single-handedly convinced the Alaska Constitutional Convention to adopt the ‘Alaska-Tennessee Plan’ in order to lobby for statehood.”

The U.S. Constitution spells out the statehood and territorial processes, but in constitutionally short language:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 & 2

Traditionally, Congress has filled the constitutional gaps through vigorous involvement in the constitutional management of territories, but not always. Since the original Thirteen Colonies (i.e. March 4, 1789 to Present), the territorial map of the United States has had over 100 variations, with as many flags to match an Age that was—long before it was named—Manifest Destiny.

Congress has never made a state. It simply manages territory under the auspices of the federal government, and when, and only when, certain population centers develop to a certain number and write a constitution that forms a republican democracy can they petition the federal government for statehood. That is the way the overwhelming majority of territories became states; of course, powerful interests did get involved in all statehood petitions, but that is not to say that the goal of statehood did not benefit most in the particular territory.

There are other ways.

California never had a “territorial status”; Congress carved it out of the unorganized territory acquired from Mexico after Californians instituted their own version of the Tennessee Plan. Congress organized the remaining territory as the Utah and New Mexico Territories. Texas was meant to be five states, but it was left as one. North Carolina gave up all of its land beyond its present-day western border to the federal government, which turned it into the Southwest Territory and later admitted it as the State of Tennessee—through the Tennessee Plan.

Why these niceties about the territorial process?

Because since 1796, when the Southwest Territory (also called the Territory of Tennessee) became the State of Tennessee four month after it instituted its namesake Plan, a series of other territories have successfully instituted their own bold plan for self-determination. Because today, the enemies of equality seek to portray Puerto Rico’s internal, democratic plebiscite process as one out of synch with the national traditions of statehood simply because Puerto Rico seeks to have Congress clarify the real options for its people through congressional action before the ballots are printed.

However, many in Congress—Doc Hastings their leader during the H.R. 2499 debate in the House—have argued that Puerto Rico does not need a congressional mandate before it carries a local plebiscite on status because they have done it before without congressional mandate; further, they argue, a congressional mandate would do two things that are incompatible with the traditional process: 1) it would put the Congress in front of the proper petition for statehood from the territory; and 2) it would indirectly “bind” Congress into accepting a vote for statehood that might result from a plurality of the votes cast (e.g. a 34 percent vote for statehood, 33 percent for independence, and a 33 percent for “Commonwealth”). This is the same class of congressional impotence that gave rise to the Tennessee Plan.

If the territory of Puerto Rico were anything like the territories that came before, the status issue would have been resolved long ago.

No other territory has ever had to weigh three or more options before petitioning for statehood. There are those for which Congress explicitly stated its intent to grant independence (i.e. Cuba, Philippines, and various post-WWII trusteeships), but in terms of territory acquired, organized, and kept, none has had a “Commonwealth” movement, though they might have had a weak independence movement, like the territory of Puerto Rico does. Congress, for over a century now, has inculcated a sense of perpetuity in the minds of the “Commonwealth” status supporters, and president after president has simply gone along.

Let us not doubt Puerto Rico’s current capacity allows it to fulfill the four traditional requirements imposed by Congress: 1) population; 2) republican form of government; 3) a written constitution; and 4) a petition for statehood. The last requirement, of course, has not happened, and it has much less to do with the aforementioned example of congressional voice approval for a Puerto Rican vote, and more to do with the lack of support for an actual law clearing the way for Puerto Rico’s exercise in self-determination.

What would the first unorganized territory of the United States–which later became the Northwest Territory, and even later the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin–look like had it been left as a territory for one hundred years before Congress acted on its management and advancement on behalf of the American people outside of the original Thirteen? What would the Louisiana Purchase have looked like as a permanent territory under the dubious status of Puerto Rican “Commonwealth”? What about the lands acquired from Mexico after 1848? What would most of the country look like?

After Tennessee instituted its Plan, seven other states successfully followed suit: Michigan, California, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, and Alaska.

The territory of Puerto Rico is unique in this tradition, and not for its language or local culture, but because it has been mismanaged as a territory of the United States of America. Our American tradition of self-determination for the peoples of the territories has always worked, but sometimes some territories had to push harder than others did.

As George Lehleitner said as he concluded his argument for the Tennessee Plan à la Alaska:

You have already seen that it is NOT irregular. Nor is it illegal. For the very first Article of our Bill of Rights, you will recall, guarantees that ‘Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

In its very essence, the ‘Tennessee Plan’ is a forthright and logical form in which to petition the Government for the redress of a monstrous grievance. Because the grievance is real and stubborn, the petition for its correction must be vigorous and dramatic. For these reasons the ‘Tennessee Plan’ has ALWAYS succeeded in the past.

For the Americans of Puerto Rico, their most “vigorous and dramatic” move should be preceded by the equally bold move of passing H.R. 2497 and S.B. 1407 (see Must Axxess Files box, below) in the Puerto Rico legislature. By forcing a vote between statehood and independence, Puerto Rico will be able to present a petition for statehood to the U.S. Congress. After that, in the name of citizenship equality, “TENNESSEE, TENNESSEE, TENNESSEE!”


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Parity versus Equality

In Citizenship Equality, Commentary and Analysis, Enemies of Equality, H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Democracy Act, Self-Determination, Tennessee Plan, The Big Lie: The PPD's "Commonwealth" on August 12, 2010 at 3:27 PM
Why Parity Cannot Achieve Citizenship Equality … But Can Undermine It

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both parties’ perspectives are wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us fight for Universal Parity through self-determination.

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.

Obstructionist Challenges to Self-Determination Appear, Again

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 July 29, 2010 at 8:23 PM
How the American Citizens of Puerto Rico Will Overcome Inequality and Be Free At Last in the Face of an Ostensibly Impotent PNP

 

On July 29, El Nuevo Dia’s  Washington correspondent, Jose A. Delgado, blogged an update on H.R. 2499 and the goings-on of status politics in both Washington and San Juan. Here is a rough, paraphrased translation of the original (Spanish blog), followed by some commentary about the issues raised in it.

[It starts by noting that the U.S. Senate is heading out for its summer recess without the Energy and Natural Resources Committee having decided what to do with H.R. 2499—“it is not a secret that the bill will not advance and will remain hanging in committee,” states Delgado.

The chairman (Sen. Bingaman, D-NM) and ranking member (Sen. Murkowski, R-AK) still have to have a “formal conversation” to determine if it is possible to approve legislation after the November elections—a la Lame Duck—that would  indicate which status solutions Puerto Rico can have that would be constitutionally valid.

Delgado quickly notes, “Nobody seems to be in a hurry about this issue.” That includes the New Progressive Party (PNP-statehood), which has proposed, maybe, having a plebiscite in 2011 because of Gov. Fortuño’s ostensibly unpopular local policies. Get this, apparently, a few days ago former pro-statehood governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Roselló, warned Gov. Fortuño that now was not the time to pursue a status plebiscite because any anger the public may have over the pro-statehood-led government’s policies could “adversely affect the statehood movement” in the polls. (Apparently, this is what Mr. Roselló learned from the “Great Misunderestimation of ‘93”—but so did the vast majority of status-tuned mind, except here at La Chuleta Congelá’.)

Gov. Fortuño, however, has voiced his concerns over the slow process to the White House, which promptly retorted that Puerto Rico would have to wait until October when the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status report is due.

Delgado finishes with the observation that there are those who doubt—most notably the U.S. Senate—that 2011 will be the “appropriate” time for Gov. Fortuño and the PNP legislature to propose a local plebiscite. Nevertheless, he continues, others think it will be very difficult for the PNP—which has the executive and the legislative branches under their firm control—to explain to its fiercely pro-statehood base how their party leadership missed an opportunity to order a status plebiscite.]

Now, let us cross some T’s and dot some I’s. The U.S. Senate continues to ignore Puerto Rico and the citizenship inequality of millions of American citizens; that much is crystal clear. After 112 years, are we to accept that two U.S. senators still have to have a “formal conversation” to discuss the possibility of passing a bill after the mid-term elections with the purpose of establishing which options Puerto Rico can have? It appears so, but if we, as Mr. Delgado does, understand the U.S. Senate is the reason Puerto Rico has never gotten a congressionally approved plebiscite—ever—then is should come as no surprise.

However, the issue here is the substance of the blog’s last paragraph, which notes that some doubt whether 2011 will see a local plebiscite and, most intriguingly, how others ask how the PNP will explain itself to its statehood base. That is a good question.

The PNP, today, enjoys a supermajority in the house and senate of Puerto Rico. The party has control of the resident commissioner’s office in Washington and the governorship of the island. Above all, the party enjoys the protection of a majority-PNP Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ready to reject nonsense applications of the law meant to derail any possible resolution to the status issue like in 1998 when, against the ropes, the Enemies of Equality introduced the island territory to “None of the Above” with the blessing of a misguided court.

So, how did the PNP miss out, again? According to Delgado (and, perhaps, common wisdom), Gov. Fortuño’s conservative politics have engendered anger amongst the people of Puerto Rico, which has a third of its workforce in the public sector. Front and center is Gov. Fortuño’s decision to cut government employment to the tune of 10 percent by the end of 2010 in an attempt to reduce considerably Puerto Rico’s projected $2 billion deficit. There are other measures in the pipeline attempting to alleviate the territory’s budget woes, but this is the big one.

In addition, the rebellion of thousands of students across Puerto Rican universities has not been favorable to the party in charge. The ill-conceived picketing was supported by the marginal independent movement in Puerto Rico, the colonialist PPD party, and the more formidable independence movements sponsored by presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel “Cuba and Puerto Rico Are Wings of the Same Bird” Castro of Cuba. Moreover, weighing in is the national agenda in Washington, D.C.

When is any of this NOT going to be happening?

When will local politics be under control and the people’s temperament “ready”? When, will somebody answer, will Chavez and Castro see it in their interest not to interfere in American domestic policy-making in Puerto Rico? Moreover, when–this question of the utmost importance–will the Popular Democratic Party stop obstructing Puerto Rican sovereignty and citizenship equality?

The answer to all is “NEVER!”

There is no organized conspiracy here. What is going on here is stalling of the highest magnitude. But why and to what end? Here is a secret for the readers of La Chuleta Congelá’: everybody knee-deep in the status issue knows Puerto Rico will be a state of the United States.

What is most irritating to those who support fair self-determination for Puerto Rico is that, now, even the statehood party leadership is waffling about what needs to be done.

Here is the bottom line:

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, no more, no less. Period. It is not equal and its American citizens withstand the worst of this inequality every day of their poverty-stricken lives. They ARE Americans in body and soul and proud of the land that gave them forth. Period. The island has a tiny independence movement with a legitimate, sovereignty-granting option that needs to be represented in the final plebiscite, but roughly, 97 percent of Puerto Ricans in the island are not willing to negotiate American citizenship in any final status, so there goes independence. Period. The 97 percent of Puerto Ricans that does not support independence divides about evenly between the two largest parties in Puerto Rico. One party, the New Progressive Party, claims statehood as its solution to the status issue and an end to citizenship inequality in Puerto Rico; the other party, the Popular Democratic Party, claims everything and supports nothing, by default its leadership and its supporters (preposterously) propose the unequal current status as the final solution Puerto Rico. Period. The Congress has voiced support for Puerto Rican self-determination even though it has never made it official through legislation, and many presidential administrations have supported self-determination for Puerto Rico—most presidents since Ford supporting statehood outright. Period!

The only end-of-sentence ellipsis here is the Puerto Ricans on the territory who continue to believe in an imaginary (unconstitutional) status arrangement that will secure their American citizenship without having to assume the rightful duties that go along with that highest of privileges. If citizenship equality is to materialize in the island territory, if all Americans want to get out of the status quagmire, it is time to get serious about the issue and invoke the only solution available: a statehood-versus-independence plebiscite. Let us end the perpetual economic, political, and democratic stagnation palpable in Puerto Rico.

The path is there; it just needs to be taken. The PNP can provide the vehicle.

July 25: 1898 and 1952

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 July 25, 2010 at 12:19 AM
How an American Military Invasion was Outdone by a Puerto Rican Coup d’Esprit

 

“We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves but to your property, to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government,” so proclaimed U.S. General Nelson A. Miles in 1898 upon invading the Spanish territory of Puerto Rico 112 years ago today.

On July 25, 1952, ominously 54 years to the day after Gen. Miles’s arrival in Guanica (forebodingly the same place where Juan Ponce de Leon stepped onto the island back in 1508), the “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico was established with much fanfare as a “compact” between the Puerto Rico and the United States of America.

Ever since, Puerto Rico has been held as a territory of the United States under the plenary authority of Congress, unequal in citizenship, and without the most basic rights in a democratic society under the so-called “Commonwealth.” On that day in 1952, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) perpetrated a coup d’esprit (golpe de mente) on the Americans living in Puerto Rico and has maintained it for the past 58 years, only getting better at its tricks and lies with the passage of time.

Politically unable to decide which side of permanent sovereignty they wished to pursue, i.e. statehood or independence, Puerto Ricans were sold the idea that would come to be known as “The Best of Both Worlds.” What they did not know was that in the process of achieving local self-governance, they were agreeing to remain–by a democratic vote!–a colony, with unequal protection of self and property, less prosperity, and limited immunities and blessings of liberal governance.

Of Gen. Miles’s four promises (i.e. protection-, prosperity-, immunities-, and blessings of liberal governance), only one can truly be claimed to have been achieved: protection. Puerto Ricans, however, have contributed much blood and sacrifice in the name of the protection of the United States. The prosperity that was promised can only be achieved through citizenship equality, and the immunities and blessings of liberal governance will surely follow. If Gen. Miles’s promissory note on behalf of the American people to those of Puerto Rico is to be redeemed after 112 years of colonial rule, then it follows that the only bank that will cash it is the Bank of Self-Determination.

July 25 should not be a celebration of the inherent  institution of “separate and unequal” found in the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution and its embodiment through Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth,” but a mourning of Puerto Rico’s sovereign capacities and the degeneration of the Puerto Rican democratic mind into a mental paradigm of  dependence and uncertainty. Nothing that has happened in Puerto Rico on July 25, of whatever century, has fared well for Puerto Rico. Let us, then, hope that when Puerto Ricans proclaim their permanent status choice it happens on July 25, so that day does not live on in Puerto Rican infamy.

 

 

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