SAN JUAN – The main Puerto Rican political parties disagreed Wednesday about the recommendations made by the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status.
Puerto Rico came under Washington’s sway in 1898 and island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.
Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy
The task force report essentially endorses the idea of a two-stage referendum on political status. In the first phase, residents of Puerto Rico would be asked to choose between independence and remaining part of the United States.
If Puerto Rico’s residents opted to maintain the link with the United States, the second round of voting would be on the nature of that association: whether to remain a commonwealth or to seek full statehood.
The report suggests that if the independence option were to be approved in a future referendum, this would not mean the loss of U.S. citizenship for people born up to the moment that Puerto Rico became a sovereign nation.
Puerto Rico’s politicians accorded very little importance to the other points in the report, which discusses matters of an economic nature like improving the administration of federal funds, health care, infrastructure and the fight against crime, among other things.
Gov. Luis Fortuño, whose PNP party favors statehood, said remaining a Free Associated State – the official term for commonwealth status – is not a viable way to resolve the island’s political situation and preserves the present colonial relationship.
The chairman of the main opposition PPD, Hector Ferrer, expressed his satisfaction at the fact that the report included the suggestion to maintain, if Puerto Ricans want, the island’s commonwealth status, his party’s traditional position.
While the leader of the small Puerto Rican Independence Party, Fernando Martin, told Efe that it is unacceptable that the report included as an option maintaining the present colonial status.
“It’s denigrating and should embarrass an administration like that of President Barack Obama,” the PIP chief emphasized.
Martin said that the report is nothing else but a way of “doing the absolute minimum,” as well as ensuring that in Washington there is no willingness to promote any change in the current status of the Caribbean island.
He said that the solution to the island’s status has to come from an agreement among Puerto Ricans, since there emanates from Washington no intention to promote a way out of the current situation.
Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington, PNP stalwart Pedro Pierluisi, apparently the person most satisfied with the report’s results, said that the study contains the fullest analysis to date by the White House of the island’s status.
The report deserved and received the attention of Puerto Rico’s political class, but the media did not seem to place any importance on the news and it went practically unnoticed among the general public. EFE