‘Commonwealth’ Leader Admits Statehood: Yes or No Would be “Valid” Status Choice

The “Commonwealth” party’s leader on Federal affairs admitted that a “Statehood: Yes or No” vote in Puerto Rico would be “valid” just days before he said that the administration of “Commonwealth” party Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla would lobby against a U.S. Senate bill for such a vote introduced last week — and just days before the Governor’s Federal Affairs office headed by his brother began the lobbying.

“Commonwealth” party Secretary of Federal Affairs Jose Hernandez Mayoral also acknowledged in a broadcast interview that Congress and the President would be “obligated to respond” to a status choice in Puerto Rico that the Federal government had authorized. 

The statements were made days before two members of the Senate committee responsible for territory status issues, Energy and Natural Resources, sponsored a bill to require the President to submit a plan to transition the territory to statehood and to pledge the Congress to pass such a plan if Puerto Ricans vote for statehood a second time. 

The senators were Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). At the time, Wyden was the Committee’s Chairman but hours later he was named Chairman of the Senate’s Finance Committee.

The bill is identical to legislation sponsored by 130 members of the U.S. House of Representatives led by Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government, Pedro Pierluisi (D), who also heads the statehood party.

Hernandez’s brother Juan, Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, wrote every member of the Senate that the legislation is “an ill-conceived process that … lacks transparency” and “is a divisive and manipulative approach.” He did not explain the charges.

Since opponents of statehood could as easily vote against statehood as supporters could vote for it, Juan Hernandez also did not explain how a “Statehood: Yes or No” vote “keeps the majority of Puerto Ricans disenfranchised from the ballot.”

In fact, the “Commonwealth” party itself asked Congress to pass “Statehood: Yes or No” plebiscite legislation in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in 2010 and a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing in 2009.

Although he admitted that a “Statehood: Yes or No” choice would be valid, older brother Jose said that the plebiscite should include all of Puerto Rico’s options as identified by President Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status.  In addition to statehood, these are independence and nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation can end as well as the current territory status.

Puerto Ricans voted on these options in a plebiscite under local law in November 2012 that the Hernandez brothers and Garcia dispute.  The vote rejected the territory status that they urged votes for by 54% and chose statehood among the alternatives by 61.2%.  

Like the White House, the Heinrich-Wyden and House bills recognize the 2012 votes, but younger Hernandez brother Juan wrote that the legislation “ignores the will of the Puerto Rican people.”

Statehood would inject billions of dollars a year into Puerto Rico’s failing economy and Obama’s Task Force reported that “identifying the most effective means of assisting the Puerto Rican economy depends on resolving the ultimate question of status.”  But Juan Hernandez said in a news release that the bill “fails to address the pressing economic needs of the Commonwealth” and “shows how out of touch some members of Congress are” with these needs, presumably referring to all 132 members of Congress who have sponsored the legislation.

The bill would fit in with a Federal law enacted last month that provides funding for a status plebiscite on a status option or options that would “resolve” the question of the territory’s status and are found by the U.S. Department of Justice to not conflict with the Constitution and basic laws and policies of the U.S.

Juan Hernandez’s suggestion that the territory’s status question should not be resolved now  conflicted with Garcia’s last statement on the issue.  The Governor said just weeks ago that he would soon make a proposal that would both implement the new Federal plebiscite law and fulfill the “Commonwealth” party’s 2012 Platform.

The Platform promised to call a government assembly on the territory’s status if the Federal government did not act on the issue in 2013.  The new Federal plebiscite law was enacted just 17 days after the end of 2013.

Noting that his party prefers to have a second Puerto Rico status choice made through an  assembly, older brother Jose conceded in the interview that the Federal government expects the choice to be made by the people of Puerto Rico in a plebiscite.

 

 

 

 

 

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