The former ‘Commonwealth’ party president who July 4th called for a plebiscite in Puerto Rico on the territory becoming a State Thursday declined to rule out challenging Governor Garcia Padilla for the party’s gubernatorial nomination in 2016.
Hector Ferrer was Garcia Padilla’s predecessor as party president. He also was Minority Leader of the insular House of Representatives until resigning in 2012 amid allegations that an investigation later found lacked sufficient evidence.
Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government and statehood party president, Pedro Pierluisi, initially proposed the vote on statehood He has led 131 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives and three U.S. senators in proposing Federal legislation for a statehood plebiscite.
The bills by Pierluisi and others would require the president of the United States to propose a plan for changing Federal spending and tax laws over a multi-year period to enable Puerto Rico to become a State if Puerto Ricans vote for the status a second time. The legislation would also pledge congressional approval of such a plan.
Gov. Garcia has opposed the idea.
Writing fellow ‘commonwealthers’ July 4th that, “Defeating statehood is our ideological goal,” Ferrer contended that “As long as statehood is viable, the Development of the Commonwealth will be attacked by all sectors.” The “Development of the Commonwealth” is the party’s proposal for a new political status.
Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly chose statehood over nationhood in a plebiscite under local law held along with the 2012 elections after rejecting the current territory status, sometimes misleadingly called “Commonwealth” after the official name of the insular government.
A Federal law enacted in January already provides for a plebiscite on options that would resolve the question of the territory’s ultimate status. Statehood, independence, and nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation can end are the possible options that have significant support in Puerto Rico.
The plebiscite’s options are to be proposed by Puerto Rico’s Election Commission but the U.S. Justice Department must agree that the proposals would be possible to implement. The Commission is made up of representatives of each of Puerto Rico’s three political status-based political parties with a president appointed by the governor.
The Obama White House, which had supported the 2012 plebiscite and hailed its results, proposed the law. It was concerned that Garcia’s lobbying against Federal action on the local plebiscite’s statehood petition would result in the Congress not acting on Puerto Rico’s self-determination decision.
Garcia has wanted an insular government assembly on the territory’s status, although he suggested after enactment of the Federal plebiscite law that the assembly idea could be combined with a Federally authorized plebiscite. He has asked the Legislative Assembly to consider the matter in its session beginning in August.
The Assembly has already established a joint Senate-House committee on the issue. There is talk of committee hearings later this month.
Commonwealthers hope that an insular government assembly would choose their Development of the Commonwealth proposal. A plebiscite under Federal law could not because the proposal cannot be implemented.
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.
The Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations and congressional committee leaders of both national political parties have rejected the proposal as impossible for constitutional and other reasons.