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Readers Viewpoint

The San Juan Star

One View Of How Puerto Rico's Status Dilemma Will Be Resolved

September 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The San Juan Star. All rights reserved. 

In his letter "The illusion of enhanced commonwealth," (The San Juan STAR Viewpoint, Sept. 1) David Pláceres writes: "It really puzzles me that they can't accept the idea that their proposals for development of commonwealth are unconstitutional and haven't adopted a new formula instead."

The answer to this question needs to tackle the following precedents.

First, full statehood could have arrived back in 1952 if Luis Muñoz Marin had not been toying with independence. Reality is that in 1917 partial statehood came to us through U.S. citizenship and only the land was kept away from allowing Puerto Rico and its people to become a full state.

Second, in 1952 such statehood condition was reinforced through the constitutional process by creating a state-like government system, short of full statehood by a nose. The new Constitution offered us the opportunity to expect full citizenship, which means full statehood, as part of the changes that took place. This option was a "determinant factor" of our Constitution.

Third, the preceding items one and two represent two conflicting situations that were apparently solved by creating the illusion that a new status had emerged in 1952, a status that could either take us to independence or statehood. History has proved it was an illusion because in reality we have inexorably moved to be more and more integrated into the Union.

Fourth, Muñoz was able to fully appreciate the advantages of full integration as early as 1959 when he asked President Eisenhower and Congress for the payment of federal taxes. His offer was turned down because it pretended that such contributions would be on a government-to-government basis and such a system is unconstitutional. Muñoz did not offer then to pay federal taxes as any other state because he would have been accused of asking for statehood.

Fifth, while prior to the 1960s our integration into the Union had been slow, technological advances from then on would accelerate our communication with the rest of the states and with Washington. Our political and economic integration would accelerate and grow and our path to full statehood would be accentuated.

With these precedents in mind, the independence wing in the Popular Democratic Party found itself with a great conflict. They did not want full statehood, but they could not deny its definite advantages. What could they do?

Enters Rafael Hernández Colón with a formula of separation under the sovereignty of the United States. He made five attempts at perpetuating the colony with sovereign powers and all failed. Then came the PDP leadership with the idea of being a separate and sovereign nation with U.S. citizenship and capable of "delegating" powers to Congress as if it were a state. This intent was trashed by Congress in October of 2000, but the PDP has acted as if those hearings never took place.

Behind all of these attempts is the illusion that we live in a special political system called Estado Libre Asociado. This illusion creates the notion that a political status can be created that can produce full statehood results, without being a state. This illusion does not understand that the United States is a Union of sovereign states sharing part of their sovereignty and that in order to do so, states must be members of the Union, not outsiders or terrorists.

The illusion does not understand either that our present political system is defined in the Federal Relations Act of 1952, formerly the Jones Act of 1917, and which created a pre-statehood condition for Puerto Rico and its people through a federal law. Such federal law cannot be amended with provisions that are unconstitutional.

The PDP then contends that their enhancement provisions are not unconstitutional because Puerto Rico would be out of the territorial clause and out of the Constitution.

And Congress is telling us: "So you want independence with U.S. citizenship, with all benefits and no responsibility? So does the rest of the world!"

This is where the puzzle ends. It requires the full understanding that our present political system is found in a federal law called the Federal Relations Act, formerly the Jones Act of 1917, which granted statehood to the citizens of Puerto Rico, but fell short of granting full statehood to Puerto Rico by omitting the admittance of the territory as the 49th state of the Union. This law can only be enhanced towards the adoption of full statehood, which is our destiny.

Once we understand this very important fact, and I should say Pláceres is very close, our political status dilemma will be solved. After all, why stick to partial citizenship and partial results, when we can have full citizenship and full results.

Mario E. Porrata

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