Democratic Party Platform Highlights Need to Address Puerto Rico’s Status as a Territory

The Democratic Party platform released on Monday calls the political status of Puerto Rico “an issue of overwhelming importance” and commits to resolving it “expeditiously.”

The platform begins by recognizing President Obama’s visit to Puerto Rico – the first President to do so in fifty years.  It also highlights the “strong political, economic, social and cultural ties” between Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States.

Previous referenda in Puerto Rico about its political status have been inconclusive due to confusion over the constitutionality of different “commonwealth” options offered to voters.  The platform calls upon Congress to enact “a set of clear status option” as recommended in the 2011 President’s Task Force Report on Puerto Rico’s Status if “local efforts in Puerto Rico to resolve the status issue do not provide a clear result in the short term.”  Puerto Ricans will vote on their preferred political status again on election day, November 6th.

The 2011 Task Force Report stated that even under a Commonwealth option, “Puerto Rico would remain, as it is today, subject to the Territory Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”  The Report further labeled as “constitutionally problematic” certain proposals included in past enhanced Commonwealth ballot options “that would establish a relationship between Puerto Rico and the Federal Government that could not be altered except by mutual consent.”

The Democratic platform notes that the “economic success of Puerto Rico is intimately linked to a swift resolution of the status question[.]”  The document boasts of “great progress for Puerto Rico over the past four years, including a sharp, historic increase in Medicaid funding for the people of Puerto Rico and fair and equitable inclusion in the Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act.”  It concludes by pledging “to continue to work on improving Puerto Rico’s economic status by promoting job creation, education, health care, clean energy, and economic development on the Island.”

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