A New Concept of Status from the PDP

The Governing Board of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) will present a new agenda on status to its General Assembly  on Sunday.

The platform argues that Puerto Rico is not a territory of the United States at all:

The PDP reaffirms the validity of the Commonwealth as autonomous political body, founded on a pact of union established in 1952, based on the exercise of sovereignty of the people of Puerto Rico, which is not and should not be subject to the plenary powers of Congress of the United States. (Google translation of the original text, which was “El PPD se reafirma en la vigencia del ELA como cuerpo político autónomo, fundamentado en un pacto de unión establecido en el 1952, basado en el ejercicio de la soberanía del pueblo de Puerto Rico, que no está ni debe estar sujeto a los poderes plenarios del Congreso de los Estados Unidos.”)

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, according to this statement, is not a territory of the United States and has not been since 1952.

Unfortunately, this claim contradicts the very clear statements in the report of President Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status as well as those of the Task Force under President George W. Bush, and those of the administrations of Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush, including the Departments of Justice and State as well as the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives, the bipartisan leadership of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over territories, and the non-partisan Congressional Research Service and Government Accountability Office.

The 2007 report under President Bush says,

The 2005 Task Force Report explained that the U.S. Constitution allows for three options for the future status of Puerto Rico: continuing territorial status, state­hood, and independence. In so doing, the Task Force did not break new ground. The Department of Justice affirmed the commonwealth’s territorial status in 1959… and the Supreme court has held the same.

The report continues,

The commonwealth system does not, however, describe a legal status different from Puerto Rico’s constitutional status as a “territory” subject to congress’s plenary authority under the Territory clause “to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory … belonging to the United States.” Congress may continue the current commonwealth system indefinitely, but it necessarily retains the constitutional authority to revise or revoke the powers of self-government currently exercised by the government of Puerto Rico.

The 2011 report by President Obama’s Task Force says,

Under the Commonwealth option, Puerto Rico would remain, as it is today, subject to the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In short, whichever statement from the United States Federal Government we look at, Puerto Rico is, in the opinion of the United States Government, a territory. Can Puerto Rico’s vote change this fact? If not, then a vote for continuation of the Commonwealth status will be a vote to continue as a territory of the United States.

In an article in El Nuevo Dia, José A. Delgado suggests that the PPD is expecting the plebiscite to leave the question open once again, and hoping to persuade President Obama to take other action, outside of the planned vote. If true, this strategy does not reflect an understanding of the legal status of Puerto Rico as a territory, President Obama’s confirmation of this status in his 2011 report, or Puerto Rico’s viable status options for the future. The article contains the full text of the platform.

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