June 9, 1997
Commentary As Submitted to
Readers Viewpoint, The San Juan Star
San Juan, Puerto Rico
We the people of Puerto Rico; we who believe in the process of democracy above and beyond political or ideological differences, owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Cong. George Miller for his actions during the recent "mark-up" of HR-856 ("The Young Bill") by the House Natural Resources Committee in Washington, D.C.
For many years, and often time in testimony before different congressional committees, I have consistently stated that any process leading to a solution to our present and temporary political-economic condition, must abide by two very basic principles: one, that it becomes a process of mutual self-determination by our fellow citizens in the U.S. (as expressed by the will of the Congress in the options offered for our election) and by the people of Puerto Rico (as expressed by their vote). The second, that the people of Puerto Rico would not be able, or perhaps willing, to exercise their right to self-determination unless and until they learned beyond doubt the exact nature of the present relationship.
Great advances were made by the 104th Congress during its term in meeting these conditions an essential part of the process. First, and in response to a request by the leaders of Puerto Ricos legislature, a formal reply to the results of the locally sponsored 1993 plebiscite was forwarded by the four Chairmen of the Congressional Committees of jurisdiction. Secondly, Chairman Don Young introduced the original version of his bill (HR-3024) offering for the first time in our reciprocal history, options for our election that meet U.S. Constitutional parameters and also internationally established criteria for decolonization.
These parameters and criteria were based not upon whim, or will by the Chairmen, but instead as a result of exhaustive legal, constitutional, and economic research conducted by the non-partisan research tool of the Congress (The Congressional research Service), and structured based upon opinions of the U.S. Justice and State Departments, and the tribunals including the U.S. Supreme Court.
This otherwise normal procedure for any congressional committee addressing any matter, in the field of local status politics unfortunately also had the effect of providing a false but convenient subterfuge for the leaders of the Popular Democratic Party in allowing them to claim that the definition of the "status-quo" contained in the bill, as later amended at the request of Gov. Rossello to include it as a prospective option, did not represent the changes that some still insisted took place at its inception in 1953. In addition, some P.D.P. leaders went further in accusing Cong. Young and Res. Commissioner Romero Barcelo, of concocting the bill and its definitions in some dark room behind the backs of the people of Puerto Rico, and preventing their proposal from reaching consideration before the sub-committee.
Turning the clock to the present, thus the value of Cong. Millers actions. First, the matter of Puerto Rico increased rank by being voted upon not at sub-committee level as in the past, but by the full Committee; I may add not in a dark room but live and in living color before the eyes not only of Mr. Young or Romero, but before the eyes of the entire world.
Secondly, keen observers may have noted that neither Mr. Miller nor any other member of the Committee made even the slightest comment or attempt at questioning or changing the definition of the current relationship which was so vehemently opposed by the P.D.P. (an un-incorporated territory subject to the plenary powers of the Congress under the "Territorial Clause"). Cong. Millers proposed amendment dealt with the P.D.P.s proposal for a prospective definition of "Commonwealth".
Thirdly, the open debate that ensued went a long ways into further reassuring the people of Puerto Rico, that concepts that were represented to them as truth, such as "mutual consent agreements", "permanent union and U.S. citizenship", "parity of federal programs and permanent benefits under Section 936", all deceivingly mixed with a very liberal dose of sovereignty and nationalism, etc., have turned out to be in reality the result of fifty years of misinformation and lies with the implicit complicity of U.S. congressional and executive authorities. In essence, the equivalent of a politically perverse Santa Claus.
Finally, the defeat of Mr. Millers amendment, and the fact that he and its other nine supporters later voted overwhelmingly in favor of approving the substitute to H.R. 856 offered by Mr. Young does us, as I stated at the beginning, the additional favor of annihilating the P.D.P.s subterfuge, because this time the full Committee rejected in an open and public vote the P.D.P.s proposal. Our quest for truthful self-determination has taken another step forward and one which will hopefully remain impervious from further manipulation and lies. After all, at ninety eight we are sufficiently mature to still want to believe in the myth of Santa Claus.