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The San Juan Star
Time To Wake Up From An Impossible Dream
By David Pláceres
September 8, 2002
Editor's Note: This is the final in a series of four columns
Special to the STAR
Back in October 4, 2000, the Committee on Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives concluded that the proposals submitted by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to enhance Commonwealth were unconstitutional.
However, the PDP has not backed down and still insists in gong forward. The PDP leadership now blames the U.S. Congress for not having the political will to work on those proposals.
According to experts in constitutional law, the only way to make these proposals into law and permanent would be through an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This would be amendment number XXVIII.
An amendment to be approved needs to be passed by both houses of Congress by a two-thirds vote and later by three-quarters of the legislatures of the States. Not an easy process, and more so, if we account for the outrage crated in Congress by the PDP proposals.
According to Dick Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States, the idea that the United States will exercise its political will and change its "system of federalism to meet the demands of the pro-commonwealth separatists to Puerto Rico is far fetched." "Historically," he said, "the United States has rejected confederation and doctrines of nullification to accommodate a scheme of political autonomy."
For instance, in 1861, eleven states seceded from the Union to create the Confederate States because they wanted autonomy from the Congress. The United States fought a civil war for five years and over 600,000 Americans died in the fighting. The United States system of government is based on equal rights and responsibilities, and enfranchisement for all citizens subject to the U.S. Constitution under one single nation. This is the principle they so furiously fought for in that war over a 100 years ago.
To expect the United States will amend its constitution to allow the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to acquire a new set of rights it doesn't allow to the citizens of the 50 states, is to ignore the lessons of the Civil War, the most costly war in terms of lives ever fought by the United States.
As Mr. Thornburgh said, we shouldn't pretend the Congress is going to break those principles that the nation went to war for, in order to accommodate the wishes of the PDP, and expect three-quarters of the States will do so as well.
In fact, as members of the Congress realized that Puerto Rico would acquire a new set of rights without any of the responsibilities that go along with them, they responded very aggressively against the proposals. They labeled them as "the free beer and barbecue option." "free lunch," "absurd." "an affront to the truth," and the PDP leadership as "political opportunists."
Now, the Congress has spoken and called the PDP proposals unconstitutional and legislatively unattainable. It is time for the PDP to stand back and reassess their position. Their commonwealth formula, notwithstanding the numerous attempts, has not been able to move one single inch towards more autonomy since its birth 50 years ago. The dream of Muñoz has remained just a dream.
David Pláceres is a CPA who lives in Florida