Senate president optimistic about status dialogue
By John McPhaul
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President José Luis Dalmau Santiago expressed optimism Sunday after the presidents of the island’s other political parties accepted the invitation to dialogue on the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status, and he announced that he intends to coordinate the first working meeting of the parties’ representatives once the Thanksgiving recess period ends.
“The Dialogue and Action Table has started its work,” said Dalmau Santiago, who is also the president of the Puerto Rico Senate, in a written statement. “I want to thank, firstly, the presidents and coordinators of the political parties, Pedro Pierluisi of the New Progressive Party, Rubén Berríos of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Manuel Natal of the Citizen’s Victory Movement and Dr. César Vázquez of the Dignity Project, for responding affirmatively to the invitation to dialogue. Accepting to talk about such an important issue as political status is a sign of collective maturity and an example of civility.”
He said that after the Dialogue Table is finalized, to initiate the effort he will direct the first three actions: 1) issue the Senate administrative order that will authorize the use of facilities, technical assistance and resources; 2) coordinate the availability of the presidents or their representatives for a first meeting in the first days of December; and 3) prepare a draft discussion agenda for the first meeting so that all parties can integrate their opinions and recommendations.
“It is important that the efforts of this group are carried out in an organized manner, through a coordinated calendar and under minimum procedural rules to be agreed upon, so that the work can be conducted effectively,” Dalmau Santiago said.
“What will begin with an open dialogue must culminate with concrete actions that responsibly address this issue,” he continued. “However, I must make it absolutely clear that, although the Dialogue Table is our initiative, the work will be carried out with the input of all parties and sectors, and not unilaterally. This reality imposes on each one of us the enormous responsibility to act with detachment and a sense of unity.”
The PDP president said the initiative takes on greater relevance at this time given press reports indicating that the Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has postponed consideration of status bills filed by Reps. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) until next year.
Dalmau Santiago noted that the first meeting of the Dialogue Table will be held with the representatives of the political parties and, later, the dialogue will be opened to other political, civic, academic and community organizations that have requested participation. To achieve the goals of the initiative, he said, it is essential to establish specific dates and specific actions to be implemented in different stages, to prevent the initiative from becoming an endless gathering that cancels the original purpose of the multisectoral dialogue.
To that end, he said he was optimistic that the process will make affirmative actions feasible in the early months of 2022.
“We will listen to all interested parties, we will evaluate which will be the most effective paths to direct a participatory process, we will request legal opinions and economic studies, and we will require transition reports for each status formula,” Dalmau Santiago said. “But at some point, a certain date will be set to make concrete decisions on this matter. For decades, we have already had enough gatherings on this subject without obtaining results. The time has come to address this matter responsibly, without excluding anyone and with the goal of the United States government responding to the demands of the people of Puerto Rico.”