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Exactly two years ago today, while I was covering the latest from Puerto Rico, several of my friends shared a report about the island that, according to them, was a “must watch.” It was a segment called “Puerto Rico: The fiscal experiment,” produced by Al Jazeera. To this day, it is still one of the most comprehensive reports I have ever seen about Puerto Rico’s current situation. The piece was journalism at its best: tell the story, include different points of view, and invite viewers to draw their own conclusions.

I was highly impressed, and it was the first time I had ever really noticed the quality of news content Al Jazeera was producing in English.

Fast forward to the end of 2012. I was in New York City hanging with friends in lower Manhattan when I got a call from Washington, D.C. It was an Al Jazeera English producer for a show called “The Stream.” Would I like to be a guest next week to talk about Puerto Rico’s social media activism and the issues surrounding the “La Comay” controversy?

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Even though my schedule couldn’t accommodate the invite, I was even more impressed that Al Jazeera English was dedicating time to a story that deeply connected with me and millions of others in the Latino online space. Ever since then, I was hooked to the “The Stream.” The combination of conversation and social media was powerful. Here was the new media “60 Minutes.” I soon found out that many of my friends also loved the show, as well as a huge part of our Latino Rebels community.

This Monday, I start my new job as a Digital Producer for “The Stream.” Having met the show’s core staff and leadership, this decision was an exciting one for me, as well as an easy one to make. Simply stated, “The Stream” fully understands the power of the new media. For example, tomorrow they are running an #OpenEditorial for content and ideas. They believe in amplifying stories that come from the ground up, a belief I have been embracing ever since I started tweeting in 2008 and founded LatinoRebels.com in 2011.

Although the Rebeldes will always be with me, my new position at “The Stream” allows me to expand my talents at a ground-breaking award-winning news show I believe is the future of news media.

And no, I won’t be disappearing from the online world. Quite the contrary. I will do my best to get the stories that matter to “The Stream.” If you ever have a story that you think needs attention, please do not hesitate to contact me via Twitter or Facebook. You know where to find me.

This is going to be an incredible adventure. Something’s coming, for sure.

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As it begins to ramp up the launch of its U.S. news channel, Al Jazeera America will be hosting a unique #OpenEditorial Google+ hangout this Friday June 28 at noon EST. The purpose of the hangout is simple: “Your stories. Your voice. Al Jazeera America wants to know which stories you think the national media has missed and need to be covered.” (Full disclosure: I will be joining Al Jazeera’s “The Stream” next week as a Digital Producer.)

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Here are more details about the G+ hangout:

1. You can RSVP to the event on G+ here.
2. Submit your story ideas on the G+ page or use #OpenEditorial.
3. If your submission is chosen, you will be asked to join us in a live Google+ Hangout, this Friday, June 28, at 12pm ET / 9am PT with Lisa Fletcher, host of “The Stream.”

Editorial crowdsourcing is I have always supported and practiced. Don’t miss out on your chance to pitch a story you believe in.

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Before I start, I was really happy to see so many familiar faces and people who made the Forbes’ list of 2013 Social Media Power Users. People like Ted Rubin, Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, Jessica Northey, Aaron Lee, Mari Smith, Calvin Lee, Jeff Bullis, Gary Vaynerchuk, etc. are all amazing people, and I am really happy to see them get listed.

However, the overall list sadly lacks in diversity, and it specifically ignores well-known and established Latino Power Users. Again. It is becoming a common and disturbing trend, one that needs to stop.

The author of the piece, Haydn Shaughnessy, could have clearly dug a little deeper when it comes to “influence.” Yes, he established his criteria through Peek Analytics, with the assumption that this is all about “reach.” (By the way, my Peek is 327.) That is only part of the full picture. Reach only takes you so far. It is the quality of your reach that matters. For example, my company Latino Rebels has become a go-to source for many members of the national media. Our community is highly loyal and highly engaged, and it serves a demographic (bilingual, bicultural young Latinos) that is the new “hot” demo. How do you measure that influence? By a Peek score? Or by people who come to your site and social media networks every day, who want to engage you and want to support you? The real Power User builds lasting relationships, and while many of the 2013 Forbes Power Users listed do follow that course, many others on the list do not. And that is why the list fails, in my opinion.

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So I ask again: where are the Latino Power Users? Does Shaughnessy not know about Latism or Hispanicize? Does he not know about Elianne Ramos (the Latism Reina) or Laura Gómez (the first Latina at Twitter)? These are just two very specific examples of Power Users who have earned the respect, love, and credibility of the Latino digital community. I could also give Shaughnessy about 20-30 names, but I wonder if he even read this opinion piece from the HuffPost that speaks to how Latinos just can no longer be ignored in the social space:

Latinos, who have been recorded as the group with the highest rate of early adopters are continuously embracing technology faster than any other demographic in the United States.

According to a report by Pew Internet and American Life Project, 18 percent of Latinos online are Twitter users, a greater percentage than their counterparts in every other category.

On Facebook, Latinos are also using the social media platform at a higher rate than their counterparts, with 54.2 percent of Latinos online regularly using Facebook, just above non-Latino blacks at 47.7 percent and non-Latino whites at 43 percent, according to marketing company Big Research.

Successful organizations such as United We Dream and Latism have been able to implement positive change within their communities because they not only understand Latinos, they also know how to successfully engage them. To give you an idea of their reach, United We Dream has 4,911 Twitter followers and over 13,000 “Likes” on Facebook, and Latism has over 23,000 Twitter followers and over 150,000 “Likes” on Facebook.

Or did he even read this 2012 report from Nielsen?

Social is another platform where Latinos are especially active and rising in numbers.  During February 2012, Hispanics increased their visits to Social Networks/Blogs by 14 percent compared to February 2011.  Not only are Latinos the fastest growing U.S. ethnic group on Facebook and WordPress.com from a year ago, but also Hispanic adults are 25 percent more likely to follow a brand and 18 percent more likely to follow a celebrity than the general online population.

Do you think that this happens by accident? No. It is because there is a very dynamic and influential group of Latino Power Users who are building real communities each and every day.

I know that many of those 2013 Forbes Power Users understand that the Latino social space is thriving. Last week at Hispanicize in Miami, for example, I ran into one 2013 Power User (and fellow Knick Fan) Ted Rubin, who was at that conference and making serious connections. Because Ted gets it, and he’s nice, too. Latinos are the future of social media, and I won’t accept Shaughnessy’s list for the very simple reason that it only gives you a narrow mainstream view of social media.

Forbes and Shaughnessy failed again by excluding several Latino Power Users on its list. You know why? Because they don’t have a clue about what is really happening in that space, and they have shown no desire to learn more about that space. So they follow the safe choice, because safe is not risky.

I sure hope that one day Shaughnessy actually starts engaging the Latino Power Users more and more. He might learn a thing or two.

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I am tired.

I am tired of how the US mainland media continues to portray the island-territory of Puerto Rico with one broad brushstroke—that it is a new hotbed of violence and chaos. Recently, Fortune’s Cyrus Sanati told U.S. billionaires to “beware” of Puerto Rico, saying that the island “has a bevy of social and economic problems that appear to be getting worse by the day, making it an inhospitable place for a wealthy individual seeking safety and stability.” Sanati’s piece was criticized by many of the island, not because part of it was true, but because his conclusion was way too simplistic. Does Puerto Rico have problems? Yes? Is it a modern-day crime and murder war zone? Not even close. But if that is what the U.S. media wants you to believe, why not?

Sanati even admitted via Twitter that his knowledge of Puerto Rico is only cursory when he tweeted the following response to the Latino Rebels Twitter account:

Now a new story from HoustonPress called “Bloody Tide: How Puerto Rico Affects the U.S.” is painting too much of a similar picture that quite frankly does more harm to Puerto Rico’s perception. Written by Michael E. Miller and Casey Michel, the in-depth piece (it spans over seven digital pages) depicts Puerto Rico in such a negative light, you wonder why anyone would want to live there. As the piece states: “The “Isle of Enchantment” has become bewitched by violence. A crackdown on drugs coming across the Mexican border has only pushed contraband through the Caribbean, transforming the American commonwealth into the newest nexus for narcotraffickers.” (NOTE: Miami New Times also ran the piece.)

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Later on, the story continues:

Economic hardship begets drug-running, which begets violence, which begets a murder rate normally reserved for postcolonial power struggles.

Yet Americans who ignore the island do so at their own peril. As Puerto Rican politicians make an unprecedented push to become the 51st state, the commonwealth has become more central than ever to the United States’s drug and crime problems. [Police chief Hector Pesquera] estimates that 80 percent of the narcotics entering Puerto Rico end up in East Coast cities, particularly Miami and New York. Guns and money move in the opposite direction, and fugitives flow freely back and forth, frustrating officials. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are pouring into Florida, New York and Texas to escape the gunfire gripping their homeland.

The writers also want you to make sure that the violence in Puerto Rico was always Puerto Rico’s fault and never anyone else’s:

This isn’t the first time waves of violence have broken over Puerto Rico. Perched at the strategic entrance to the Caribbean, the Connecticut-size island has a long and bloody history. Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León slaughtered Taíno natives beginning in 1508. Over the centuries, slave uprisings and independence movements were put down with deadly force. By 1898, the colony had won a degree of autonomy, only for the Spanish-American War to transfer control to the United States.

When Puerto Rican politicians voted for independence in 1914, the United States responded by granting boricuas (anyone living on the island) U.S. citizenship — just in time to be drafted for World War I. Another 30 years passed before Puerto Ricans were allowed to elect their own governor.

Under U.S. rule, the island became a popular vacation spot. But by the 1980s, with Colombian cocaine flowing through Puerto Rico to south Florida, violence became endemic. Murders decreased in the 1990s as drug routes shifted to Central America and Mexico, but in 2006, newly elected Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared an assault on cartels. Two years later, the United States launched its own $1.6 billion Merida Initiative to combat gangs.

“That is why in the past three years, Puerto Rico has become increasingly visible in regard to drug scandals,” Bagley says. “This is an unintended consequence of the pressure being brought in Mexico and Central America.”

Today drugs from HaitiColombia, Vene­zuela and the Dominican Republic stream in on Jet Skis and go-fast boats. “Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, illegal contraband that makes it to the island is unlikely to be subjected to further U.S. Customs inspections,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, head of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said during a hearing last year.

Let’s step back for a minute: Are the writers actually connecting Puerto Rico’s current crime problems to Ponce de León, as if violence has always been embedded in Puerto Ricans? In addition, I am still trying to figure out what the connection is between 1508 to 1898 to 1914 to 2013.

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The real and only reason why Puerto Rico has a problem with murders and drugs is simple. The territory is part of the largest drug market in the world: the United States of America. Without demand for drugs from the mainland, the current activity on the island would be non-existent. Yet the Houston writers say nothing about that very simple fact. The colonizers need their pot and cocaine, and the colony is more than happy to deliver it to them, while shooting up people in the process.

The piece’s paternalistic tone continues, especially when it made reference to the recent boycott of La Comay, suggesting that the events surrounding the boycott “seemed to expose a newfound heartlessness, as if boricuas had become numb to the violence.” Instead of focusing on the positive that such an event produced, the Houston piece almost treated the boycott as an exception, while making sure to keep including words such as “bloody tide” and “carnage” central to its narrative. When you want to manufacture the perception of “chaos,” you need to give the readers what they want, right?

Nonetheless, the real issue about Puerto Rico is hidden deep in the piece, when the writers say the following:

Truth is, there’s little willpower in DC to spend heavily on an island of 3.6 million people whose ballots don’t count. Perhaps that’s why Puerto Ricans are debating louder than ever their identity as a U.S. commonwealth. Whenboricuas went to the polls last November, 54 percent rejected the status quo. But the vote was split among those who favored independence, statehood or remaining a commonwealth. [Luis] Fortuño — the governor who appointed Pesquera — was dumped out of office.

Yes, there is very “little willpower in DC” right now, and that is why many Puerto Ricans —both on the island and on the mainland— are working together to change that. There is no mention of that movement at all the Houston piece, because why try to present a full picture when your goal is to just promote fearful perceptions of Puerto Rico? Why would you want to include more information about the Comay boycott movement and what it did to connect boricuas even more? Why would you mention Parranda PR or new other organizations that are working hard to change the perception that the Houston story perpetuates? Because that would mean sharing more of the truth about what is positive about Puerto Rico and the truth sells less stories that the sensational ones.

I just visited the island last week, my third visit this year. Does Puerto Rico have serious problems? Yes. Is it a war zone riddled by “carnage” and a “bloody tide?” That is a bit too much, and it is unfortunate, since all the Houston story does is scare people away from the island and helps to promote a negative cycle of criticism that offers very little solution to the problem. If the writers of the Houston piece were truly sincere in helping to change the dialogue about Puerto Rico, they should be ready to follow up with stories that reflect that change. They had a great story to cover last week with what the Puerto Rican baseball team did during the World Baseball Classic, for example.

But I doubt that will happen because in the end, the colonizer needs to keep the colony in check, and it will use all possible means to accomplish that.

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The following release was just published today and I say, “Fantástico.” It is time for Puerto Ricans to stand up, get connected, and work together for a greater Puerto Rico. You can give Parranda Puerto Rico a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

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SAN JUAN, PR and MIAMI, FL and SILICON VALLEY, CA–(Marketwire – Dec 13, 2012) – A new social network dubbed “Parranda” — the name of a popular Puerto Rican Christmas tradition — is hoping to gather Puerto Ricans on the island and throughout the world to “remap, remake, and remobilize the Greater Puerto Rico.”

Founded by eighteen Puerto Rican entrepreneurs, scientists, and business leaders — from San Juan to Silicon Valley — Parranda will launch a beta version this Christmas of an online network with an initial focus on constructing a digital map of where all Puerto Ricans live. Later projects will include an online mentoring program, a crowd-funding capability, and a broad range of applications that serve the economic, civic, and cultural development of the island and its people.

Reimagining “The Boricua Winter”

A confluence of events has demonstrated the need, desire, and utility for a Puerto Rican diaspora network.

First, there is the continuing flight of Puerto Rican professionals to the US and other countries, which has created a persistent brain drain from the Puerto Rican economy. Second, there was the recent demonstration of political power both on the mainland and on the archipelago. The strength of the Puerto Rican vote in Florida for the 2012 election was surprising to many. And a recent plebiscite was the first time Puerto Ricans voted in a majority to reject Puerto Rico’s current political status.

Finally, there’s the recent wave of social networking activity following a recent spike in the violent crime rate in Puerto Rico, a problem recognized as one of the chief causes of migration to the US. A journalist recently labeled the online reaction to violence in Puerto Rico as “the Boricua Winter,” drawing a comparison to the Arab Spring.

“When we say ‘a Greater Puerto Rico,’ we are referring, of course, to two things,” said Giovanni Rodriguez, co-founder of Parranda and CEO of SocialxDesign, a strategic consulting firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. “First, there’s the reality that Puerto Rican influence is extending beyond the borders of the archipelago. There are more Puerto Ricans living in the US today than in Puerto Rico. Second there’s the idea that Puerto Ricans everywhere — no matter where they make their home — can improve conditions in their homeland. The time is right for the launch of a platform like Parranda, which aims to bring Puerto Ricans together for a number of projects designed for large-scale social impact.”

Parranda’s first focus on mapping the Greater Puerto Rico — via a simple web application — is both practical and strategic for its longer-term goals.

“Puerto Ricans will be both surprised and energized to see where they are today, and the mapping project will enlist all Puerto Ricans to both make the map and telling others to help make it,” said Marcos Polanco, co-founder and COO of iCare Medical Inc., a startup based in San Juan. “And once the map is well lit, it will help Parranda to execute on its larger ambitions in mentoring, funding, and support for social and commercial entrepreneurship.”

Power in Unity

The Parranda name was inspired by a Christmas-season known throughout Latin-America but mostly associated with Puerto Rico. Holiday revelers go door-to-door throughout their neighborhoods, gathering people to join them, knock on other doors, and gather more people.

“We see it as the perfect metaphor for what we are trying to do — knocking on the virtual doors of all Puerto Ricans, and asking them to join us. Plus, the Parranda concept is joyous. Yes, it will help us tackle some of our toughest challenges. But the act of coming together in itself will be part of the appeal.”

The mapping project launches along with the beta site of the Parranda network on Christmas Eve. But people can sign up for early registration by visiting parranda.org today. They can also let organizers know if they want to support the project, individually or as a sponsor.

“In the end, Parranda is a product of its people, and we see many ways for corporate, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations to join and support,” said Polanco.

About Parranda

Parranda.org is a project devoted to the economic, civic, and cultural development of a “Greater Puerto Rico.” By providing a virtual platform for mass collaboration, Parranda enables people on and off the island (the Puerto Rican diaspora) to work with one another on meaningful and measurable initiatives. We’re launching just before Christmas this year. To sign up for early registration, or to explore ways to support the project, please visit us atwww.parranda.org. You can also join the “parranda” on our social networks on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ParrandaPuertoRico and on Twitter@ParrandaPR.

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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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Yesterday Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member of the US Congress, published the following public letter on his Facebook site (the original document can be seen here). Pierluisi, a pro-statehood Democrat who actively campaigned for President Obama and distanced himself from Republican pro-statehood and Mitt Romney supporter Governor Luis Fortuño, who lost his re-election bid on November 6. As suspected, Pierluisi is using his political capital to try and get the Obama administration to begin a status process for Puerto Rico, a US territory/colony since American troops landed on the island in 1898.

In the meantime, Governor-elect Alejandro García Padilla (a pro-commonwealth Democrat) wrote his own letter to President Obama. In that letter, García Padilla said that the latest status vote—which rejected the island’s current status quo in its first question and preferred statehood even though close to 500,000 votes in the second question were left blank—did not produce a “clear result,” and suggested that he meet with the President to discuss this matter formally. He also added that even though the pro-statehood faction is claiming victory, García Padilla believes that this is not the case. He told the President that the combined voted of those who support the Estado Libre Asociado (ELA), Puerto Rico’s current commonwealth system, defeated the statehood voices.

Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi

Here is Pierluisi’s full letter:

November 13, 2012
The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I want to begin by warmly congratulating you on your re-election. You and the administration you lead have done an outstanding job under difficult circumstances at home and abroad, and the election results are evidence that the American people recognize this fact. Moreover, in your first term in office, you have been a champion of fair treatment for the U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico and the other territories, particularly in the areas of economic development, health care, and public safety. I look forward with enthusiasm to continuing to work with you over the next four years.

I write to you today about an issue of fundamental importance not only to Puerto Rico but also to the nation as a whole. As you know, on November 6th—the same day as the U.S. general elections and Puerto Rico’s local elections—Puerto Rico held a political status plebiscite authorized by local law. Although the final results have not yet been certified by the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, I would like to convey the preliminary results to you,[1] to describe their significance, and to express my hope and expectation that the White House will take appropriate and timely action in light of these results, consistent with the recommendations contained in the March 2011 Report by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, a body whose mandate you renewed—and expanded—though Executive Order 13517 (October 30, 2009). I know this letter will be the first of many communications between my congressional office and your administration on this topic.

The plebiscite ballot consisted of two questions. On the first question, voters were asked whether they want Puerto Rico to remain a U.S. territory, the status the Island has had since 1898. Over 1.74 million people responded to this question. That is approximately 75 percent of all registered voters in Puerto Rico, a level of participation that is substantially higher than the national turnout for the U.S. general elections on the same day. More than 943,000 voters—54.0 percent—said they did not want the current territory status to continue, while 803,400 voters—46.0 percent—said they did want it to continue.

On the second question, voters were asked to express their preference among the three alternatives to the current territory status that are legally and politically viable according to the federal government and international law: statehood, nationhood in free association with the United States, and independence. Over 1.32 million people chose an option. 61.13 percent—nearly 810,000 people—voted for statehood; 33.33 percent—about 442,000 people—voted for Puerto Rico to become a freely associated state; and 5.54 percent—about 73,000 people—voted for independence. In addition, some 472,000 voters did not provide an answer, a point addressed below.

As evident from the hundreds of news reports that have appeared in the national and international press in the wake of this plebiscite, the vote was historic in several respects.

This was the first time voters were directly asked whether they want Puerto Rico to continue as a territory. One of the two main political parties in Puerto Rico, the Popular Democratic Party, strongly urged a “Yes” vote. Nevertheless, the “No” vote against the current territory status won by an eight-point margin, 54 percent to 46 percent. Those voting “No” included statehood supporters, as well as advocates of free association and independence.

There is no reasonable way to interpret these results as anything other than a decisive rejection of the current territory status. This status deprives the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico of the two most basic democratic rights: the right to choose the leaders who enact and execute their national laws, and the right to equal treatment under those laws. This vote fundamentally alters the terms of the status debate in Puerto Rico, which has seemingly been stuck in neutral for years. In my view, after this vote, the question is not whether, but when, Puerto Rico will cease to be a territory and will instead have a political status—either statehood or nationhood—that provides its people with full democratic rights and full equality under the law. In short: it is clear that a solid majority of my constituents want to close the long territory chapter in Puerto Rico’s political life, and to begin a fresh new chapter.

The result of the second question, which asked voters which status should replace the current territory status, is also of great import. As noted, of the 1.32 million people who voted for one of the three viable alternatives to the current status, a supermajority of over 61 percent chose statehood. It is critical to note that the number of votes cast in favor of statehood on the second question—nearly 810,000—is also greater than the number of votes—803,400—cast in favor of the current status on the first question. For the first time ever, there are now more people in Puerto Rico who want to become a state than who want to continue as a territory. This fact further undermines the democratic legitimacy of the current status.

Naturally, some are seeking to downplay the historic nature of this plebiscite by citing the voters who left the second question blank at the urging of some leaders in the Popular Democratic Party. This argument may have some superficial appeal, but it does not withstand scrutiny.

First and foremost, in our democracy, it is well-settled that outcomes are determined by ballots properly cast. Power rests with the citizen who votes, not the one who stays home or refuses to choose from among the options provided.

Moreover, this was the first status vote in Puerto Rico’s history to include only the valid status options. True self-determination is a choice among options that can actually be implemented, not an exercise in wishful thinking. Because all viable status options were on the ballot, not voting was an empty act.

Logically, some voters may have left the second question blank simply because they prefer the current status to any of the three possible alternatives. Those voters were able to—and did in fact—vote for the current status in the first question, so their viewpoint was fully reflected in the plebiscite results. Other voters may have declined to answer the second question because they were led to believe there was another status option that should have been on the ballot—namely, a proposal sometimes called “Enhanced Commonwealth.” But each of the last four presidential administrations, including your administration, has considered and rejected this proposal as a valid status option,[2] as have all key congressional leaders who have examined the proposal.[3] A blank vote to protest the exclusion of an impossible status proposal is entitled to no weight.

To summarize: a majority of voters in Puerto Rico have soundly rejected the current status in favor of a new status. Among the three viable alternatives, statehood won a decisive victory. And, in a historical first, statehood obtained more votes than the current status (or any other status option).

* * *
In light of these results, I believe that the White House has a clear basis, and a clear responsibility, to act. I further believe that the precise steps to be taken ought to be guided and informed by the recommendations in the March 2011 Task Force Report and the public statement you delivered during your historic visit to Puerto Rico on June 14, 2011.

The first recommendation in the Task Force Report notes that the government of Puerto Rico had plans to hold a plebiscite under local law. The Task Force states: “Without taking a position on the particular details of this proposal, 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, Congress should act on it quickly with the President’s support.” See Page 23.

In its second recommendation, the Task Force says that four status options should be included in the plebiscite: “Statehood, Independence, Free Association, and Commonwealth.” See Page 24. The Task Force then explicitly states: “Under the Commonwealth option, Puerto Rico would remain, as it is today, subject to the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution.” See Page 26.

In its third recommendation, the Task Force discusses a number of possible ways to structure the plebiscite process, while confirming that it “supports any fair method for determining the will of the people of Puerto Rico.” See Page 26.

And in its seventh and final recommendation, the Task Force states that, “[i]f efforts on the Island do not provide a clear result in the short term, the President should support, and Congress should enact” federal legislation that “specifies in advance for the people of Puerto Rico a set of acceptable status options that the United States is politically committed to fulfilling.” The Task Force recommends that “the Administration develop, draft, and work with Congress to enact the proposed legislation.” See Page 30.

Several months after the release of the Task Force Report, you traveled to Puerto Rico and delivered a speech where you stated as follows: “[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.”

I am the first to recognize and respect that you face many important domestic and foreign policy challenges as you begin your second term in office. However, in light of these historic plebiscite results and the commitments embodied in the Task Force Report, I believe that the White House must devote the necessary time, resources and—above all—leadership to help resolve the question of Puerto Rico’s political status. There are a number of possible steps that the White House can take to fulfill its responsibility in this regard, and I look forward to discussing the alternatives with senior administration officials and congressional leaders in the coming days. In the final analysis, the people of Puerto Rico have spoken and, as their official representative in Washington, I intend to do everything within my power to ensure that the federal government responds in an appropriate and timely fashion.

Congratulations again.
Sincerely,
Pedro R. Pierluisi
Member of Congress

cc: Hon. David Agnew, Co-Chair, The President’s Task Force of Puerto Rico’s Status
Hon. Tony West, Co-Chair, The President’s Task Force of Puerto Rico’s Status
Hon. Cecilia Muñoz, Director, White House Domestic Policy Council
The Hon. Luis Fortuño, Governor of Puerto Rico
The Hon. Alejandro García Padilla, Governor-elect of Puerto Rico

[1] As of this writing, ballots from 1,615 of Puerto Rico’s 1,643 electoral units—98.3 percent—have been tabulated.

[2] See, e.g., March 2011 Report by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, pg. 26 (“[C]onsistent with the legal conclusions reached by prior Task Force reports, one aspect of some proposals for enhanced Commonwealth remains constitutionally problematic—proposals that would establish a relationship between Puerto Rico and the Federal Government that could not be altered except by mutual consent. This was a focus of past Task Force reports. The Obama Administration has taken a fresh look at the issue of such mutual consent provisions, and it has concluded that such provisions would not be enforceable because a future Congress could choose to alter that relationship unilaterally.”)

[3] See, e.g., December 1, 2010 Letter from Chairman Jeff Bingaman and Ranking Republican Member Lisa Murkowski, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to President Barack Obama (endorsing the view that the “Enhanced Commonwealth” proposal is “incompatible with the Constitution and basic laws of the United States in several respects”); see also House Report 111-294, accompanying H.R. 2499 in the 111th Congress (“Proposals for such a governing arrangement have been consistently opposed by federal authorities in the executive and legislative branches, including this Committee, on both constitutional and policy grounds. Nevertheless, this hybrid proposal continues to be promoted in Puerto Rico as a feasible status option. Such proposals have resulted in misinformed and inconclusive referenda in Puerto Rico in July 1967, November 1993, and December 1998.”)

Last week, I suggested that García Padilla avoid making the status vote a political matter that has kept Puerto Rico from progressing. I still believe that his suggestion to leave the second question blank in the vote backfired since it allowed the pro-statehood factions to control the status agenda. This latest example of Obama letters confirms that. Pierluisi took advantage of the vote and proactively pushed his agenda. García Padilla still appears to be in a defensive position, and he continues to place politics over the vote.

Alejandro García Padilla

Now García Padilla enters his first term with a major headache, which could have easily been avoided if he had told his supporters to choose other status options for the second question besides statehood. Furthermore, García Padilla is making a huge tactical mistake by ignoring the KEY TAKEAWAY of this entire vote, which is the first question. That question led to a rejection of the island’s current status quo, which García Padilla supported. He cannot dodge that fact, and if he continues to do so, the luster of his well-deserved victory over Fortuño will fade rather quickly.

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