Dalmau proposes dialogue process on status; governor says not so fast
By The Star Staff
Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago announced Thursday the beginning of a broad dialogue process with all political parties and various sectors of the island for a consultation process to deal with Puerto Rico’s political status following the expiration of a one-year term for th4 U.S. Congress to deal with the issue.
“Today I inform you that Congress has ignored that vote and the one-year term imposed by the previous [commonwealth] government,” Dalmau Santiago said. “That means that the mandate in favor of statehood has expired; and, given this reality, it is up to us to initiate a new process in the face of this congressional inaction.”
The initiative presented by the Senate president seeks to open a multisectoral discussion forum that culminates in a local or federal legislative measure that is binding on the U.S. Congress.
The Senate leader made the announcement during a recorded message in which he stated that the one-year term established in the enabling law of the most recent referendum for Congress to respond to the statehood request has ended.
Dalmau Santiago pointed out that his initiative will be carried out through the creation of what he called “a table for dialogue and action” that will have the participation of all registered political parties and those sectors that wish to join the effort.
“Contrary to what the past government did, we will not exclude any sector and we will offer all political parties and civic groups the opportunity to participate on equal terms, under an inclusive and orderly process, culminating in a formal consultation that addresses this matter seriously and responsibly,” Dalmau Santiago said in his message. “Understanding that any process of self-determination must be born from the will of the people of Puerto Rico, I announce that, [today], I will be sending letters to the presidents of all registered political parties; and, furthermore, that I will be signing an administrative order to summon them to the creation of a dialogue and action table that will have the objective of discussing and acting on five fundamental issues.”
Later on Thursday, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia rejected the Senate president’s proposed dialogue table, along with his assertion that the term on which it was carried expired Wednesday.
“Since when does a vote expire?” the governor said. “I mean, it doesn’t work like that. The vote already reflected the feelings of the people in November of last year and now, the ball is in the court of Congress so that they respond to the people of Puerto Rico. It’s not like, you put a deadline on Congress. It doesn’t work like that. Right now, there are two bills pending in the House, two bills pending in the Senate, all those bills related to the status of Puerto Rico.”
Pierluisi said he will support initiatives that declare Puerto Rico as a state as soon as the people of Puerto Rico ratify again that the desire of the majority is to be a state.
“That is my position as governor,” he said in response to questions from the press. “I do not agree with this idea that because a term expired, we now have to be looking for other alternatives. There are some pending bills and we are going to continue supporting, in my case and all of us who are statehood supporters, the bill filed by Congressman Darren Soto [D-Fla.] and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González [Colón] and the bill presented by Senator Martin Heinrich. Those are the ones that we are supporting until they are approved.”
“That does not expire; indeed, that is now for history,” the governor added. “Obviously, in statehood bills, an additional vote is required. … And that is what those bills propose, and I support them.”