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Posts Tagged ‘Commonwealth’


This just in from The Puerto Rico Daily Sun. In essence, there is another voice on the island that is seriously beginning to questioning the politics of the established pro-Commonwealth Party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD). For those uninitiated in the political world of Puerto Rico, this is a major move to FINALLY get to a real solution to the island’s 113-year-old colonial relationship with the United States. We applaud ALAS for taking this bold step and moving forward. The time for typical politics and how things have been done on the island are over. If the PPD is serious about the future of Puerto Rico, it would get on board with the other political parties (the pro-statehood PNP and pro-independence PIP) and use its energy to make this current plebiscite the LAST ONE the island will ever have to hold.
Here is the full article from the PR SUN:
The Popular Democratic Party leadership was challenged by a group that supports a sovereign free association and openly endorses the proposed plebiscite for 2012.
In public hearings held Thursday at the Capitol, the Sovereign Free Association Alliance (ALAS for its Spanish acronym) presented its position with regards to S. 2303, a bill before the Senate Special Committee on the Right of Self-determination for the People of Puerto Rico.
In the plebiscite project proposed by the New Progressive Party and supported by the Puerto Rico Independence Party, ALAS representatives implied that recent PDP leaders have been agents of inert politics when it comes to approaching the political status issue between Puerto Rico and the U.S.
ALAS members expressed their availability to run the campaign for the “Sovereign Commonwealth” decolonizing option in case the plebiscite reaches a second round voting event.
The non-partisan group praised the opportunity the proposed plebiscite brings to Puerto Ricans to decide about the future of the island’s political relationship with the U.S. and to start a process of decolonization that is not based on the current territorial clause.
According to ALAS President Luis Delgado Rodríguez, the organization “expresses its most sincere and total conviction that, even if the plebiscite project presented in S. 2303 is not a perfect project, it leads to the construction of a mechanism of convergence that complies with the three requirements.”
For ALAS, the three requirements that must be fulfilled in order to have a legitimate process of decolonization are: a guarantee that the proposed mechanism truly provides a solution to the centennial political status dilemma; that such process is characterized by democratic principles; and that all options presented to voters are non-territorial and consistent with international law.
The plebiscite project proposal is part of the agenda for the current legislative session at the Capitol. While the Senate version of the project is declared in S. 2303, the House of Representatives piece is being discussed under H.R. 3648.
The plebiscite project consists of two rounds. The first electoral consultation is planned to be held on August 12, 2012 and will ask voters whether or not they want to continue with the current territorial version of the Commonwealth. The only two possible answers for this first question would be “yes” or “no.” If the “no” option wins the first round, a second part of the plebiscite will be held during the same day as the general elections on November 6, 2012. That second round will give voters the opportunity to choose between three decolonizing options: statehood, independence and a sovereign commonwealth as it was defined by the PDP official platform presented for the 2008 general elections.
“We see this plebiscite as a first step in the path for the solution of our centennial political status issue,” read the ALAS statement presented at the public hearing.
The political action group was also emphatic in declaring that if no party or organization decides to support the Sovereign Commonwealth option after the legislative bill is signed by Gov. Luis Fortuño, “ALAS will take over the defense and representation” of that decolonizing alternative.
A friendly confrontation about the best way to define the island’s political relationship with the U.S. happened between two PDP members who were part of the public hearing. Parliamentary minority Sen. Antonio Fas Alzamora expressed his concern about the possibility of hurting the feelings of some PDP colleagues if the word colonialism is included in the language that makes reference to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. ALAS member and former PDP Sen. José Ortiz Daliot responded by arguing he would not be hurt if the word “colonialism” is included in the language of the plebiscite.
“I am a PDP follower and I don’t mind that people identify the Commonwealth as a colony,” said Ortiz Daliot during the questions session at the public hearing. “We need to call things by its name.”
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who led the public hearing, also addressed ALAS members and asked them if a free association agreement between Puerto Rico and the U.S. would require the island to first become independent in order to have the standing to negotiate that type of bilateral compact with the metropolis.
“There are no middle points between being free and not being free and between being equal and not being equal,” declared Rivera Schatz in reference to the alleged need to have gained independence before starting a free association negotiation with another country.
ALAS members disagreed with the Senate’s President interpretation and refuted his comments by making reference to other international examples of countries entering into free association compacts based on the United Nations standards.
“These (other) countries did not have to become independent before entering into free association agreements,” said ALAS member and former University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras Chancellor Juan R. Fernández. “It is a big mistake to ignore how those (free association) processes really happened; achieving independence was never mentioned before these territories started to negotiate.”
“Free Association is not the same as an Associated Republic,” added Fernández.

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The political paradox that is Puerto Rico continues to thrive on the island after reaction to pro-statehood and Republican Governor Luis Fortuño has been lukewarm at best.

While the island faces some of the largest unemployment figures in its history, accusations of police abuse from the Department of Justice, charges of Social Security fraud, and angry reactions to spiraling electric bills, last week Fortuño tried to shift the political debate by turning to a topic that has haunted the island for decades: a final decision on its political status. It appears that the gamble has done nothing to help the Governor’s growing unpopularity. Fortuño is facing a reelection bid in 2012.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

First, there is the speech he made last week in response to President Obama’s surprising remarks that the United States would only support Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination if the plebiscites being proposed showed an overwhelming support for a specific status option. Historically, Puerto Ricans have been evenly split between their current commonwealth status and statehood.

As The Washington Post reported:

“Let’s be clear: neither Congress nor the president, nor any other power on earth can stop Puerto Rico from expressing itself freely and democratically about its preference regarding its political status,” Fortuño said. “Congress did not act, but we will act.”

Fortuño, whose New Progressive Party supports statehood, said he will present legislation on Wednesday that would allow islanders to vote on Aug. 12, 2012 whether they want a change in status. If they want a change, voters would choose one of three options in a second referendum to be held during the November 2012 general elections.

The three options would be statehood, independence, or a sovereign free association, which differs from the current commonwealth status.

The reaction to Fortuño’s surprise speech was classically and uniquely partisan among the island’s major political parties. Fox News Latino reported:

The chairman of the Popular Democratic Party said Wednesday that Fortuño’s announcement of a referendum was an attempt to distract the public from Puerto Rico’s current ills.

The governor’s proposal shows how divorced he is from the reality of Puerto Ricans struggling to cope with a surge in violent crime, 16 percent unemployment and a crisis in the public health system, Alejandro Garcia Padilla said.

He declined to comment on the concept of Sovereign Free Association, which appears to be closest to his party’s traditional stance in favor of enhanced commonwealth status.

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez

Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D), an outspoken critic of the Fortuño administration, said last week that Fortuño did not like the “horror show” that is killing the island’s economy and that the Governor was using the status question to “distract the island’s attention.”

It appears that nothing has been gained so far from Fortuño’s intentions to push the status question back onto the radar, and as a result, the island’s tradition of typical partisanship, accusations, and criticisms continues. Puerto Ricans are also savvy enough to understand that the current political system and its future is still controlled by the US Congress and no one else. Maybe the idea of a bolder move will gain more traction?

In the meantime, Fortuño announced today that he would push for a 15% to 20% reduction in Puerto Ricans’ electric bills over the course of the next 4-6 months, proving once again, that when times are tough, people are worried about paying their bills, not about their political status.

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In a much-heralded White House Roundtable Discussion today with journalists from Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL, President Obama offered his views about Puerto Rico’s quest to finally resolve its 113-year-old status debate. Here is the video of what he said:

Although President Obama said “the key here is that the status of Puerto Rico should be decided by the residents of Puerto Rico,” he also said that it comes with certain conditions:

  • Puerto Ricans must show an overwhelmingly majority for one option.
  • In the end, the US Congress is the FINAL VOICE of determining Puerto Rico’s political future. A plebiscite vote will only “influence” Congress to act.
  • If the island is split on status options, “it is hard to imagine that Congress would be wanting to impose a single solution on the island.”
The reality is that President Obama, even with his actions to form a new White House Task Force on Puerto Rican Status behind him, has basically reiterated the truth about Puerto Rico: Puerto Ricans on the island do not have the right to self-determination — the final voice and authority on determining Puerto Rico’s status is and always will be Congress.
The colony of Puerto Rico is alive and well, even after the world has seen cosmic changes in new governments being formed in places such as Cairo and Tripoli.
Puerto Ricans, according to President Obama, can vote for their future, but Congress will have the final say. And if the next non-binding plebiscite is not a slam dunk for one of the four options (independence, statehood, the commonwealth status quo, or free associate state), then nothing will happen and Puerto Rico will still be stuck, as it has been so ever since 1898, the year the United States invaded the island during the Spanish-American War.
This kind of reminds us of that famous line from The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

When will Puerto Rico wake up and realize that leaders from the United States and the island’s own leaders from all three major political parties are just feeding into the current status quo? When will the island and its people say that they won’t get fooled again?

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