“It seems” that the Legislative Assembly will not consider legislation providing for a plebiscite on options for resolving the question of Puerto Rico’s status during its current session because of the “commonwealth” party’s division over what “commonwealth” is and should be, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, a top party leader, said this week.
Cruz contended that the “conservative autonomist” faction, which is headed by Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, “does not have the votes” among party members in the legislature to prevail over the “sovereigntist” wing, of which she is a member.
The “conservative autonomists” claim that the U.S. Congress in 1952 gave up the power that the U.S. Constitution’s Territory Clause gives each new Congress every two years to govern Puerto Rico on matters that State governments handle and on tax matters.
The “sovereigntists” do not dispute the U.S. Government’s uniform position that Puerto Rico remains fully subject to Congress’ Territory Clause power but they want the authority to be ended. They propose that the territory become a nation but that the U.S. continues to grant citizenship. Their proposal would contradict U.S. citizenship policy
“There is a growing group of people who believe in the development of ‘Commonwealth’ with permanent American citizenship outside the Territorial Clause,” Cruz claimed.
The mayor asserted that “sovereigntist” legislators would not support a bill that does not propose ending congressional Territory Clause authority over Puerto Rico.
The former House of Representatives member added that there are not “enough votes” now among “commonwealth” party members in the Assembly to pass any status legislation.
Governor Garcia, the party president, recently called a Governing Board meeting to resolve the dispute and settle on a definition of “commonwealth” for a plebiscite under a Federal law enacted in January. The meeting ended in a stalemate between the two sides with them only able to agree that any “commonwealth” proposal should provide for permanent U.S. citizenship. They were unable to agree on whether Territory Clause authority should be ended.
A four-member committee of former party presidents was set up to negotiate further. It includes: the principal leader of the purported status quo faction, former Governor Rafael Hernandez Colon; a key leader of the what is considered the nationalist wing, former Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila; a past advocate of sovereignty, former Senate President Miguel Hernandez Agosto; and former San Juan Mayor Hector Luis Acevedo, who was not a status ideologue.
Although the U.S. is unlikely to discontinue the granting of citizenship to individuals born in Puerto Rico unless it is determined that the territory will become a nation, statehood is the only status that can guarantee citizenship based on birth in Puerto Rico. Statehood would mean U.S. citizenship granted by the U.S. Constitution. Citizenship can only be granted by law as long as Puerto Rico remains a territory that has not been fully and permanently incorporated into the U.S. and can become a nation.