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The language of the bipartisan U.S. Senate status bill proves that Puerto Rico is still an unincorporated U.S. territory and the non-existence of a claimed "bilateral pact" between Puerto Rico and the United States. As announced March 19, the bill’s authors are Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Robert Graham, D-Florida, who have eight other senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, as sponsors. It is expected to receive greater bipartisan sponsorship shortly.

The bill states its purpose is "to provide for a referendum in which residents of Puerto Rico may express democratically their preference regarding the political status of the territory." It said further that in providing for the referendum the United States was "exercising its sovereignty over Puerto Rico pursuant to the Treaty of Paris Article IX... which established that residents of Puerto Rico not owing allegiance to another nation would have U.S. nationality, and provided that the legal rights and political status of the native inhabitants of Puerto Rico shall be determined by Congress."

The bill also stated that Congress implanted Article IX of the Treaty of Paris in the Act of July 3, 1950 (U.S. Law 600) which "authorized the residents of Puerto Rico to adopt a constitution which was implemented in 1952 after acceptance by Puerto Rico of certain amendments made by Congress in approving the territorial constitution, thereby establishing the current commonwealth structure for local self-government in respect of internal affairs and local government administration, subject to the Constitution of the United States and other Federal laws applicable to Puerto Rico."

The bill also states that the United States’ commitment to self-determination in providing for or making possible a transition of government "from the current territorial status of commonwealth" to a permanent and fully self-governing status. It also states it is the policy of the United States that, as long as Puerto Rico remains subject to the plenary power of Congress under the territorial clause, the residents of Puerto Rico–meaning U.S. citizens legally domiciled here, be they native Puerto Ricans or not–periodically should be afforded an opportunity freely to express their wishes regarding the future political status of Puerto Rico.

Those who claim that Puerto Rico is no longer a territory subject to U.S. sovereignty under a claimed 1952 "bilateral Pact," should take note that the Senate bill proves that Puerto Rico is still an unincorporated territory under the U.S. Constitution territorial clause, under congressional control. As it is said in Spanish: "Más claro no canta un gallo" (a cock could not sing any clearer).

It was pitiful to hear some say at the March 19 status hearing of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee that their defense of the validity of the "bilateral pact" was based on the U.S. request to the United Nations in 1953 to approve Resolution 748, eliminating Puerto Rico as a non-autonomous territory. It was not said, however, that the voting of the Resolution, approved on November 27, 1953, was 26 in favor, 16 against and 18 abstentions. A New York Herald Tribune at the time said the vote was actually a moral defeat for the United States.

There was every indication that the U.S., under pressure from the Popular Democratic Party administration at the time, did a great deal of arm twisting to obtain a favorable vote for the Resolution. In addition, then-President Eisenhower sent a message to the United Nations saying he was willing to recommend to Congress more autonomous power or absolute independence for Puerto Rico if its Legislature so requested. In itself, this message revealed the lack of permanency of the commonwealth status and of Congressional sovereignty over Puerto Rico.

It has been abundantly clear that there was a misunderstanding in the United Nations of the 1952 agreement between Puerto Rico and the United States. It has been pointed out that both the United States and Puerto Rico administrations at the time were responsible for that. Some political analysts have gone as far as saying that what was presented to the United Nations was an outright lie which now requires clarification, and a petition for U.N. revocation of Resolution 748 is pertinent in light of the historical facts behind Law 600, existing federal courts’ jurisprudence and unilateral acts by Congress and federal agencies which prove that Congress never intended to surrender its sovereignty over Puerto Rico, nor to take it out of the U.S. Constitution territorial clause and, much less, to enter into a binding bilateral pact with Puerto Rico in 1952.

Let’s stop saying here that the U.S. House and Senate status bills provide for a plebiscite in Puerto Rico not later than 1998. They provide for holding a referendum. A plebiscite is final; a referendum is not and is subject to further action before the process is submitted to the people for final voting in a plebiscite. As I have pointed out in the past, what took place here in November 1993 was wrongfully called a plebiscite. It was simply a status consultation in which none of the political parties were able to receive a mandate, and in which the Popular Democratic Party had the winning formula containing a "wish list" later rejected in congressional circles, as will be the case of the "wish list" presented at the March 14 hearings on the commonwealth definition.

Congress has given signs of rejecting formulas which pretend to have it both ways and to have the cake and eat it, too!

Referring to statehood, the Senate bill provides for the option of incorporation leading to statehood. If this means that we must have an incorporated status (who knows for how long) before statehood is implemented, my judgment is that such option should be rejected because Puerto Rico is more than ready for statehood and does not need a pre-chamber status. In fact, we are more ready for statehood than many U.S. territories were when admitted as states of the union. Some, like Texas, California and Nevada, moved directly from unincorporation to statehood. I wish to give a wake-up call to statehooders on the Senate’s statehood option.


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