Legislation also requires federal government to prepare and publish Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy
Washington, DC—The omnibus appropriations bill unveiled last night contains a provision allocating $2.5 million to resolve the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status, as well as numerous other provisions that will benefit Puerto Rico, announced Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi.
It is expected that the House will vote on the bill on Wednesday and that the Senate will vote on the legislation later this week.
The $2.5 million provision was included by President Obama in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget submission at the request of Pierluisi, and the Resident Commissioner then worked with congressional allies of Puerto Rico to shepherd the provision through the legislative process. The provision would allocate funding for the first federally-sponsored status vote in Puerto Rico’s history, among one or more options that would “resolve” the status issue. The provision also requires that, before federal funds can be provided, the U.S. Department of Justice must approve any option on the ballot to ensure that it is consistent with U.S. law and public policy.
“This is an historic moment. The inclusion of this provision in the omnibus bill demonstrates that the U.S. Congress cares about, and is willing to act on, the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status. This provision, which has bipartisan support, also shows that Puerto Rico’s status is neither a Democratic issue nor a Republican issue. At its core, this issue is about the principles of equality and justice,” said Pierluisi.
The Obama Administration, like the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, has rejected the Puerto Rico Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) “enhanced commonwealth” proposal as impossible for legal and policy reasons. So, too, have the top Democrat and top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, most recently in a letter sent to local political leaders in December 2013. In that letter, Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski of Alaska wrote: “Whatever formal process or processes are used to formally consider the status question, we write to stress that non-viable status options such as ‘enhanced commonwealth’ should not be considered, as they confuse the debate and undermine efforts to resolve this issue of great importance to both Puerto Rico and the United States.”
“This means that the PDP’s impossible status proposal—enhanced commonwealth—cannot be included on the ballot. This proposal is irrelevant to the status debate,” said Pierluisi.
“Moreover, it is critical to note that the vote to be held pursuant to this appropriation must be among one or more options that would ‘resolve’ the status issue. The only permanent status options available to Puerto Rico are to become a state or to become a nation—either fully independent or in free association with the U.S. Maintaining the current territory status will do nothing to resolve the status problem, which has hamstrung Puerto Rico’s political, economic and social development. The people of Puerto Rico know this, which is why they voted to soundly reject the current status in the November 2012 referendum,” added the Resident Commissioner.
In May 2013, the Resident Commissioner introduced legislation, H.R. 2000, the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act, which would provide for a federally-sponsored vote in Puerto Rico on the territory’s admission as a state. The bill has 129 co-sponsors, including 12 Republicans, making it one of the most bipartisan bills introduced this Congress. H.R. 2000 is consistent with the President’s request for an appropriation for a federally-sponsored status vote, providing a blueprint for how the vote conducted pursuant to that appropriation could be structured.
The Resident Commissioner thanked Rep. José Serrano; the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA); the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL); Chairman Ron Wyden of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), all of whom who advocated in support of this provision.
The omnibus bill also contains a number of other important provisions specific to Puerto Rico, including a provision that requires the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to prepare and publish a Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which will outline the federal government’s overarching plan of action to secure Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—the nation’s Caribbean border—against the threat posed by drug trafficking and related violence.
“I am very gratified that, after so much work, this provision was included in the bill and will become law. The provision requires ONDCP to publish the Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy within 120 days of the bill’s enactment and to revise and update the document every two years. The bill states that, in terms of its contents, the strategy document should be substantially equivalent to the Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy and the Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy, both of which ONDCP publishes periodically,” said Pierluisi.
“My hope and expectation is that ONDCP will consult closely with federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Defense, and formulate a comprehensive, thoughtful and government-wide strategy designed to reduce drug-related violence in Puerto Rico, which continues to be unacceptably high. I believe—and have always believed—that the most important civil right is the right to be safe in one’s home and secure in one’s community. I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that the federal government develops the appropriate overarching strategy and allocates the necessary resources to ensure that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico can live free from fear of violent crime,” added the Resident Commissioner.
In addition, the omnibus bill contains language recognizing that the Navy is conducting environmental restoration at sites on Vieques in coordination with the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to select by consensus a final remedy for those sites. The language urges the Secretary of the Navy “to accelerate cleanup efforts once a consensus is achieved,” and to inform Congress about “the progress of site cleanup.” The language also directs the Secretary of the Army to inform Congress about cleanup measures occurring on the island of Culebra.
Moreover, the omnibus bill appropriates $85.3 million to the General Services Administration to construct a new FBI headquarters in San Juan, and appropriates $17.25 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue the flood control project at Río Puerto Nuevo.
Bipartisan Legislation Sets Forth Process for Puerto Rico to be Admitted as a State
Washington, DC—Today, Resident Commissioner Pedro R. Pierluisi introduced the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act, a bipartisan bill that sets forth a process for the U.S. territory
of Puerto Rico to become a State.
“I am filing this legislation with a sense of purpose and a sense of pride. Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory for 115 years. Territory status deprives the 3.7 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico of the most fundamental democratic rights. My constituents have no voting representation in the national government that enacts and enforces the laws that govern their lives. And they are treated unequally under many of those laws. The result is that Puerto Rico’s economic growth is hindered, its unemployment rate is consistently high, its borders and communities are less secure, overall quality of life is compromised, and hundreds of thousands of island residents have left Puerto Rico for the states,” the Resident Commissioner said.
“This past November, the people of Puerto Rico withdrew their consent to second-class citizenship, and chose a future of dignity and democracy. In an historic referendum that made news around the world, a strong majority of my constituents voted to end the current territory status, a supermajority voted for statehood among the three possible alternative status options, and more voters expressed a preference for statehood than for the current status,” added Pierluisi.
The Resident Commissioner’s legislation is an appropriate next step in light of the November referendum. After outlining the rights and responsibilities of statehood, the bill authorizes a federally-sponsored ratification vote in which the people of Puerto Rico can affirm their desire for the territory to be admitted as a State of the Union.
If a majority of voters do confirm Puerto Rico’s desire for statehood, the bill provides for the President to submit legislation to admit Puerto Rico as a State following a transition period in which equal treatment under federal programs and federal tax laws would be phased in. The bill also expresses Congress’s commitment to act on such legislation.
In a speech delivered this morning on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Resident Commissioner explained that his legislation is consistent with the appropriations request that President Obama included in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget submission to Congress. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Justice is requesting $2.5 million, to be granted to the Puerto Rico Elections Commission, to conduct voter education and to hold a federally-authorized vote among options that would “resolve” Puerto Rico’s political status. Pierluisi noted that the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act provides a blueprint for how the vote held pursuant to that appropriation could be
In his floor speech, the Resident Commissioner took the opportunity to speak directly to statehood supporters in Puerto Rico.
“Our movement has become the predominant force in Puerto Rico. Every day, we grow stronger. Like you, I believe that justice delayed is justice denied. And, like you, I find it difficult to be patient. But we fight with our heads as well as our hearts. Perfecting our union requires passion, but it also demands perseverance. There are no shortcuts on the path to statehood—and politicians who suggest there are will lead us to a dead end,” Pierluisi said.
“The statehood movement is powerful because we are united by a single principle—the principle of equality. The November vote has fortified our spirit and renewed our sense of purpose. We will not shy away from a fight. History teaches that once a people have chosen democracy, self-government and progress, they are unlikely to reverse course. Rest assured: now that the people of Puerto Rico have withdrawn their consent to second-class citizenship, the question is no longer whether, but when, Puerto Rico will obtain equality through statehood,” the Resident Commissioner added.
The Resident Commissioner then addressed his colleagues in Congress who represent states.
“I know you will respect my constituents for seeking to have the same rights and responsibilities as your constituents. This respect must take the form of concrete action. The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico have made their voices heard, and they deserve a meaningful response from their national government,” he said.
Pierluisi closed his remarks by asserting that Puerto Rico’s territory status harms both Puerto Rico and the United States.
“There is overwhelming evidence that territory status has impaired Puerto Rico’s political, economic and social development. And it has become clear that the status quo does not serve the national interest either. The U.S. succeeds when Puerto Rico succeeds; when the island is strong, stable and secure; and when its residents do not feel obligated to relocate to the states to achieve their dreams. From the U.S. perspective—a robust and resilient state of Puerto Rico would advance the national interest,” the Resident Commissioner said.
“The position of every president since Harry Truman has been that their administration would accept whatever status choice is made by a majority of Puerto Rico voters. The U.S. government is a champion of democracy and self-determination around the world, and it must adhere to those principles with respect to its own citizens. This is especially true in light of the service that generations of men and women from Puerto Rico have rendered to this nation, most notably in the armed forces, but in so many other ways as well. In a very real sense, Puerto Rico has earned the right to be equal. And equal we will become,” Pierluisi added.
“Puerto Rico has been called the shining star of the Caribbean. The time has come for our star to shine, alongside the others, on the flag of the United States of America,” the Resident Commissioner concluded.
The Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act was introduced with 32 original cosponsors. They are as follows:
Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Don Young (R-AK), José Serrano (D-NY), Madeline Bordallo (D-GU), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Joe Garcia (D-FL), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Ron Kind (D-WI), Peter King (R-NY), John Mica (R-FL), George Miller (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jared Polis (D-CO), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Aaron Schock (R-IL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).
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Agustin Santiago/EL VOCERO
En la búsqueda de lograr la descolonización del país, y luego de la decisión del Tribunal Supremo de los Estados Unidos en el caso Pueblo v. Sánchez Valle que certifica la falta de soberanía del Estado Libre Asociado (ELA), la Junta de Gobierno del Partido Popular Democrático (PPD), aprobó en la noche de hoy una resolución de referéndum Estadidad sí o no.
La resolución fue aprobada con 19 votos a favor y nueve en contra, entre los que se destacan los votos del gobernador de Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla y la alcaldesa de San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, quienes no están de acuerdo con la medida.
“Nuestra Junta de Gobierno en la noche de hoy, a tono con los acontecimientos ocurridos en los pasados días, particularmente, los proyectos ante la consideración del congreso de los Estados Unidos aprobado en Cámara, PROMESA, y con alto potencial de ser aprobado en el Senado y las resoluciones del Tribunal Supremo… aprobaron un referéndum de estadidad sí o no estableciendo participación para todos aquellos que entiendan esta fórmula de estatus, y de igual forma, aquellos que no la respaldan tendrán la oportunidad de la victoria del no para que se convoque una Asamblea Constitucional de Estatus. Eso lo comenzaremos a hacer de manera inmediata y ese referéndum lo estaremos celebrando durante el año 2017”, comentó el presidente del PPD, David Bernier.
En horas de la tarde de hoy, cuando la reunión aún no comenzaba, el presidente de la Cámara de Representantes, Jaime Perelló, reconoció que la propuesta de estadidad sí o no era un buen primer paso para romper los esquemas.
“No solamente por los acontecimientos más recientes, sino por la evolución de nuestra relación de los Estados Unidos. Llego el momento de trabajar una nueva relación. Los últimos acontecimientos ponen obviamente al Estado Libre Asociado en una condición colonial. Yo creo que eso es lo primero que uno debe reconocer, pero eso lo que debe hacer es motivarnos a buscar soluciones reales, soluciones que realmente son efectivas. Yo lo he dicho una y otra vez. Yo creo que la propuesta de estadidad sí o no es un buen primer paso y romper esquemas y realmente movernos a una solución al estatus”, dijo Perelló.
Al llegar a la reunión de la Junta, que se lleva a cabo en el Comité del PPD, en Puerta de Tierra, Perelló indicó que si se realiza un plebiscito sobre el estatus de Puerto Rico, y ganaba la estadidad, Estados Unidos debía atender el reclamo en un corto tiempo.
“Si gana la estadidad darle un tiempo a los Estados Unidos que responda a ese reclamo, que debe ser un tiempo muy corto. Son más de 60 años de relación con los Estados Unidos y si no responden activar automáticamente una Asamblea Constitucional de Estatus para trabajar esa relación con los Estados Unidos. Si gana el no ir automáticamente a una Asamblea Constitucional de Estatus. Aquí hay dos relaciones que de salida son dignas que es la independencia y la estadidad”, abundó Perelló.
Por su parte, el senador Martín Vargas indicó que el Partido Popular bajo el liderato de David Bernier daba un paso en la afirmativa reconociendo primero el problema que tiene Puerto Rico.
“Es un problema colonial. Yo creo que hoy, más allá de lo que vamos a discutir, hoy también se decide el liderato del Partido Popular de la manera que él logre manejar una junta de gobierno que nos ha dividido por muchísimos años a la colectividad de la manera que él pueda lograr un mensaje cónsono como institución y junta de gobierno”, dijo Vargas.
Mientras, el presidente del Senado, Eduardo Bhatia comentó que el PPD está buscando una solución digna para todos los puertorriqueños.
“Tenemos un asunto que atender que es la relación política con los Estados Unidos que sea digna… A eso vinimos hoy, a discutirlo y presentar diferentes opciones, diferentes alternativas, diferentes pensamientos”, comentó Bhatia, quien reconoció que es una reunión de una profunda responsabilidad puertorriqueña.
Del mismo modo, la alcaldesa de San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz destacó que Puerto Rico se mueve al desarrollo con esta decisión del tribunal, pero que es de suma importancia atender la descolonización de Puerto Rico.
“Yo creo que el Partido Popular debe asumir su responsabilidad histórica ahora con Cámara, Senado y gobernador y cumplir el compromiso de la asamblea constitucional de Estatus. Aprobarla ahora para que comience el proceso en enero, pero aprobarla ahora. No hay razón para esperar otro momento”, agregó.
Por su parte, el senador Aníbal José Torres expresó que el PPD debe atemperarse a la realidad que vive Puerto Rico, la cual incluye la decisión del Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos.
“Yo creo que hoy nos corresponde el reto y la responsabilidad histórica de aceptar la realidad como puertorriqueño y empezar a tomar las decisiones necesarias de cara al futuro, pero tenemos que atemperarlas de cara a la realidad y nuestra relación con los Estados Unidos”, dijo Torres.
El portavoz de la mayoría destacó todo tiene su momento, y este es el momento para la reunión de la Junta que presentará alternativas sobre el estatus territorial de la Isla.
“Todo tiene su momento, quizás necesitábamos el ‘jamaqueón’ necesario en estos momentos para como partido movernos”, mencionó Torres.
Agregó que esperaba que los miembros de la Junta salieran “de la reunión entendiendo que el Partido Popular tiene una responsabilidad histórica con el país y que el país necesita al Partido Popular de cara al futuro”.