Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Washington, DC, today warned he does not have "great expectations" about the recommendations.



Note: Yesterday, May 25th, the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status held its second hearing in the Obama's first term in Washington, DC, following up on its first hearing that was held in Puerto Rico. Outside of Puerto Rico, there was very little coverage of this event and so below we tried to put together information to provide a sense of the proceedings.
At yesterday's hearing, they announced that if anyone is interested in weighing in on any of the issues being considered by the Task Force (status, Vieques, the Island economy, etc.), one can write to them directly at puertorico@who.eop.gov.
To view the proceedings, click on the following links:

"Pierliuisu Does Not Expect Much from the White House"

by Jose A. Delgado

El Nuevo Dia (May 26, 2010)

"White House holds hearing today on PR status, economy, Vieques" by Robert Friedman, Puerto Rico Daily Sun (May 25, 2010)

Pierluisi Does Not Expect Much from the White House
Thinks they will continue policy of "neutrality" on status issue
By José A. Delgado
(May 26, 2010)
WASHINGTON -

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Washington, DC, today warned he does not have "great expectations" about the recommendations on Puerto Rico's political status can be made in October by the interagency White House group, the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.

"It is a low priority," said Pierluisi, saying he does not believe that the 'task force' is likely to take sides in its first progress report on Puerto Rico's issues due in October when it will review the status alternatives that the Island has and the procedures that it should be used to guide the debate.
"You can't cover the sky with your hand. They want to be as fair as possible with the two main ideological actors," said Pierluisi, referring to estadolibristas (Commonwealthers) and statehooders and commenting on Tuesday's session at the White House by the interagency group that examined issues such as status, economic development, Vieques and others.
To Pierluisi, the analysis to be made by the interagency group designated by President Barack Obama cannot go beyond acknowledging, as did the House of Representatives on the HR 2499 bill on status, that Puerto Rico has four alternatives for its political future: the current commonwealth, statehood, independence and free association.

As for the procedural mechanisms, he maintained that the real short-term alternatives are two: a plebiscite or a Constitutional Assembly on Status.

In his view, because the government of the New Progressive Party (PNP) has already decided that the procedural mechanism to be used is a status plebiscite, the Constitutional Assembly should be considered as an option only if the people vote for independence or free association.

Pierluisi, however, made clear that the report to be submitted by the presidential "task force'' --- after sessions in San Juan and Washington --- could be important in terms of the initiatives they propose "to improve the quality of life" in Puerto Rico, including matters concerning the economy and Vieques.

Hector Ferrer, president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) thinks, for his part, that the discussion on Tuesday may have helped the interagency group understand, in terms of the development of the commonwealth, that the U.S. Constitution "is as dynamic" as the federal government wishes to make it.

At the meeting, constitutionalist Richard Pildes, a professor at New York University who conducted a legal study for the PPD, supported the theory that the federal Constitution does not prevent Congress and the Executive from agreeing on a bilateral agreement that is "mutually binding" with Puerto Rico.
Ferrer also stressed that the task force co-chair, Cecilia Muñoz, warned on Tuesday that there is division in Puerto Rico on HR 2499, which was adopted by the House and is now pending in the U.S. Senate.

"That's the truth," said Ferrer, referring to the two registered opposition political parties that are against 2499.

For the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), however, Tuesday's session at the White House only indicates that the working group "does not understand its role" or its "obligation to decolonize" in Puerto Rico.

The fact that the discussions would focus on statehood and commonwealth reflect the views of "those who raise funds" for the Democratic Party, but does not mean that these are the alternatives that Puerto Rico will face in the future, said PIP's Secretary for North American Affairs, Manuel Rodriguez Orellana.
White House holds hearing today on PR status, economy, Vieques
by Robert Friedman

rfriedman@prdailysun.net
Puerto Rico Daily Sun (May 25, 2010)
WASHINGTON --- Besides discussing the island's political future and its faltering economy at a hearing today, the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status will also look into "the future of Vieques," the White House said Monday.
Few details were offered about the hearing, the second of its kind following a meeting in San Juan in March.
Sixteen of the 18-member task force are expected to gather at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House at 1 p.m., when task force co-chairs Cecilia Muñoz, who is White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Tom Perelli, associate attorney general, will offer opening remarks.
After what are called "break-out sessions" on Safety and Security, Strengthening Community Services, Building Capacity and Sustainability, and Economic Development and Financial Fitness, the members will move into full task force discussions on Vieques and status.
The final hour of the hearing, 4-to-5 p.m. is scheduled for public testimony. No witnesses were listed, but Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Ramos Vega said in San Juan that he would appear before the task force. Ramos Vega represents those in the PDP calling for a significant degree of sovereignty in the island's relationship with the United States.
Also reportedly set to appear as witnesses are two constitutional law professors: Christina Duffy Burnett of Columbia University and Richard Pildes of New York University.
The hearing will be transmitted on the Internet at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
Also on the status front, a letter from Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi was printed Monday in the Washington Post in response to a recent column titled, "Puerto Rico doesn't even want a vote, but D.C. must wait again?"
The columnist, Petula Dvorak, objected to the House passage of the Pierluisi status bill, which she wrote was "inviting Puerto Rico to join the union," before it gives a fair deal to the residents of District of Columbia, who have been pressing years for voting representative in the House. A recent bill to that end was withdrawn because of an amendment to force D.C. to give up its strong anti-gun laws, if it wanted the House vote.
Dvorak wrote: "this alluring little island is poised to have more say in Congress than anyone who lives within walking distance of America's Capitol dome.
"It's a statehood debate in reverse... Just a few days after the huge setback [to the D.C. voting bid], the House passed a bill inviting Puerto Rico to join the union."
She wrote that "for the most part, they've been happy with the way things are. Every decade or so, we ask them if they want to become our 51st star, and they politely decline."
Citing recent polls, she noted, "Things could be changing" in favor of statehood, and said later: "I have nothing against Puerto Rico becoming a state. If that's what the people want, it should happen. But doing it before addressing the inequity in our nation's capital is wrong."
Pierluisi noted that his bill "does not, in fact, invite the island to join the union. The bill simply authorizes a plebiscite process to ask voters in Puerto Rico whether they want to remain a territory, become a state or become a nation-either fully independent from or in free association with the United States."
He added in his letter: "The purpose of the bill is to clarify the status options, since there is confusion on the island on this score, and to consult Puerto Ricans on their preference. Even if a majority expresses a desire for statehood, Congress would not be bound by the results."

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