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Memo to Puerto Rico’s Popular Democratic Party (PPD), champions and defenders of a status colonial arrangement that is 60 years old and is no longer working: stop the politics, stop the whining, and allow the will of the Puerto Rican people to decide on its political future.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Today, Puerto Rican and pro-statehood Republican Governor Luis Fortuño signed into law a two-part voter referendum to address the island’s political status preference. The process had already experienced a public session where amendments to the vote were made as well as criticism from members of Fortuño’s own party.

(On a sidenote, Fortuño’s actions must have taken Puerto Rican history into account, since the 2012 plebiscite will occur during the 60th year anniversary of the Puerto Rican Constitution, the document that declared the island a Commonwealth of the United States, the country that invaded it in 1898.)

Now, the PPD leadership, which clings to a colonial status quo mentality that has done very little to advance the status question as well as Puerto Rico’s move into the 21st century, is crying foul. Bring on the POLITIQUERÍA, which has become the island’s #1 pastime, even though more and more islanders are done with the pettiness and more worried about getting jobs and staying safe.

As reported by the Associated Press:

The first part of the referendum will ask voters if they want a change in status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth. The second part will ask that voters choose from three options: statehood, independence or sovereign free association.

The original proposal was to hold the first part of the referendum in August 2012 and then, only if the majority sought a change in status, hold the second part during the November 2012 general elections.

But under the new proposal, the two-part referendum will be held on Nov. 6, said Gov. Luis Fortuño, who leads the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

Regardless of what voters decide, any change requires approval by the U.S. Congress and president.

PPD Senator Eduardo Bhatia

Sen. Eduardo Bhatia said holding both parts on the same day makes no sense because it assumes that the pro-status quo option doesn’t win and the second round will be necessary.

“This law is proof that the leadership of the pro-statehood movement turns to trickery, deceit and the technique of confusion as political weapons,” said Bhatia of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the current commonwealth status. “What opportunity do voters have to seriously reflect between one vote and the other? None.”

The questions will be on the same ballot and Fortuño has not stated clearly how they will be presented. Critics fear that being forced to choose from the three options could influence how people vote in the first part.

Kenneth McClintock, secretary of state for Puerto Rico, denied accusations that pro-status quo supporters would be ignored, saying that people were free to leave the second part of the ballot blank. He said Bhatia’s party had previously agreed to holding the referendum in one day.

McClintock said the U.S. Congress would interpret the results if the majority chose something other than maintaining the status quo.

Fortuño also discarded criticism of the referendum.

“All processes aimed at resolving Puerto Rico’s political future assumes that the current situation no longer has majority support,” he said.

Fortuño spokeswoman Ana del Valle said his administration chose to hold the two-part referendum on the same day to get a sense of what people prefer for the island’s political future.

The referendum received praise from Luis Delgado, leader of a group that is pushing for Puerto Rico to have a sovereign free association with the U.S. But Delgado urged Fortuño to demand that the U.S. outline terms and conditions for each of the choices before the referendum is held.

Puerto Rico has long debated its political status, with no majority for any particular status emerging in referendums held in 1967, 1993 and 1998.

Rafael Cox Alomar, a PDP member who is seeking the island’s nonvoting Congressional seat, dismissed the referendum as expensive and unnecessary.

“This referendum does not work and does not involve nor compromise in any way the U.S. Congress,” he said. “In a moment of economic crisis… the cost of this referendum is an insult to the people who reject it.”

Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who is running against Fortuño, said the Popular Democratic Party would soon issue its official stance on the referendum.

Critics also noted that if Fortuño’s party loses the election, millions of dollars spent on the referendum will have gone to waste.

The PPD reaction is clearly partisan and short-sighted. The Defenders of the Colonial Commonwealth are making a huge political mistake by trying to defend a system that is becoming less and less viable for the island. Instead, the PPD should seriously consider taking the growing anti-Fortuño sentiment and turn it into a positive. Why won’t it consider other options that go beyond the current system?

If the PPD continues to think it is running a campaign out of 1979—when the political will to maintain the Colonial Commonwealth was stronger— it will lose it all. Fortuño will win his re-election, even with the island’s social and economic problems, and statehood will win out. The time for the PPD to wake up is now, or else everything it has tried to defend since 1952 will vanish. The smart move now is to try and salvage what it can. Voters in Puerto Rico are ready to change and improve the status quo, and there is still a sentiment that statehood is too extreme and the wrong fit for the island.

But if the PPD doesn’t change its course and stop complaining that it doesn’t approve of the rules of the game, they will become irrelevant.

Why doesn’t the PPD lead the charge in forcing the US Congress to make the plebiscite vote binding? This might actually be seen as a proactive and tangible action that goes beyond political whining.

The question is: if your house is on fire, do you work hard to save part of your house or do you stubbornly refuse to save your burning house out of anger that your house is on fire?

Here’s hoping the PPD wants to truly save the burning house. Puerto Rico is definitely worth saving. The people should have a voice. Let the politicians get out of the way.

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Populism is alive and well in Puerto Rican, both on the floor of the US House of Representatives and at La Fortaleza, the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.

In a stark study in political philosophies and beliefs that have dominated the island-colony of the United States since the 1898 Spanish-American War, two Puerto Rican political leaders took to the pulpit on Wednesday to spread their messages to the masses.

In Washington, Illinois Democrat Luis Gutiérrez blasted the current Republican and pro-statehood administration of Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño for serious breaches of US constitutional rights (Puerto Rico, as a colony of the US, falls under American federal jurisdiction) and the pro-statehood Puerto Rican Legislature for their attempts to censure Gutiérrez and his criticisms against the island’s current government.

Your efforts to silence me – just like your efforts to silence so many people in Puerto Rico who disagree with you — will fail, just as every effort to blockade progress only makes the march toward justice more powerful and swift.

I may not be Puerto Rican enough for some people, but I know this: nowhere on earth will you find a people harder to silence than Puerto Ricans.

You won’t locate my love for Puerto Rico on my birth certificate or a driver’s license, my children’s birth certificate or any other piece of paper.

My love for Puerto Rico is right here – in my heart — a heart that beats with our history and our language and our heroes.

Meanwhile, Fortuño, who returned to San Juan after attending the National Governors Association conference in Washington earlier this week, celebrated the island’s 94th anniversary of the 1917 Jones Act, which made Puerto Ricans American Citizens. Gov. Fortuño made a speech in Spanish (no English translation of the speech is available on La Fortaleza’s official web site) that celebrated the day when “Puerto Ricans acquired citizenship into the United States of America.”

Governor Luis Fortuño

Fortuño made it a point to emphasize the challenges facing Puerto Ricans and their right to American citizenship, and emphasized the importance of promoting democratic principles within the island:

As a Resident Commissioner and Governor, I have throughout the years participated in the swearing-in ceremonies of hundreds of new American citizens.

As I shared this special moment in the lives of many immigrants, I have occasionally reflected on how that we [as Puerto Ricans], who were automatically born into the protection of the privileges of American citizenship, rarely appreciate the full value of these privileges, nor do we take full advantage of their benefits, nor do we feel motivated enough to demand the prerogatives that these rights are conferred upon us.

In contrast, these immigrants —many of whom have suffered difficulties and injustices in this homelands that have always manifest themselves in societies what lack the democratic pillars of security, equality, stability, and opportunity— have provided a living testament of the blessing that becoming a citizen of the United States of America means to them.

A key principle of the American system of government, of which we are an integral part, is that the government is formed to serve the people, and not the other way around.

The individual and the family are the basic units of our society.

Therefore, it is to them that we must empower, putting power and opportunities in their hands.

It is this philosophy that creates the foundation of good government and it is what our administration has introduced.

Government is meant to support the individual and families, not to drown them by mortgaging the future of the next generations.

Government has the obligation to offer basic services of excellence, and services of support and help, especially to those who lack the least of resources.

But when government exceeds that essential and limited function, and instead converts itself into a paternalistic government that provides everything, a vicious cycle of dependence is created that punishes success and drowns the capacity of the individual to achieve self-improvement.

Fortuño Invites Gutiérrez to D.C. Reception

In an ironic twist to this political saga, El Nuevo Día reported on Tuesday that Fortuño had invited Gutiérrez and other members of Congress to a D.C. reception he was hosting with Puerto Rico’s Tourism Board.

In an email we sent to Douglas Rivlin, Gutiérrez’s Press Secretary, on Tuesday evening asking if the Congressman would be attending the reception, Rivlin replied:

[Congressman Gutiérrez] is not attending the reception and is here in Washington.  He has had a busy day and has a busy day with several hearings tomorrow, and as you can see, we are working late.

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In light of the new developments occurring at the University of Puerto Rico as reported by Fox News Latino, Illinois Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D) spoke from the floor of the House of Representatives to focus more attention on Puerto Rico’s political status. Here is the video of Rep. Gutiérrez’s remarks:

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