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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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Even with the historic White House Report on Puerto Rican status published this year, a new social media movement is gathering steam on the island of Puerto Rico on the heels of a June 14 visit by President Barack Obama.

Inspired by recent movements in both the Middle East and in Spain, residents of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest colony (a territory of the United States since the Spanish-American War of 1898) will gather in the streets demanding for political justice. President Obama, who had promised during his 2008 campaign bid that Puerto Rico’s paradoxical political status would be a top priority for his Administration, has nonetheless issued a White House Report that has failed to fulfill his promise. The report, which has been widely touted by the Republican, pro-statehood and Fox News media darling Governor Luis Fortuño, has been criticized by many for its leaning towards a more pro-statehood movement. It is clear that the current political climate of the United States (Arizona, immigration, anti-Latino hate, Republican refusal of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state) will not result in a statehood solution. Any plebiscites held on the island (and Fortuño is proposing phase 1 in late 2011 and phase 2 in 2013) will ne non-binding and still be decided and determined by the US Congress.

The time to stop depending on the United States and the island’s current political system is NOW. Join the cause on June 14, either by attending the rally or by supporting it through social media.

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Remarks by Kenneth D. McClintock

As prepared for delivery

May 2, 2011

Puerto Rico's Secretary of State Kenneth D. McClintock

The 2011 White House Report on Puerto Rico is a sincere effort at addressing many of Puerto Rico’s problems and providing both a federal as well as local roadmap to address them. It has its flaws, but they are few.

With regard to Puerto Rico’s political status, the report does not state what it cannot state – that nothing is going to happen status wise in Washington during the remaining 19 months of President Obama’s first term.

While Puerto Rico statehood is and has been a part of the Republican Party platform for decades, and several Republicans in Congress have courageously attempted to address this issue and fulfill that commitment, the current scenario within the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the Republican minority in the Senate precludes any congressional action during this Congress on the issue of Puerto Rico self-determination.

The report fails to acknowledge that reality, but it is an acknowledgement regarding this or any issue that no White House would make halfway into its mandate.

The report does set forth a more realistic local roadmap, one where Puerto Rico can move ahead in the political status chess game to place Congress, sometime in 2013, in the position of having to move on the issue.

While the report doesn’t impose one single route to follow, it does make very constructive suggestions as to the mechanics and content of a local electoral consultation process.

Based on those suggestions, which include the possibility of a two – step consultation that will produce results that will be more understandable by, and credible to Congress, and the need to include the present relationship as an option in order to provide more credibility, Governor Fortuño has made a two -phase proposal:

First, as the leader of the governing party, he proposed a political status resolution process that includes the current status, offers a two-step consultation, and attempts to avoid intermeshing status with the partisan politics of a general election, a proposal that has been endorsed by the Party.

Second, as governor of Puerto Rico, he invited Puerto Rico’s three political status –based registered parties to seek a consensus on a political status process by May 25th.

The consensus-seeking committee, with a representative from each party, held its first meeting 8 days ago in my office and has since held a second meeting. Let us hope for the best.

It is the Governor’s desire that local legislation, preferably by consensus, can be approved by the end of the legislative session in June.

Hopefully, by the time Congress gets down to work in the spring of 2013, the people of Puerto Rico will have withdrawn whatever consent it ever gave to the present relationship and will get down to the business of matching President Obama’s interest in resolving Puerto Rico’s political status problem.

One of the more remarkable status-related aspects of the Report is the Obama administration’s reiteration of the long-standing federal policy that Puerto Rico remains subject to the Territorial Clause of the Constitution.

Before briefly addressing the fascinating non-status related sections of the Report, I would like to put on the table a suggestion of a step that the Obama administration could take to speed things along.

As you may recall, in one of the several so-called “insular cases”, Balzac vs People of Porto Rico, decided in 1922 by U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice Taft, also known as former President William Howard Taft, in an act of judicial legislation set aside the precedents of Lousiana and Alaska in declaring that, in Puerto Rico’s case, the 1917 grant of American citizenship did not constitute incorporation and I quote:

It is true that, in the absence of other and countervailing evidence, a law of Congress or a provision in a treaty acquiring territory, declaring an intention to confer political and civil rights on the inhabitants of the new lands as American citizens, may be properly interpreted to mean an incorporation of it into the union, as in the case of Louisiana and Alaska.

This was one of the chief grounds upon which this court placed its conclusion that Alaska had been incorporated in the Union. But Alaska was a very different case from that of Puerto Rico.

It was an enormous territory, very sparsely settled and offering opportunity for immigration and settlement by American citizens. It was on the American continent and within easy reach of the then United States. It involved none of the difficulties which incorporation of the Philippines and Porto Rico presents.’’

While it is settled that the federal Government normally defends the legal status quo, be it a law or established judicial precedent, there are exceptions, the most recent being the refusal to defend the constitutionality of the federal marriage act.

I would suggest that the Obama administration announce that the federal government will no longer support the continued validity of the insular cases and will no longer set policy based on the holding of those cases.

Having said that, let me briefly address some of the economic proposals contained in the report. If Puerto Rico adopts the Report’s proposal to establish an autonomous energy and public utilities regulatory body, the implementation of that recommendation will revolutionize the energy market and provide benefits to consumers.

The report’s endorsement of the Caribbean energy grid project should be used by Puerto Rico to turn our territory into an energy hub that will create jobs, generate economic activity, and provide regional leadership opportunities.

Finally, we should not take lightly the report’s concern for a lack of  a professional class capable of recognizing the need, identifying, requesting, receiving, properly using, reporting and auditing Federal funds.

The absence of that set of skills is due in part to the deficient teaching of English in PR but the lack of understanding that Federal funds come with strings attached.

Puerto Rico should immediately accept the report’s offer to provide technical assistance to fill that void.

In closing, the Report recognizes the importance of the need to resolve our political status issue as well as the need to improve our economy.

A poor republic of Puerto Rico would rapidly look more like Haiti than Chile.

A poor Puerto Rico would have greater difficulty joining the Union.

A poor Puerto Rico only benefits those who cruelly want to keep Puerto Rico as it is.

As a believer in change, change through statehood, I believe in the need to strengthen our economy, within the constraints of our current states, as a prerequisite for status change.

Thank you.

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US Congressman Luis Gutiérrez

In response to the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico’s report on the island colony’s political status, US Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, an Illinois Democrat of Puerto Rican descent, said that report will not solve the island’s colonial problem and that it is the Puerto Rican people should demand a solution from Congress. Gutiérrez made these comments during a weekend visit to Puerto Rico.

The report does not say “and we will attack and implement the decision of the Puerto Rican people,” because it cannot say that. That is why the people must go to Congress and demand that it respects what the people will decide.

Gutiérrez also spoke out against his previous comments regarding human rights violations in both the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the University of Puerto Rico. He believes that the Puerto Rico will not stay silent, and that it will defend true democracy and justice.

I will also continue to defend [the Puerto Rican people] each and every time that a Puerto Rican is harmed.

Governor Luis Fortuño: “The Path is Clear”

Unlike Gutiérrez, Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño is supportive of the White House Report. On Saturday, Fortuño made his remarks public in his weekly address to Puerto Rico.

We summarized Fortuño’s remarks here:

[The report] offers a clear path to determine the final political status of Puerto Rico. Just like his previous predecessors, Democrats and Republicans alike, President Obama has given us important clarifications about our true alternatives regarding our status. In the first place, the report clearly indicates that Puerto Rico’s political status is something we need to resolve once and for now, just like the message he sending in 2009 during my inauguration. And just like previous administrations, President Obama’s report makes it clear that Puerto Rico right now is a territory subjected to Congressional jurisdiction as indicated by the territorial clause of the United States Constitution. The report also makes its clear that it does not matter how some politicians want to define or describe the current status that has been called the Associated Free State (ELA), any proposal to change or improve the current status of the ELA is under the powers of the United States Congress, as part of the territorial clause. In addition, the President’s report makes it very clear that that the idea of an “enhanced ELA” is impossible, and it specifically rejects the establishment of an agreement whose terms cannot be altered by the US Congress without consent of the Puerto Rican people. Finally, the report presents us with real alternatives and supports the realization of possible scenarios to reach the solution of this matter that we must solve.

The real options that are presented to us and simply summarized in the report in the following manner: ¿Do we want to be remain part of the United States or do we want to become independent? If we want to be a part of the United States, we will choose the territory or we will choose the state. If we want to become independent, we will choose independence or free association. Now that we have the President’s report in hand and taking into account his recommendations, this public servant will meet very soon with leaders of the island’s legislative branch to determine a path to follow that will be fully consistent with the report’s recommendations.

Meanwhile, our administration will continue to work closely with President Obama’s administration, just like we have been doing for the last two years, covering an array of issues that focus on the economy, education, energy, the environment, housing, health care, veterans, among other issues. It is gratifying to know that the President’s report recognizes the progress we have made in so many areas and in so little time. I hope to be the participant of an even great period of progress, just like the solution we are finding regarding the fundamental issue Puerto Rico’s status in the next few months. Remember: we can all create a better Puerto Rico.

Luis Vega Ramos: Remove Territorial Clause

Luis Vega Ramos, speaking at a PPD event

Meanwhile, Luis Vega Ramos, the lead spokesperson of the island’s pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PPD), maintained that the territorial clause be eliminated from any discussion of the ELA or future status.

We have to insist that the future conception of the ELA not be a territorial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.

In addition, Vega Ramo expressed his concerns that the White House report did not include a concrete plan of action by the Executive branch.

For a complete video in Spanish of Vega Ramos’ comments, you can see the following video.

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Nothing.

Should it come as a surprise that Cuba’s state-run media, GRANMA, makes no mention of this week’s Cuban Social Media movement? Why would it? It is not in their interest to allow non-violent demonstrations be part of their coverage. In the world of Cuban state media, it is better to deny reality than actually admit it.


Instead, we get the following English post by Raúl Castro: The Revolutionary Rebellion in Egypt. There is support for Egypt and what is has accomplished. But do we read about how social media propelled a movement to overthrow a dictator? Instead we get this:

After 18 days of harsh battling, the Egyptian people attained an important objective: to defeat the United States’ principal ally in the heart of the Arab countries. Mubarak was oppressing and plundering his own people, he was an enemy of the Palestinians and an accomplice of Israel, the sixth nuclear power on the planet, associated with the military NATO group.

And we get this:

The United States supplies Israel with the most modern and sophisticated armament, worth billions of dollars every year. Egypt, an Arab country, was converted into the second recipient of U.S. weapons. To fight against whom? Against another Arab country? Against the Egyptian people themselves?

When the population was demanding respect for their most elemental rights and the resignation of a president whose policies consisted of exploiting and plundering his people, the repressive forces trained by the United States did not hesitate to fire on them, killing hundreds and wounding thousands.

Castro also ends with these statements:

Obama is affected by the events in Egypt; he acts or appears to act as if he were the owner of the planet. What is happening in Egypt seems to be his own issue. He has not stopped talking over the telephone with leaders of other countries.

We support the valiant Egyptian people and their struggle for political rights and social justice.

We are not opposed to the people of Israel; we are opposed to the genocide of the Palestinian people and in favor of their right to an independent state.

We are not in favor of war, but rather in favor of peace among all peoples.

So the Cuban government is in favor of peace, but will it allow its own people to express themselves the same way that Egyptians did? Will it allow for democracy to flourish on the island? Will it provide its own people with true freedom of expression and self-determination?

The answer is, quite simply, no.

The reality is clear: it is in the interest of the United States to see a free and democratic Cuba. While Cuba’s Communist leaders form partnerships with China, President Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba in the hopes of increasing civil society on the island. Yes, a free Cuba will be better for the United States.

Although the irony is that the one group that is salivating for Cuba to be liberated, Cuban American Florida Republicans, are quick to criticize the Obama administration for doing this. As Florida Republican Senator and Cuban American Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said:

They will not make the Castro regime show respect for human rights, and they certainly won’t help the Cuban people free themselves from the despotic tyranny which oppresses them.

So basically it comes down to this: the Cuban government criticizes the Obama administration. Florida Republican Cuba American leaders criticize the Obama administration. The politics of extreme are alive and well in Havana and Miami.

No wonder people are ready to demonstrate and use social media to get their messages across. Politicians cannot be relied upon.

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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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