- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The editorial “Puerto Rican run” (Feb. 26) needs clarification. H.R. 2499 is not a partisan Democratic bill, nor does it seek Puerto Rico statehood vote-fixing. A similar bill was submitted previously by Puerto Rico’s past nonvoting Republican representative.

Federal law reigns supreme, but Puerto Rico is not allowed to have a presidential vote and has but a single nonvoting resident commissioner in the House. Congress indeed rules in Puerto Rico, but not by consent of the governed. The plenary authority of Congress as the owner of the unincorporated territory is undeniable. But authority comes with commensurate responsibility. By not extending the full protection of the Constitution to the 4 million disenfranchised U.S. citizens of the island, Congress has neglected that responsibility and fostered the existence of a separate and unequal class of U.S. citizenship. It has perpetuated a grave error of omission contrary to the most basic premise of our Declaration of Independence. The fundamental issue is not political, but one of civil rights.

The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status met for a public hearing March 3 and should be commended for drawing attention to the colonial quagmire. At the end of the day, however, is anybody else listening? In the past, with clarity of purpose, a focused task force established a road map toward a true government by consent. Unfortunately, its recommendations fell on deaf ears, and nothing happened. The task force has now been unfairly burdened by additional distracting and insurmountable responsibilities while its original mission has yet to bear fruit. In 2005 and 2007, the task force concluded that a federally sanctioned combination of plebiscites was essential in order to proceed with a dignified process of true self-determination among permanent, nonterritorial, noncolonial options. Puerto Rico’s future depends on such a stable platform, and H.R. 2499 is on the table simply following the task force’s prior recommendations. The ball remains in Congress’ court. Will Congress punt again?

RICHARD DAVETT NADAL

Mooresboro, N.C.

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