- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

For more than 50 years, the people of Puerto Rico have supported our status as a commonwealth, voting again and again to continue our current political status rather than agree to statehood or independence. We have been empowered to determine our future and, given the choice of all the options on the table in each plebiscite, we have chosen commonwealth status each time. Given that statehood has never won any of these plebiscites in Puerto Rico, statehood supporters are trying a new tactic. They have created a process to force statehood upon Puerto Rico, even if our people still do not want it.

H.R. 2499, the so-called Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, would set forth a twisted, predisposed and disturbing “self-determination” process designed to get rid of commonwealth status in order to steer the people toward a predetermined outcome in favor of statehood. This latest statehood bill, which originated in a George W. Bush administration report that was widely criticized, proposes two plebiscites structured to knock out commonwealth status early in the hope of creating a false majority in favor of statehood.

In the first proposed plebiscite, voters would be asked whether Puerto Rico should maintain its current political status (commonwealth) or adopt a different political status. Although in theory this might be a fair question, what it does, in effect, is merge voters from the statehood and independence factions and stack the deck against commonwealth defenders. Once the commonwealth option is eliminated, the bill provides for a subsequent plebiscite between independence, statehood and a nondescript “sovereignty in association with the United States,” an option that does not provide U.S. citizenship and that ignores the aspirations of the largest group of Puerto Rico’s voters, who support commonwealth. This is not only wrong, but unfair and undemocratic. H.R. 2499 not only endangers the democratic principles that are the foundation of the United States, but also fails to take into account the will of the majority of Puerto Ricans, who support commonwealth status.

As the House Committee on Natural Resources prepares to hear testimony on H.R. 2499, I, as president of the Popular Democratic Party, encourage Congress to insist upon a real self-determination mechanism that will not force statehood upon the people of Puerto Rico and to support a process that will provide productive and democratically valid options. H.R. 2499 does not do that.

HECTOR J. FERRER

President

Popular Democratic Party

San Juan, Puerto Rico

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