A STATEMENT FROM PEDRO PIERLUSI, RESIDENT COMMISSIONER OF PUERTO RICO
White House supports consulting the people of Puerto Rico on their political status choice, declares that the current status is territorial, and characterizes “enhanced Commonwealth” proposal as impossible
Washington, DC- The Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, called the White House Task Force Report an historic document, one that says that resolution of Puerto Rico’s status issue should be an urgent priority, discusses the economic situation on the Island in detailed fashion, and offers recommendations in important areas like health and education.
“The Task Force Report contains the most complete analysis that we have received from the White House regarding our political status problem. I thank the members of the Task Force for the effort, integrity and care they have shown in addressing a subject of such importance to the people of Puerto Rico. Now, we must take action consistent with the guidance and recommendations set forth in the Report,” said Pierluisi.
The voluminous Report supports the government of Puerto Rico conducting a plebiscite process under local law on the question of the Island’s future political status. The Report expresses a preference that the plebiscite be conducted in two stages, with voters first deciding if they want to remain part of the United States or to seek independence and then, depending on their answer to that threshold question, choosing between either the current status and statehood or independence and free association.
The Report observes that the government of Puerto Rico has discussed the possibility of holding a plebiscite this summer that would seek to ascertain the will of the people of Puerto Rico regarding their political status. The Task Force recommends that the President and Congress support any fair, transparent, and swift effort that is consistent with and reflects the will of the people of Puerto Rico. If the process produces a clear result, the Task Force recommends that Congress act on it quickly with the President’s support. If efforts on the Island do not yield a clear result, the Task Force recommends that Congress, with the President’s support, enact federal legislation.
“We welcome this recommendation because it demonstrates—yet again—the Task Force’s commitment to resolve the status issue. It also confirms what I have repeatedly said: that, for now, the ball is in Puerto Rico’s court,” said the Resident Commissioner.
In addition, the Report buries, once and for all, the three myths long promoted by the leadership of the Island’s Popular Democratic Party (PDP). First, it expressly states that Puerto Rico is currently a territory subject to Congress’s plenary power under the Territory Clause of the Constitution. Second, according to the Report, under any of the various “Commonwealth” proposals that have been put forward by the PDP, Puerto Rico would remain subject to congressional authority under the Territory Clause. Finally, the Report explicitly concludes that the fundamental basis of the PDP’s “enhanced Commonwealth” proposal—namely, the establishment of a covenant whose terms could not be later changed by Congress without Puerto Rico’s consent—is impossible. The Report says that the Obama Administration has taken a fresh look at such mutual consent provisions, and has concluded that such provisions would not be enforceable because a future Congress could choose to alter that relationship unilaterally.
“It is clear that the Obama Administration has dealt a fatal blow to the notion of ‘enhanced Commonwealth.’ The Report explicitly says that Puerto Rico is now subject to Congress’s power under the Territory Clause; that, under the PDP’s various proposals to “enhance” or “develop” the Commonwealth, Puerto Rico would remain subject to Congress’s Territory Clause powers; and that the fundamental core of the PDP’s proposal—the mutual consent provision—is impossible,” said Pierluisi.
The Task Force Report also expresses a clear preference for a plebiscite process over a constitutional convention process to determine the views of the people of Puerto Rico on the status question.
In addition, the Report states that, if Puerto Rico were to become a state, Island residents should control their own cultural and linguistic identity. The Report further notes that, under statehood, English should have the same important role in Puerto Rico that it does today.
The White House Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status was established by President Clinton in 2000, with a mandate to focus on the political status issue. President Bush maintained the Task Force in effect and retained its sole focus on status. In October 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing the Task Force maintain its focus on status, while also making recommendation on policies to promote job creation, education, health, clean energy and economic development on the Island.