- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Your editorial on the Puerto Rico Democracy Act (“Puerto Rican run,” Friday) sorely missed the mark on overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation moving through the U.S. House. The measure would provide a process for plebiscites in Puerto Rico regarding the territory’s political status.

Under this straightforward bill (H.R. 2499), the territorial government could conduct periodic plebiscites asking voters if they want Puerto Rico’s current status to continue or if they want another status. If at some point, a majority does not favor the current status, a plebiscite could be held to ask their preference among the three possible alternatives: independence, national sovereignty in free association with the United States and statehood. The result of these plebiscites would not be binding on Congress.

The island’s minority “commonwealth” party likes to misrepresent this straightforward process as somehow favoring one status option over the others. Their real complaint about this bill is that it does not include their fanciful proposal of empowering Puerto Rico to nullify federal laws and court jurisdiction and to enter international arrangements as if the island were a sovereign nation - with the United States permanently bound to grant more benefits financed by U.S. taxpayers than at present.

Your editorial also makes an inaccurate inference that the bill is a Democratic proposal. The fact is that the process was first proposed by the George W. Bush administration, and 58 Republicans are among the bill’s 182 co-sponsors. In addition, Puerto Rico’s governor, Senate president and House speaker - all Republicans - support the legislation.

You conclude there is nothing wrong with letting people analyze their governing status. We agree. A main premise of the bill is that Congress will be better able to decide what action, if any, is appropriate on the issue once it knows if Puerto Ricans want the current status or one of the possible alternatives. It is at the very heart of our democratic process in this country to ask the citizens of Puerto Rico these basic and fundamental questions about their governance.



SEN. ROBERTO ARANGO

Majority leader, Puerto Rico Senate

San Juan

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