|Should Governor Sila Calderon Scrap the Unity & Consensus Commission?
Several months ago, The Herald asked readers to express an opinion as to whether or not Commonwealth Governor Sila Calderons (PDP) proposed Unity and Consensus Commission had any chance of leading residents of the island to a path towards their future political status. 57% of respondents said "no" while 38% said "yes." 5% were undecided.
Since then, much has happened that dim prospects even more that the Commission will serve any useful purpose. The three political parties, whose political existence is rooted in their distinct visions of Puerto Ricos future, are finding it difficult to be comfortable with the Governors concept of "consensus." In spite of these obstacles, Sila Calderon is adamant that the process is progressing positively and that it will lead to a universally acceptable status resolution.
The first setback occurred when New Progressive Party (NPP) President, Carlos Pesquera, rejected any official participation by his pro-Statehood party in Commission deliberations. In a recent speech celebrating the birth of statehoods spiritual father, Jose Celso Barbosa, he reaffirmed his aversion to the Commission and told supporters that the appropriate place to debate the political future of Puerto Rico was in Washington. Pesquera has called for the convocation of a congressionally sanctioned status plebiscite in Puerto Rico in 2003.
Governor Calderon, in collaboration with Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios, named Commission members from the academic, religious and political sectors, including several whose good relations with Pesquera were intended to bring the recalcitrant statehooder on board. In the meantime, Berrios made statements suggesting that he could accept the concept of a Freely Associated State, in which an independent Puerto Rico would establish a treaty relationship with the United States respecting specific governmental functions, "as long," he said, "as it includes sovereignty."
Ms. Calderon was quick to squelch any notion that she would ever accept such a status. "Any proposal that separates us from the U.S. does not have my approval," she opined. The Governor, both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland, has insisted that the Commonwealth formula already bestows a permanent political status on the island, implying that all there is left for the Commission to do is define ways in which it can be "perfected." Voices from both the statehood and independence movements have registered suspicions that what the Commission is really about it a stall tactic to check any move by anti-status quo advocates to energize self-determination initiatives in Washington.
The Consensus Commission was to have been a highlight of the Commonwealth Governments year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the Puerto Rican Constitution of 1952. Ironically, it has become the lightning rod for the seemingly intractable positions of the three political parties. As the next half-century of Puerto Ricos Commonwealth government begins its life, the political parties that manage it are engaged in a shrill public debate that more suggests a barroom brawl that it does a deliberative process. Washington, which will have the final say in any change in status or the "perfection" of its current one, is earsplittingly silent.
So, do you agree with Gov. Calderons vision that the Unity and Consensus Commission will produce a positive outcome, or do you think that it is not worthwhile for her to continue with the project, especially since she herself has publicly rejected two of the possible options leading to a permanent political status; statehood and free association?
So, should Governor Sila Calderon scrap the Unity & Consensus Commission?