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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Dalmau presents new commonwealth status redefinition

Senate President Jose Luis Dalmau

By The Star Staff

As Puerto Rico marks the 71rst anniversary of the founding of the commonwealth constitution on July 25, Senate President Jose Luis Dalmau announced Monday he would present a new proposal to develop the commonwealth status to Congressional leaders.

The proposal is contained in amendments to the Puerto Rico Status Act, legislation before Congress enabling a status plebiscite.

“Today, I announce that I will formally present before the congressional leadership of both parties a block of amendments to House Bill 2757 and Senate Bill 4560, authored by Senator Roger Wicker, to address this issue seriously. It was precisely Senator Wicker who was the first to include the Commonwealth as a legitimate option,” Dalmau said.

The proposal for the development of the Commonwealth proposed by Dalmau notes that a vote for the commonwealth option is a mandate to empower the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico under certain principles and parameters that define the nature of the political relationship with the United States.

The new commonwealth of Puerto Rico will be united to the United States through a formal pact of political autonomy. The pact will have the character of a permanent relationship, and any modification to the terms of the political relationship between both peoples must be approved by the people of Puerto Rico using a referendum.

Under the new pact, the US citizenship of persons born in Puerto Rico will be guaranteed and protected as established in the Constitution of the United States. The application, protections, and rights associated with said citizenship will equal those of citizens born in the states.

Federal laws and programs will be enforced in Puerto Rico with the provisions of the autonomy pact. However, in the event that the government of Puerto Rico understands that the promulgation of a federal law or specific provisions of a statute or regulation of the United States government, modifies or affects the powers granted to the people of Puerto Rico with respect to their self-government, fiscal autonomy or cultural identity, the government of Puerto Rico may claim - through a Joint Resolution, approved by the Legislative Assembly and signed by the Governor - the exemption from the application of said laws or regulations.

The agreement will include an expedited mediation mechanism to address such claims.

The mechanism shall supersede the corresponding provisions of the Federal Relations Act of July 3, 1950 regarding the application of certain federal laws that, due to their scope, could unilaterally modify the island’s political autonomy.

“The new definition is the result of multiple conversations, legal and constitutional studies that we have required and it is not the authorship of a single person, but of a group of citizens, committed to the unity of purpose that they see in the commonwealth, the realistic and practical option that meets an undeniable reality: we are a Latin American and Caribbean nation, which is associated with it and we are citizens of the United States of America,” he said.

The scope of this proposal broadens approaches made in the past.

On the one hand, the terms and conditions of the political relationship are finally established - through a formal and signed agreement, which would render section 9 of the Federal Relations Law null and void, which is the source that Congress uses to legislate unilaterally for the island. This legal fact of political autonomy will be as broad as the parties agree.

Likewise, the proposal creates a protection mechanism against federal legislation that seeks to affect powers already recognized in Puerto Rico, such as self-government, fiscal autonomy, and cultural identity.

Likewise, it protects US citizenship by birth, protecting health, education and housing funds, among others, as well as scholarships for the youth.

“In the letters that I will be sending, I will also request amendments to the texts of other status formulas; particularly about the impact of federal contributions under statehood on the country’s economy, the possible breach of the obligations contracted in the debt adjustment plan and the loss of sports sovereignty,” he said.

“The issue of political status is a serious matter and if we are going to promote congressional measures responsibly, they have to be inclusive, fair and they have to be separated from accommodative language that creates a false representation for voters about the consequences of each of the status formulas,” he said.

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