Puerto Rico has voted for statehood. What will happen now? Congress can admit Puerto Rico as the 51st state, or leave Puerto Rico in the current political limbo of unincorporated territory status.
Those are the choices.
There are still people who want to come up with some other idea. There are, especially in the states, people who want to see Puerto Rico become independent. The people living in Puerto Rico do not want this, as is obvious from their voting history, and the federal government has stated over and over that they do not want to force an unwelcome status on Puerto Rico. The federal government has also said clearly, over and over, that they will not accept the idea of a special status unique to Puerto Rico.
Yet another enhanced commonwealth?
The party which has historically supported the idea of “enhanced commonwealth” is trying to come up with a new definition. PDP President Héctor Ferrer has called for a “new course,” a “new governing model,” a “new Autonomist Pact”which will be a “fourth option” apart from statehood, independence, and the current territorial status.
Andrés L. Córdova, a professor at Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Law, recently wrote, “Today, there is no doubt that legally Puerto Rico has been a territory under the plenary powers of Congress since 1898. In this regard, the long held historic fallacy argued by the pro-territory Popular Democratic Party that Puerto Rico had achieved some sort of political autonomy in 1952 not subject to Congress has finally been put to rest. ”
You would think so. But Ferrer said, “The development of the commonwealth must have a clear and defined agenda that establishes why we need political powers and how they will be used for the country’s benefit.” The federal government has said repeatedly that there will be no development of the commonwealth, because it is unconstitutional. The “commonwealth” party may continue to attempt to come up with new versions of the commonwealth, but it will continue to be a fantasy.
Is there any harm in playing with Autonomy?
Cordova also pointed out that “it is also evident that no headway in our economic development can be achieved unless we address the issue of long-term political stability.”
For Puerto Rico to waste time trying to come up with yet another impractical “commonwealth” plan instead of working toward statehood, the real resolution of the Island’s political status, is a mistake. Ferrer suggests that the United States must allow Puerto Rico to come up with its own new status, based on a U.N. document, the 1970 “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”
That document contains this statement describing the options for de-colonization of geographic areas:
The establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people constitute modes of implementing the right of self-determination by that people.
Presumably the “enhanced commonwealth” would fall under the heading of “any other political status.” However, Puerto Rico cannot force the United States to accept a relationship which has been determined to be unconstitutional. In fact, Puerto Rico can’t force the United States to accept any relationship.
Focusing on this idea will just keep Puerto Rico in its current territorial status, giving Congress an excuse not to take action.