Governor: Commonwealth status proposal is ‘unreal’ and ‘fanciful’
Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago
By THE STAR STAFF
Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago’s political status proposal offers nothing new and has been rejected in the past by the federal executive and legislative branches and the U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Thursday.
The proposal is an amendment to congressional legislation for a status vote. The proposal for the further development of the commonwealth proposed by Dalmau Santiago 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.
According to the Senate president’s proposal, the new commonwealth of Puerto Rico would be united to the United States through a formal pact of political autonomy. The pact would 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 U.S. citizenship of persons born in Puerto Rico would be guaranteed and protected as established in the U.S. Constitution. The application, protections and rights associated with that citizenship would equal those of citizens born in the states.
Federal laws and programs would 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 such laws or regulations.
The agreement would include an expedited mediation mechanism to address such claims that would 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.
“There is nothing new there,” the governor said. “All that they [the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party] are proposing is something that has been proposed previously. They have never received support in Congress. They are unreal proposals; they are fanciful proposals. We didn’t have the famous pact. If you read the Constitution, it talks about the nature of a pact, but at the highest level of the federal government, both the president and congressional leaders, there was no such bilateral pact.”
Pierluisi pointed out that treaties with the U.S. government are unilateral, in the sense that one of the two parties can leave the pact. He described as “ridiculous” the idea that you can choose which federal laws apply to the island and which do not.
“No state has that power,” he noted.
“Enough of that unworthy status, of that inferior status that causes us to go to Congress all the time to demand equal treatment,” added the governor, in reference to issues such as nutritional assistance, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and Medicare.