There are currently two status bills being considered in Congress for Puerto Rico. HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Bill, will make a state of Puerto Rico. HR 2070, the Self-Determination Bill, will hold a status convention and call another plebiscite on status.
Two of the individuals who testified in the hearings on the bills, Rafael Cox-Alomar and Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus, have written about the possibility of compromise for the Miami Herald.
“To one of us,” they wrote, “the Statehood Admission Act would offer statehood to a woefully under-informed public, risking dire and irreversible consequences. To the other, the Self-Determination Act would consign Puerto Ricans to the same futile status debate that has produced colonialism-by-stalemate for decades. Yet despite the apparent gridlock, we believe there is a path forward: a solution that combines the best features of each bill.”
Status bill compromise
The authors point out that the Statehood Admission Act calls for Congress to offer statehood to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico voters would not be voting on a pig in a poke. In previous votes, votes have made choices but Congress hasn’t responded, or has responded by saying that the option voters chose is not possible. With an offer from Congress first, the vote would lead to action.
“The Statehood Admission Act makes an offer, but includes only one option,” the authors say. “The Self-Determination Act includes all options, but requires Puerto Ricans to make the offer. This gets it exactly backwards. A U.S. territory is in no position to decolonize itself. Puerto Ricans can shout statehood, independence or anything else from the housetops, yet Congress can simply ignore them. But if Congress offers Puerto Rico decolonization options, Puerto Ricans would have, for the first time ever, the real power to decolonize by choosing one.”
Puerto Rico has been offered independence (under the Tydings Act in 1934, for example). However, there has never been an offer from Congress of statehood or of independence with free association. With a commitment from Congress to accept the results of a referendum limited to the viable status options, another referendum could take place in Puerto Rico with an expectation of action from Congress.
“Under domestic and international law, the options are statehood, independence and a status known as free association, in which Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States would be governed by a treaty between them,” the authors conclude. “The law defines their essential features. For statehood, they include equality and representation under the U.S. Constitution. For independence and free association, they include separate sovereignty under international law.”
Any questions about any of these three viable options can be answered by Congress before another vote takes place.
Will Natural Resources create a compromise bill?
The House Committee on Natural Resources intends to mark up the two bills and present some bill to the Congress in the fall. A committee can create an entirely new bill if they choose, and a compromise bill would be an option.
“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, Before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air”. —- John Quincy Adams
KUDOS to Rafael Cox-Alomar and Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus for their courageous and intelligent proposal to combine the best of HR 2070 and HR 1522.
This approach places in the USA Congress- where it Constitutionally belongs- the responsibility to end-once and for all -Puerto Rico’s Colonial Status by honoring the democratic electorate wishes of the 3.5+ USA Citizens residing in the island. It also places the responsibility in the island’s voters. Once the process is completed, there is no turning back, it will be permanent.
Of outmost importance to all involve, is to emphasize and embark in a comprehensive educational process to ensure the ultimate voting verdict is an educated one and clearly reflects the electorate wishes.
As has been discussed for decades and most recently clarified by the USA DOJ – The de-colonizing constitutional options for Puerto RIco are but three:
1- Statehood- with guaranteed USA citizenship and full participation without bias in our unique Democratic Constitutional Republic. TWO Senators and FOUR Representatives in Congress advocating for the State of Puerto Rico- with full votes. Finally, the 3.5+ Million USA Citizens – PR residents – adding their democratic voices in our National Elections -with the power of Puerto Rico’s electoral college votes.
2- Nationhood = Independence – No USA citizenship as there is nothing in the USA Constitution that allows granting USA citizenship to an independent Nation. Most Puerto RIcans cherish the history and beauty of the island. The love of Puerto Rico and its idiosyncrasies is not the exclusive trademark of separatists or Nationalists. 6+ million Puerto Rican descendants live successfully and are proud Puerto RIcan Americans fully integrated in the mainland.
3- FREE ASSOCIATION – ELA (MEJORADO) – With no guarantee of USA
Citizenship as the process will require a transitional period. It will also depend on negotiations conducted. Federal Assistance likely in some format as the USA does with multiple nations -but the process will be dependent on trade deals and the USA’s National Security interests. In a Free Association – the ongoing lobbying efforts will need to continue more than with current status. The result of such status always ends in the lack of full participation in the federal constitutional process. This option will likely be administratively worse than the current colonial status.
What is at stake is the future of Puerto RIco and its local residents.
What needs to be in the equation is an excruciating analysis of Puerto Rico’s history- the administrative and economic development and performance since 1898 – Colonialism’s failure!
What must be remembered is that every form of government has been tried on Earth. With all its flaws and imperfections – The USA continues to be a beacon of opportunity and Hope for all.
Puerto Rican’s have been a part of our USA history since the Revolutionary war and are an active part of our communities in all 50 States.
Congress needs to do its job. The local voters need to decide their permanent future through congressional approved viable constitutional options, in a clear, uncorrupt democratic election. Puerto Rico Statehood will likely follow.
October 28th, 2021
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” George Orwell
Just for the record, I will like to rectify my prior comments dated August 4, 2021.
After reviewing the latest commentaries on a compromise bill by Mr. Cox Alomar, I do not believe a compromise bill will be the solution- not in the manner he suggests.
Most everyone agrees, PR needs to move forward with its final political definition, but it needs to do so with definitive constitutional options: Statehood or Independence and what does two options entail.
It is the USA congress who has the responsibility to move the PR status process forward without further delays.
Statehood is the only logical step for Puerto Rico -to ensure the well being of its ~3 million local American residents, and its economic and political future within the dynamic current global sociopolitical restructuring.