Saturday, July 25, 2009

Questioning the Status Quo

El Estado Libre Asociado (ELA) de Puerto Rico, aka the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, was officially established on July 25th, 1952. On this date, with the consent of the U.S Congress, the Puerto Rican Constitution was born and the island formally obtained its status as a self-governing territory of the United States. In essence, Puerto Ricans elect its own governor and local representatives. The island's legislative structure is similar to that of the U.S' where it has a Senate (el Senado) and a House of Representatives (La Cámara de Representates). However, the Head of State of Puerto Rico is the President of the United States. In the end, the island is subject to U.S jurisdiction.

Puerto Rico's political status has always been subject of much debate. Yesterday was the 57th anniversary of ELA, and there were celebrations on the island, especially for members of the Partido Popular Democrático (PPD), which favor the status quo. Recently, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierlusi, proposed a plan dealing with the political status of Puerto Rico, known as HR 2499, which proposes a two-tiered plebiscite. Pierlusi is in favor of statehood, who is from the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), he believes Puerto Ricans should have the right to participate in the U.S presidential elections. His plan, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, would first ask Puerto Ricans if they wish to change the island's political status. If the majority votes in the affirmative, then the second referendum would ask the people whether they want the island to become the 51st state of the U.S, or "become a sovereign nation, either fully independent or in free association with the U.S."

The island has had four referendums dealing with its status, the last one was in 1998, and it has always been a dead heat between those ELA supporters and those who are pro-statehood ("estadistas"). Personally, I think the majority of Puerto Ricans are satisfied with the status quo. It would be wonderful to have the issue resolved once and for all, but I'm afraid there will never be a consensus reached.

1 comment:

The Continental said...

Interesting summation of the debate. I personally cannot see much benefit to moving to statehood status. Puerto Ricans would then have to actually pay federal taxes just to vote in the Presidential general elections (they already vote in the primaries), and to have their members' of Congress votes count.

Statehood status would surely bring more federal revenue to the island, but I'm not sure if this would be a good deal for the US. The high poverty level makes the prospect of more money flowing to PR than flowing from it a probable one.

Then we have the issue of PR Olympic teams that the people love so much. I can't see how this would be permitted if PR became a state. Hawaii cannot have a separate team, so why would PR as a state?

I say the status quo is best for P/Ricans and the US government. If PR actually became an affluent entity, statehood might be more mutually beneficial.