"EUPHORIA OVER CLINTONS LETTER MISGUIDED"
PUERTO RICOS RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES: DOCUMENTS FOR PUERTO RICOS POLITICAL HISTORY. SAN JUAN: THE OFFICE OF PUERTO RICOS OFFICIAL HISTORIAN, SECOND EDITION, MAY 1995, PAGES 13-14.
(PUBLISHED IN THE SAN JUAN STAR, AUGUST 6, 1994.)
President Clintons letter sent to Mayagüez Mayor José Guillermo Rodríguez on July 25, the 42nd anniversary of the commonwealth celebration of Constitution Day in that city, sent waves of euphoria not only among members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), but among some local political analysts.
Analysts consider the letter another instance in which a U.S. president reveals the real intentions of the United States regarding its political relationship with Puerto Rico.
The letter promised to consider strengthening Puerto Ricos commonwealth status and develop a policy in light of the Nov. 14, 1993 status consultation results, incorrectly called a plebiscite.
Although the July 26 editorial of the STAR called the letter in reference "President Clintons Pen Power," it correctly pointed out that regardless of how encouraging the letter was for the PDP, it would be wise for the PDP to keep a level perspective on the letter because "changes in commonwealth status, if any are to come, will come out of Congress, not the White House."
This is not the first time presidential pledges and promises add to the political drama and confusion we live in.
As the July 26 editorial also mentioned, in the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy and Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín exchanged notes and pledges on possible changes in commonwealth status. The editorial also referred to the message President Jimmy Carter sent on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the commonwealth in 1978 and in which Carter pledged to support whatever decision Puerto Rico reached in a referendum on political status.
Not to be forgotten either is that on Dec. 1, 1992, President George Bush issued a memorandum instructing all federal agencies and officials to treat Puerto Rico administratively and, to the extent possible by the U.S. Constitution and federal laws, as if it were a state.
Bushs memo revoked Kennedys 1961 order to treat the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as something "unique" in its relations with the United States. Bush said in his memo the commonwealth was no longer "unique" and termed it a U.S. territory. Many statehooders claimed Bushs memo placed the island on the road towards statehood and undercut the argument of commonwealth status supporters that the U.S.-Puerto Rico political relationship was "unique."
But, on Feb. 18, 1993, Clinton, in a report to Congress giving details of the economic plan he submitted in his message to Congress and the nation the day before, referred to the "unique relationship" of the U.S. with Puerto Rico and to the "unusual circumstances" of said relationship.
Needless to say, Popular Democratic Party leaders, in an euphoric reaction to Clintons statement, claimed said statement rescinded Bushs memo and was a reflection of the Clinton administrations recognition and understanding of the legitimacy of the commonwealth status.
It is about time that the people of Puerto Rico stop being confused and falsely encouraged by statements, pledges and messages from the President of the United States regarding the political status of the island. There should be a clear understanding that presidential memos, orders, messages and promises are only policy expressions that have no legal or juridical value.
Not even the federal courts are bound by them in reaching decisions, much less the U.S. Congress which, in the case of Puerto Rico, under the provisions of the 1898 Treaty of Paris, was given complete control of and sovereignty over Puerto Rico.
It must be recalled that at the U.S. House of Representatives Land Committee hearings (March 9, 1950) on the bill that led to Law 600, which established the basis of commonwealth status, ex-Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín said: "This project doesnt change the power of Congress to determine Puerto Ricos political future."
The above are the legal and historical facts. It would be shameful to subject the people of Puerto Rico to further confusion with public debates, conjectures and misleading political analysis (some with a touch of political fiction) with respect to Clintons July 25 letter under discussion. Enough is enough!