A majority of the ‘Commonwealth’ party majority of Puerto Rico’s Senate has proposed a definition of a new ‘Commonwealth’ political status (see below). The senators have also proposed asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to include the definition in a process to resolve the question of the Commonwealth’s status.
The proposal would combine even more aspects of Puerto Rico’s known status options — statehood, independence, nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation can end, and continued U.S. territory status — than the party’s official status proposal would.
Since the party proposal was made in 1998, the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama Administrations and congressional committees and their leaders have said that it is impossible for U.S. constitutional and other reasons.
Led by Former President Antonio Fas Alzamora and Ramon Nieves, a total of 13 of the 18 ‘Commonwealth’ party members of the Senate — one short of a majority of the entire Senate — made the new proposal in a Senate resolution (number 891).
Included were Vice President Jose Dalmau and Alternate Majority Leader Rosanna Lopez Leon.
The resolution responds to a law enacted by the Federal government in January, which provides for a plebiscite on status options that can resolve the question of the territory’s ultimate status. Options for the plebiscite must be proposed by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission and be determined by the U.S. Department of Justice to not be incompatible with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the U.S.
The Commission includes a representative of each of the territory’s three status-based political parties — parties advocating statehood and independence in addition to the ‘Commonwealth’ party. The Commission is led by a president appointed by the governor of the Commonwealth — currently the head of the ‘Commonwealth’ party.
The Commission has said that it lacks authority to propose options for the plebiscite despite the authorization in Federal law. It had been requested to act by its statehood party representative as well as by party President Pedro Pierluisi, the territory’s representative to the Federal government who has a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives with a vote in committees.
Pierluisi has also proposed that the plebiscite be on statehood, as he and 131 members of the U.S. House and three members of the U.S. Senate have proposed in legislation — and the ‘Commonwealth’ party proposed as late as 2010.
The Obama White House proposed the new plebiscite law and Congress enacted it because Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla and his party’s majorities in the Legislative Assembly refused to accept the results of a plebiscite held under Commonwealth law along with their very narrow election in 2012.
The plebiscite rejected territory status by 54% — despite Garcia Padilla campaigning for it — and choose statehood among the possible alternatives. Statehood won 61.2% of the vote and nationhood in a free association with the U.S. 33.3%. Pure independence got only 4.5%.
The Obama White House supported the plebiscite and hailed its results but proposed the Federal law concerned that lobbying by the Governor would stall congressional action on the people of Puerto Rico’s self-determination decisions.
The ‘Commonwealth’ party leadership refuses to accept the plebiscite and its results because the plebiscite did not include the party’s status proposal.
Under the proposal, Puerto Rico would be a nation but the U.S. would be permanently bound to it. The Commonwealth would have the powers to nullify the application of Federal laws and Federal court jurisdiction. It could also enter into international agreements and organizations that require nationhood.
The U.S. would be obligated to grant a new subsidy to the Commonwealth and most of its land in the territory in addition to current aid to individuals. It would also have to continue to grant U.S. citizenship and free entry to goods shipped from Puerto Rico.
Gov. Garcia has asked the Legislative Assembly to consider both the Federal plebiscite law and the party’s alternative proposal for a Commonwealth government status assembly during the legislative session that begins in August. He has also suggested that the law and the proposal could be combined in a status process.
Party leaders hope that they can structure an assembly to overcome popular support for statehood, particularly through a ‘back room’ deal with other nationalists.
They may formally discuss the issue in a meeting of the party governing board July 15th.
The proposal for a “Covenant Partnership” between a “Sovereign Commonwealth” and the U.S. offered by the 13 senators is a development of their party’s status proposal that Federal officials have rejected. It draws heavily from the compacts of free association between the U.S. and three former parts of the Pacific Islands Territory that the U.S. administered for the United Nations. It also includes elements of a “Commonwealth” bill for Guam that Federal executive and legislative branch officials rejected in the 1990s.
The following outlines some of the key elements of the proposal.
- Puerto Rico would be a nation but Puerto Ricans would be U.S. as well as Puerto Rican national citizens. Both nations would issue passports.
- U.S. law would not apply but a bilateral committee with Puerto Rican majority membership could determine the applicability of some U.S. statutes and Federal banking and securities laws would continue to apply pending review by the committee.
- Puerto Rico would have exclusive authority in labor and telecommunications matters.
- The Federal district court for Puerto Rico would be abolished and other U.S. courts would not have jurisdiction in Puerto Rico.
- The U.S. would give Puerto Rico aid at no less than the amount it gives in the year prior to nationhood for 30 years, with aid for another 30 years to be negotiated but no less than during the first 30.
- The U.S. would capitalize a trust fund with annual contributions increased for inflation over 30 years.
- The U.S. would continue to provide all existing services and programs to the Commonwealth and municipal governments, and services of the Postal Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and Fish and Wildlife Service. Puerto Rico would provide land needed by the U.S. for providing these benefits.
- The U.S. would continue its Social Security system in Puerto Rico and consider continuing to provide other programs and services benefiting individuals. It would continue to provide Medicare, veterans, and other benefits acquired before the nationhood of Puerto Rico.
- U.S. taxes would not apply but the U.S. would continue to grant Puerto Rico Federal taxes on Puerto Rican products shipped to the U.S.
- The U.S. would provide additional funds in the response to claims of residents of the islands of Culebra and Vieques related to military training.
- The U.S. will enact U.S. tax or other incentives for private investment in Puerto Rico.
- Interest from Puerto Rican bonds would continue to be exempt from Federal, State, and local taxes in the U.S.
- Puerto Rican bonds payable from revenues of the issuer will not be considered a debt of the issuer.
- Puerto Rico would determine its other foreign relations and be able to accept aid from other nations.
- The U.S. would be responsible for the defense of Puerto Rico but could not draft Puerto Ricans, include Puerto Rico in declaration of war, or have nuclear or chemical weapons in Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico would otherwise have exclusive authority up to 200 miles off its shores.
- Puerto Rico would be outside the customs territory of the U.S. but Puerto Rican products would be able to enter the U.S. freely.
- U.S. laws requiring the use of U.S. vessels for shipping between U.S. ports would not apply.
- Residents of Puerto Rico would be exempt from certain U.S. taxes for inheritances from grandparents or great-grandparents.
- A bilateral court would resolve disputes in the U.S.-Puerto Rican relationship.
What’s the benefit to the U.S. in this? I understand that Congress can’t make a deal of this kind under the U.S. constitution, but I’d like to know why the Puerto Rico government thinks they’d want to. As I understand it, Congress can do whatever they want with Puerto Rico at the moment, so where does the bargaining power for such a one-sided deal come from?
The PPD has nothing to offer the US or Puerto Ricans. Thats why every time statehood comes up for a vote, the PPD asks voters to reject it as an act of “punishment” agaist the pro statehood politician who champions it.
Half their leadership only wish to maintain the present Commonwealth because they’re paid to do so via campaign donations. Those donating are the companies that currently pay no federal income taxes.
The other smaller wing are independence party infiltrators who seek a dackdoor to independence. They will never say “We want independence or Free Association” , because voters will reject them. Instead,they use deceitfull terms like “Improved Commonwealth” , “Sovereign Commonwealth”
It is this smaller group that hopes to tire Uncle Sam with the unconstitutional” Commonwealth” ideas to the point the US decides..”ENOUGH!!! WE WANT OUT! INDEPENDENCE ON SO-SO DATE!!
This way the PIP/PPD get their nation through the back kitchen door,all the while blaming “US racism” for the imposed nationhood.
It is the self righteous audacity of that party’s leadership.
Great point Rebecca. This proposal is absurd, and any objective person with a basic understanding of how Washington works could easily spot this as a “pie in the sky”. The PDP has been selling people this fairy tale for decades, and have done so in an effort muddy the status debate and therefore deny U.S. citizens in PR the opportunity to choose between the realistic and viable options to change the undemocratic territory status which they clearly don’t want and officially rejected in the 2012 plebiscite. The only real options are statehood (full rights, but also full responsibilities), independence (figure it our on your own) and independence with free association (on your own but with some very basic help from the US). True self determination is a choice between real options not an exercise in wishful thinking. When the people of PR choose between the three real & viable options statehood clearly wins.
Retribution for an illegal invasion, drafting of men since WWI, use of military bases freely for over 60 years, exploitation of cheap labor for over 115 years, population used for experiments and research for over 100 years, suppression and abuse of civil rights, including several massacres to suppress independence movements enforced with Gag laws, bankrupting the country economically, educationally, socially and emotionally! Maintaining an illegal colony and exploiting it to enrich USA cophers! Discriminating Puerto Ricans abroad and off shore and never respecting them as US citizens who had defended this nation for over 100 years!
Americans do not care about Puerto Ricans they just care about the gold mine they invaded! They know nothing about their culture, values, struggles, hopes so they never promoted Puerto Rico! Trade was restricted so they never competed to build their economy! The dependence on USA aid was imposed to safeguard their colonial status and the tax free heaven a sure way to enrich the colonizer!
The PPD is a bastard child from the Independence Party. It was created by US presidents that would oppose statehood.History has backfired and now the US is stuck with the monkey they created. There is no intent by Congress to grant statehood to PR, they will negotiate some of the PPD proposals but will not approve the “Enhanced Commonwealth Status”.