Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government and statehood party president, Pedro Pierluisi, has said that the first law he will sign if elected governor in 2016 would be for a public vote on the admission of the territory as a State of the United States if the Commonwealth government under Alejandro Garcia Padilla (“Commonwealth” party) does not implement a Federal law that provides for a plebiscite on a status option or options that would resolve the question of the territory’s ultimate status.
Pierluisi, the top vote getter in the Commonwealth’s 2012 elections, receiving more votes than Garcia, made the statement in acknowledging that he will run for governor and criticizing Garcia for not implementing the Federal law.
The Resident Commissioner, a Democrat with a seat but not a vote other than in committees in the U.S. House of Representatives, expressed confidence that Puerto Rico would become a State if Puerto Ricans vote for the status a second time. He said that statehood would be granted after a transition of eight to ten years during which equal treatment of Puerto Rico with the existing States would be phased in.
Statehood would mean “prosperity, security, and equal rights,” Pierluisi said, adding that Puerto Ricans would also be able to retain their language and culture.
The Federal law providing for the plebiscite was enacted this January. It authorizes a plebiscite on a status option or options ultimately determined by the U.S. Department of Justice based on a proposal from the Puerto Rico Elections Commission. The Commission includes representation from each of Puerto Rico’s status-based political parties.
President Barack Obama proposed the law and Congress passed it because Garcia has lobbied against Federal action on implementing the self-determination choice of Puerto Ricans in a plebiscite under local law held along with the 2012 elections. The Obama Administration had supported the local plebiscite and the President’s spokesman hailed its results.
The plebiscite soundly rejected territory status, the option in the plebiscite supported by now Governor Garcia, and chose statehood by a 2-1 margin over the two nationhood options — independence and nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end.
Puerto Rico’s current status, territory, cannot be an option in the Federally authorized plebiscite because it cannot resolve the question of the Commonwealth’s ultimate status. As long as Puerto Rico is a territory, its people, U.S. citizens by birth, can petition the Federal government for statehood or nationhood.
The new “Commonwealth status” that Garcia Padilla and other ‘commonwealthers’ want also cannot be an option because it is impossible for constitutional and other reasons. The Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations and congressional leaders of both national political parties have all made this clear.
The “Commonwealth” party has refused to accept the results of the 2012 plebiscite because it did not include this status proposal and, like the U.S. Supreme Court has, defined Puerto Rico’s current status, sometimes misleadingly called “Commonwealth” after a word in the name of Puerto Rico’s local government, as a territory status.
Under “Commonwealth status” plan, Puerto Rico would be a nation able to enter into agreements with other nations but the U.S. would be permanently bound to it and to an arrangement which would also empower Puerto Rico to nullify Federal laws and Federal court jurisdiction. The U.S. would, further, be obligated to give the Commonwealth a new subsidy, all current assistance to Puerto Ricans, free entry to any goods shipped from Puerto Rico, and citizenship to anyone born in Puerto Rico.
Garcia publicly supported the new Federal law before it was enacted — even as some of his representatives were trying to undermine the legislation in Obama Administration and congressional meetings.
Shortly after the Federal law was enacted in January, Garcia said that he would propose a combination of its status choice process and the status assembly that his party had said it would initiate if the Federal legislation were not enacted before January.
The Legislative Assembly created a joint committee to plan the status assembly even before the December 31, 2013 deadline.
Garcia recently asked the legislature to consider the process provided for by Federal law along with an insular status assembly — but to not act before August.