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Obama Recycles Letter Inconsistent with ‘Commonwealth’ for ‘Commonwealth’ Celebration

President Obama recycled a three and a third year-old letter for today’s Government of Puerto Rico ceremony marking the 62nd anniversary of the territory’s constitution.

Most of the brief letter dated yesterday repeated the first paragraph of his letter embracing the March 11, 2011 report of his Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status with only a few non-substantive word changes.

The almost-identical paragraphs recognized the integration of Puerto Ricans as U.S. citizens into the Nation, which has been enhanced by their inclusion.

Constitution Day is celebrated as ‘Commonwealth Day’ in Puerto Rico after a word in the formal name of the insular government, and the ‘Commonwealth’ party uses it for a mass rally, although only a few hundred people showed up today.

When ‘commonwealthers’ control the governorship — as they do now — the Government ceremony focuses on the party’s vision of the territory’s political status — as officials did today.

The President’s message was not ‘in synch’ with the view they expressed, which sees Puerto Rico as a nation voluntarily associated with the United States rather than as the place or origin of people incorporated into America, as the President correctly observed.

Their characterization of Puerto Rico’s political status and the significance of the constitution is also inconsistent with the facts: Puerto Rico is a possession of the United States, a territory that has not been fully incorporated into the country — although its people as individuals have been.

Additionally, the constitution organized the insular government under a document drafted by Puerto Ricans, although it was made effective and required to be changed by the Federal government. It did not give Puerto Rico a new political status, as Puerto Rico’s representatives as well as Federal legislative and Executive branch authorities officially stated at the time of its authorization.

Obama’s use of a paragraph from his letter embracing the report of his Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status was ironic because the report rejected the ‘Commonwealth’ party’s vision of Puerto Rico’s current political status and it denied the possibility of the unprecedented ‘Commonwealth status’ the party wants. Echoing previous Federal Executive and legislative branch reports, it stated that Puerto Rico was subject to congressional powers under the U.S. Constitution’s Territory Clause and would be under any “Commonwealth” arrangement. Additionally, there cannot be a governing arrangement between the Federal government and a territory under which the arrangement and Federal laws could not be unilaterally changed by Congress.  Proposals in this regard are at the heart of the ‘Commonwealth’ concept.  (Read more about the 2011 President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status and related congressional statements here.)

Although Obama wrote that he was “pleased to join in celebrating” the anniversary of the ratification of the insular constitution, today is actually the anniversary of its effective date and it was ratified on March 3, 1952.Governor Luis Munoz Marin, the founder of the ‘Commonwealth’ party, picked July 25th as the effective date of the constitution because this is also the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898 and the day had been noted for recalling that event. It still is by advocates of independence and statehood – but commonwealthers use it to celebrate their wishful vision of Puerto Rico’s status.







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