07 February 2011

Modernised Commonwealth Status Proposal Expected by March

 Opposition Popular Democratic Party finalising a more autonomous governance model

By the first week of March, the Popular Democratic Party should have a new definition of what an enhanced commonwealth should look like. That’s more than five months after PDP President Héctor Ferrer issued an order to the   Status Commission to draft a new version of   the more than 54-year old commonwealth status should be and what new powers it would incorporate.

“We have met with former governors, mayors and other leaders to discuss economics and political issues,” PDP Rep. Jorge Colberg said. Colberg, along with fellow lawmakers, Brenda López de Arrarás, Carmen Yulín Cruz, Antonio Fas Alzamora and PDP Vice-president Carlos "Charlie" Delgado, had been working on the new  version for more than eight months.

Whatever ultimately emerges from the meetings conducted by the Commission would be defined in a new pact between two sovereign nations, Puerto Rico and the United States. Although the discussion had been closely guarded and many issues are still pending, Colberg confirmed that on at least one aspect the group has agreed.

“The consensus is that the current federal law would need to be replaced by a new form of pact between the United States and Puerto Rico,” the lawmaker said.

Several sources have told the Daily Sun that the new version of the commonwealth will include enhanced powers that will allow the island to enter, as an equal partner, in several well known international organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Another aspect added under the new pact would be the power of the island to negotiate trade agreements with other nations, but only those which have diplomatic relationship with the U.S.

Colberg cited the recent enactment by Gov. Fortuno of a trade clause in negotiations with Spain that would allow the island to take advantage  of preferable trade status as a reason that the commonwealth is more viable than the statehood movement has admitted.

The Commission is also looking to deal with the complicated issue of the utilization of the U.S. merchant marine as the sole maritime goods transportation fleet.

“The use of the merchant marine had always been in discussion by the PDP. We are waiting for a legal opinion on the matter but this is an important part of the process,” Colberg said.
(Editor's Note: Puerto Rico is eligible for associate membership in UNESCO with United states concurrence. under the existing commonwealth status, whilst the constitution of the OAS provides only for independent country membership or observer status. The impending White House Report on Puerto Rico should shed light on the Obama administration's interpretation of how much autonomy would be acceptable under an enhanced commonwealth - the previous two Bush White House reports on Puerto Rico in 2005 and 2007 had left little space for any enhancements - unless the territory moved to a free association arrangement.       )

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