25 August 2011

Puerto Rico's ruling pro-integrationist party challenges commonwealth status


By Rafael R. Díaz Torres
Special to Puerto Rico Daily Sun

Puerto Rican Senate president, Thomas Rivera Schatz and Gov. (Luis) Fortuño challenged leaders from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to explain what version of the commonwealth they are promoting now under the presidency of Alejandro García Padilla.

In declarations made on Tuesday after the senatorial caucus between members of the parliamentary majority and the island’s first executive, Rivera Schatz blamed the PDP for allegedly defending a territorial commonwealth that, according to him, is threatening the provision of federal social services and funding from the U.S. central government.

“What the PDP proposes is to remain with a commonwealth that did not allow us to negotiate when the federal government wanted to cut social funding for the elderly, single mothers and health,” asserted the Senate president. “The PDP proposes to remain with a commonwealth that has us in a state of defenselessness.”

For Fortuño, the PDP leadership needs to announce to Puerto Ricans what version of commonwealth they will be defending in the eventual occurrence of a status plebiscite event like the one promoted by the New Progressive Party (NPP) majority in the legislative assembly.

“What would the PDP leadership do, what formula of status do they prefer,” asked Fortuño. “Do they prefer a sovereign commonwealth, one geared toward free association or a territorial option such as one created in 1952. Let’s just wait and see if they defend a sovereign commonwealth that threatens federal funding and the existence of the federal district court on the island.”

The issue of status was raised after members of the press asked Fortuño and Rivera Schatz about what they thought of former Gov. Pedro Rosselló’s comments regarding the possibility of holding the plebiscite after the 2012 general elections and not on the same day, as has been considered by the NPP executive and legislative leadership.

Neither Fortuño nor Rivera Schatz commented about the possible date for the status plebiscite and preferred to comment on the alleged defense of colonialism from PDP leaders.

“Now they [PDP leaders] want to divert our attention and talk about the date of the plebiscite,” said Rivera Schatz. “They keep making excuses and avoiding talking about the possibility of losing federal checks and refusing to establish taxes to corporations in order to lower taxes to Puerto Ricans.”

As part of the first phase of the plebiscite process, the NPP plans to approve legislation to ask the Puerto Rican voters whether or not they want to remain with the current territorial commonwealth established in 1952