“I am pleased to inform you,” wrote Governor Garcia Padilla in a letter to President Obama earlier this month, “that I have formally requested that the Legislative Assembly of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico enact legislation calling for a plebiscite to implement the recommendations to that effect contained in the 2011 Report of your Task Force on Puerto Rico.”
The letter goes on to report that “some in Puerto Rico” believe that a debate on the status of Puerto Rico would be a distraction from solving the problems Puerto Rico faces — a contention that he himself had repeatedly made –noting that Puerto Rico is in a financial crisis.
Nonetheless, the letter than quotes the 2011 report of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status concluding that “Identifying the most effective means of assisting the Puerto Rican economy depends on resolving the ultimate question of status.”
The letter further quotes President Obama’s determination that the plebiscite should offer an unbiased choice among status options that are compatible with the U.S. Constitution. The governor then expresses his belief that the involvement of the Attorney General should “provide reassurances” that the results are valid.
Noting reminded the President that the President had requested funding for a referendum and that the funding had been approved, the letter concludes with a paraphrase of the words of former Governor Luis Munoz Marin, who said that the best status for Puerto Rico is the one that can best contribute to the welfare of the people of Puerto Rico.
The U.S. government has repeatedly said that statehood and independence (optionally, in free association with the U.S.) are the only acceptable non-territorial status options for Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Congress will make the final decision. Garcia Padilla has been reported as “promis[ing] that the upcoming plebiscite would include a variety of options.”
The governor also was quoted as saying that “We have to work toward the vast unexploited potential of commonwealth,” and that “It is time to emphasize the bilateral nature of our relationship with the United States.” These statements during Constitution Day speeches were followed by a new definition of enhanced commonwealth.
The new definition is very similar to previous definitions, calling for Puerto Rico to be exempt from a number of U.S. laws, including the Territory Clause of the Constitution.
This clause states that “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.”
Pedro Pierluisi, the Congressional representative for Puerto Rico, is calling for a yes or no vote on statehood like those held by Hawaii and Alaska.