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In response to a November 6 plebiscite vote in Puerto Rico, where 54% of voters rejected the island’s current status quo and 61% chose statehood as its preferred option, the White House today said that Puerto Rico has “made it clear” that it wants to resolve its political status, according to a report in El Nuevo Día.

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As the newspaper reports in Spanish, David Agnew and Tony West, co-chairs for The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, stated that the Obama Administration “will work with Congress to provide the people of Puerto Rico a clear process that would establish ways that Puerto Ricans could determine their status. [Note: this quotes and others were translated from the END report in Spanish. They do not reflect the official English version of the statement. END received an advanced copy of the statement.]

Agnew and West also stated the following:

“This Administration is committed to the principle that political status is a topic of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.”

“Besides the status question, the Task Force will continue to work with Congress, the people of Puerto Rico and its leaders to address the concerns of the (close to) four million American citizens who call Puerto Rico home, implementing the recommendations of the 2011 report to promote the creation of jobs, improve security, education and address other important education, health and clean energy goals.”

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Read and sign the petition to Pass a Revised Puerto Rican Democracy Act here.

The time for games and votes that don’t matter are over. If the United States is truly serious about practicing the democratic principles it tries to spread all over the world, it must finally formally answer the Puerto Rican question. Next year will be the 114th anniversary of this paradoxical and colonial relationship. Five generations of Puerto Ricans have unsuccessfully resolved the issue of the island’s political status. Without this happening, Puerto Rico will continue to be a country in economic, social, and political limbo.

If you believe (no matter your opinion of what path Puerto Rico should take as a country) that President Obama and the US Congress are obligated to make the next plebiscite binding and formally recognize the will of its own citizens, please consider singing the following petition which is being address to ALL the members of the US House of Representative, the US Senate, and President Obama.

Read and sign the petition to Pass a Revised Puerto Rican Democracy Act here.

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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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© Associated Press

THE PRESIDENT:
(FOR VIDEO: CLICK HERE)

Buenas tardes! (Applause.) It is good to be back in Puerto Rico. (Applause.) It is great to see so many familiar faces, so many advocates for the island. First of all, I want to acknowledge Congressman Pedro Pierluisi is here. Where is he? Right over there. (Applause.) My great friend, Andres Lopez. (Applause.) Francisco Pavia. (Applause.) Senator Bhatia. (Applause.) Governor Fortuño. (Applause.) And I know that we’ve got some former governors here today, along with leaders of local parties, and of the House and the Senate.

I am so grateful for the unbelievable reception. As you know, the last President to come to San Juan and address the people of Puerto Rico was John F. Kennedy, nearly 50 years ago. (Applause.) Now, at the time, I was about four months old — (laughter) — so my memory of this visit is a little hazy. What I do remember is that when I came here to campaign, I promised that I would return as President of the United States. (Applause.) And although my hair is a little grayer — (applause) — than during my first visit, I am glad to be able to keep that promise to the people of Puerto Rico. (Applause.)

But this is only one part of my commitment to families here on the island. Because when I ran for President, I promised to include Puerto Rico not just on my itinerary, but also in my vision of where our country needs to go. And I am proud to say that we’ve kept that promise, too.

First of all, we’ve addressed the question of political status. In March, a report from our presidential task force on Puerto Rican status provided a meaningful way forward on this question so that the residents of the island can determine their own future. And when the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you. (Applause.)

I also know that there are plenty of other issues that the island is facing. When President Kennedy was here, he addressed the relationship between Washington and San Juan, and he also spoke about tackling what he called, “the difficult problems of education and housing and employment.”

In that same spirit, we’ve been trying to make sure that every family on the island can find work and make a living and provide for their children. That’s why our economic plan and our health care reform included help for Puerto Rico. (Applause.)

That’s why we’re increasing access to broadband and investing in education. That’s why we’re helping to grow local tourism and health care and clean-energy industries. We’re giving Puerto Ricans the tools they need to build their own economic futures.

And this is how it should be. Because every day, Boricuas help write the American story. (Applause.) Puerto Rican artists contribute to our culture — and by the way, I don’t know if you noticed, but Marc Anthony decided to show up here today. (Applause.) Puerto Rican entrepreneurs create American jobs. Even in the NBA finals, J.J. Barea inspired all of us — (applause) — with those drives to the hoop. That guy can play. (Applause.) Next time I’m down here I’m going to have to — next time I’m here, I’m going to have to play some hoops. (Applause.)

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge all the Puerto Rican men and women who serve in our country’s uniform. (Applause.) Give it up for our veterans. Thank you. (Applause.)

 

One of those veterans is Juan Castillo. Juan fought in World War II, and he fought in the Korean War. Today, he’s two months away from his 101st birthday. (Applause.)

Juan’s legacy is carried on by Puerto Ricans in Iraq and Afghanistan; men and women like Chief Master Sergeant Ramon Colon-Lopez, of the United States Air Force. In 2004, Ramon’s team was going after a high-value target in Afghanistan. His helicopter was seriously damaged by hostile fire. In the thick of battle, he didn’t know how large the force that he was up against. But he pressed on anyway, and his team killed or captured 12 enemy fighters. Because of his bravery, he was the first Hispanic American to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal. (Applause.)

And I tell this story because for decades, Puerto Ricans like Juan and Ramon have put themselves in harm’s way for a simple reason: They want to protect the country that they love. Their willingness to serve, their willingness to sacrifice, is as American as apple pie –- or as Arroz con Gandules. (Applause.) The aspirations and the struggles on this island mirror those across America.

So I know that today a lot of folks are asking some of the same questions here on the island as they’re asking in Indiana or California or in Texas: How do I make sure my kids get the kind of education that they need? How can I put away a little money for retirement? How can I fill up my gas tank? How can I pay the bills?

Everywhere I go, I see families facing challenges like these, but they’re facing them with resolve and determination. You know, these problems didn’t develop overnight here in Puerto Rico or anywhere else, but that means we’re not going to solve them overnight. But, day by day, step by step, we will solve them.

We are going to be able to improve our education system here in Puerto Rico and all across America. (Applause.) We are making strides to improve our health care system here in Puerto Rico and all across America. (Applause.) We are going to put people back to work here in Puerto Rico and all across America. (Applause.)

Maybe some of you remember that when I was here in 2008, I spoke in front of the Cuartel de Ballaja, a site that had been home to so many chapters of Puerto Rican history. Today, Puerto Rican workers are writing the next chapter by turning the building into a model of energy efficiency. They’re making HVAC systems more efficient. They’re putting on a green roof. They’re installing 720 photovoltaic panels. When they’re done, it’s estimated that the energy savings will be 57 percent. And Puerto Rico will have taken one more step towards creating a clean energy economy.

Those are the kinds of steps it will take for Puerto Rico to win the future and for America to win the future. (Applause.) That’s what we do in this country. With each passing decade, with each new challenge, we reinvent ourselves. We find new ways to solve our problems. We push forward.

And we do so in a way that gives every one of our people a shot at the dream that we all share -– the dream that if you’re willing to work hard and take responsibility, you can build a better life for your family. You can find a job that’s secure, provides decent wages, provides for your children, provides for your retirement. That’s what people are hoping for, and it’s not too much to ask.

Puerto Rico, I don’t need to tell you that we’re not there yet. We’re not where we need to be. But in these challenging times, people on this island don’t quit. We don’t turn back. (Applause.) People in America don’t quit. We don’t turn back. We place our bets on entrepreneurs and on workers and on our families. We understand that there is strength in our diversity. We renew the American Dream. We have done it before. We will do it again.

Muchas gracias. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, Puerto Rico. (Applause)

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Tonight President Obama spoke at the McKale Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson during a memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s tragedy. We think he did an exceptional job, taking the time to detail the stories of the victims who died from this murder before focusing on how this tragedy will affect the nation. As the President said: “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

So to the President, we say: you did an outstanding job in promoting the desire to #bcivil. And just don’t take our word. Here was a tweet posted by Stephen Hayes, senior writer of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine.

 

What follows is a partial transcript of the President’s speech:

 

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.  Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.  Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.  We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward.  We reflect on the past.   Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.  Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us?  Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.  We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.  Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.  We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

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