Para ver este documento en español,
THE SAN JUAN STAR
New Commonwealth Definition Rapped
D.C. Officials Call Commonwealth Version Similar To PDP's
by Robert Friedman
October 25, 1998
©Copyright The San Juan Star
WASHINGTON - The Popular Democratic Party's "new commonwealth"
definition sounds a lot like failed attempts to get the party's old commonwealth
views accepted by Congress, according to several officials here close to
island status issue.
"It's a warmed-over version of the 1993 plebiscite definition that
was already rejected by Congress," said Manase Mansur, the senior adviser
to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, on insular affairs. Young heads the House Resources
Committee, which deals with Puerto Rico status.
"It seems as though the commonwealthers are at it again, wanting
the best of both worlds. It sounds like attempts at enhanced commonwealth
all over again," said Matt Braunstein, who is the point person for
Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I, on Puerto Rico status. Kennedy, a member of
the Young committee, is like the committee chairman, a supporter of statehood
for the island.
John Lawrence, senior minority staff director for the House Resources
Committee, said while has not viewed the complete PDP document on the new
commonwealth, the summary supplied him "appears to reflect some of
the features of the definition specifically rejected by Congress. I can't
imagine that this definition would be acceptable," said Lawrence, whose
boss, Resources Committee Minority Leader George Miller, D-Calif., has not
expressed a Puerto Rico status preference.
At the same time, a Clinton administration official said the new definition
is "not an option. The word option means a choice that is realistic,
what can come to pass. This is not a viable option."
The new commonwealth, as the PDP calls its latest effort to lay out for
voters what commonwealth actually means, did get one qualified show of support
from the office of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. Enrique Fernandez, the stateside
Puerto Rican congressman's closet aide and adviser, said is believes the
latest definition is more in the nature of a "proposal for the growth
Gutierrez, who supports eventual independence for the island, believes
Congress not only could respond, but that it has the "moral obligation"
to respond best it can to the aspiration of the Puerto Rican people, Fernandez
said. "If the majority supports the new commonwealth, Congress should
have the political will to fashion ways to adjust to the US-Puerto Rico
relationship," according to Gutierrez via Fernandez.
The PDP is urging its supporters to cast a "none of the above"
(the nothing) vote in the Dec. 13 plebiscite ballot. By doing that, the
party says, the voters will really be voting for the new commonwealth, which
defines the option in much more autonomous terms than the plebiscite ballot's
commonwealth description, based on the US House-approved bill.
That bill, and the general consensus in Congress, is that Puerto Rico
remains a territory under the powers of Congress. But the PDP defines the
new commonwealth as an "autonomous political body which is not colonial
or territorial, in permanent union with the United States under a covenant
that cannot be invalidated or annulled unilaterally...
The definition provides for "the irrevocability of US citizenship,"
as well as for Puerto Rico's right to enter into trade or tax agreements
with others countries. It also appears to gives the commonwealth the last
word on whether federal legislation applies to the island.
The Clinton administration official, who requested anonymity, said some
elements in the definition "are not in themselves objectionable and
are possible." But, the official added, "they are combined in
an unacceptable and contradictory way."
For instance, the official said, "you cannot has irrevocable US
citizenship and the functions of a national government like treaty-making
powers. There is nothing wrong with Puerto Rico having treaty-making powers,
but that requires Puerto Rico to be a sovereign nation, which does not permit
irrevocable US citizenship."
Lawrence questioned the PDP position that voting for "none of the
above" will be a ballot for the new commonwealth.
"Congressman Miller believes Congress should take action on a clear
message from Puerto Rico. It will be very difficult to tell Congress that
you can infer something from what is not on a ballot," he said.
A senior federal official, who has been close to the island status issue
for many years, said that an accurate commonwealth definition has been a
long-standing problem for the PDP, "so they keep trying to redefine
it." The official, "would like people to believe that commonwealth
is stable and not subject to change, while Congress and the Constitution
dispute that. It's a political problem."
Click here to see new PDP definition of