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Bloomberg: Debt Shows Puerto Rico Must Decide Status

Financial new service Bloomberg published an editorial this week calling for Puerto Ricans to decide Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status.

It termed the current unincorporated territory status, sometimes misleadingly called “commonwealth” after a word in the formal name of the insular government, a “status limbo.”

The editorial asserted that Puerto Rico is treated inappropriately in Federal laws because of its territory status.

It also pointed out that the insular government’s “debt crisis” is partially due to the status.

The news services concluded, “sooner or later” Puerto Ricans “will have to decide,” referring to whether the territory should become a State of the U.S. or a nation.

Puerto Ricans actually determined their preference for the ultimate status of the territory in a plebiscite held along with the November 2012 elections. The vote was Puerto Rico’s first limited to possible statuses.

Territory status was rejected by a 54% vote. Statehood was selected as the alternative on with 61.2% of the vote. Nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end (free association) got 33.3%. Independence trailed with 4.5%.

The “commonwealth status” party governor and legislature majorities very narrowly elected at the same time, however, rejected the voters’ decisions.

Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla had unsuccessfully urged votes for the current status.

His party’s main objection to the plebiscite, however, was that the ballot did not include its unprecedented proposed new “commonwealth status.” The proposal was not included, however, because the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations had rejected it as impossible for constitutional and other reasons.

The Federal government’s response to the plebiscite and the “commonwealth” party’s lobbying against its results was to enact a law 13 months ago providing for another plebiscite — but one limited to options that would “resolve” the issue and proposals that are found by the U.S. Department of Justice to not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the U.S.

A plebiscite under the Federal law would not include the current territory status or the “commonwealth” party’s U.S.-rejected status proposal. A territory status could not be an option because it could not resolve the Puerto Rico status question: Puerto Ricans would continue to be able to petition for statehood or nationhood as long as Puerto Rico has a territory status.

Last July 25th, Governor Garcia Padilla proposed an option for the plebiscite provided for by Federal law. His party did not adopt it, however, because Puerto Rico would still have been subject to congressional governing authority under the Constitution’s Territory Clause … a territory.

A number of party leaders instead want to propose that Puerto Rico become a nation in an association with the U.S.

Under their nationhood proposal, however, the U.S. would continue to grant national citizenship, which would contradict the concept of nationhood, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Filipinos retaining U.S. nationality after independence.

Nationhood also requires that either nation be able to end an association, a requirement that it is not clear they want.

Four party leaders have been tasked with drafting a compromise proposal for the party for the plebiscite. They have not, however, been able to reach agreement in six months of talks.

Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in the U.S., meanwhile, has led 62 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives in sponsoring a bill that would admit Puerto Rico as a State in 2021 if Puerto Ricans seek the status again but in an up or down vote. Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi heads the territory’s statehood party and was the territory’s top vote-getting in the 2012 elections.

Referring to both the Government of Puerto Rico’s dire financial problems — which are a consequence of its failed territory economy — and the need for Puerto Rico to become a State or a nation, Bloomberg advised that Puerto Ricans “should be allowed to” decide their preference between the statuses “standing up, not on their knees begging for fiscal mercy.”



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