Letter to Sen Ron Wyden and Sen Lisa Murkowski, Dec 19th, 2013

December 19, 2013

Hon. Ron Wyden Hon. Lisa Murkowski
Chairman Ranking Member
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
U.S. Senate U.S. Senate
221 Dirksen Senate Office Building 709 Hart Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C., 20510

Dear Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Murkowski,

I acknowledge your recent letter dated December 13 to the presidents of Puerto Rico’s three political parties following up on the hearing that your Committee held last August. I want to thank you for your continued attention to the fundamental issues of Puerto Rico’s political status.

Your reaffirmation that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico rejected their current territorial status is an accurate and powerful reminder to the political leaders and people on the island that Congress did hear the collective expression of voters, and that it cannot be ignored.

Furthermore, your statements emphasizing that non-viable status options such as “enhanced commonwealth” should not be considered in any future formal process to determine the Island’s political status is also a very powerful pronouncement. It helps both political leaders and voters on the Island understand that efforts to resolve the political status issue should only contemplate constitutional realistic and viable options, and that the demagoguery of those who continue to promote fantasies as alternatives to the now indisputably delegitimized territory status will not be accepted. These statements contribute to the further clarification of the political status debate. We are grateful that you have publicly expressed the truth.
Beyond clarifying the options available to Puerto Rico, your letter and your statements during the hearing last August serve to refute the arguments espoused by the opponents of change in Puerto Rico, who continue to try to impose their discredited perspective contrary to the democratic will of the majority of voters.

The root of the argument against the November 2012 plebiscite can be traced directly to the Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP) governing board resolution, dated February 11, 2012. That resolution clearly exposes the PDP’s fundamentally flawed logic for opposing the plebiscite. It wrongly asserts that the current “Commonwealth” status was not in ballot, because in the PDP’s view, “the Commonwealth is not and should not be subject to the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress.” Unfortunately, this perspective fails to accept the territorial nature of Puerto Rico’s current status which makes the Island subject to the authority of Congress under Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, opposition to the plebiscite or arguments questioning the validity of its results on that basis are invalid.

The PDP resolution tries to further rationalize their opposition to the plebiscite and its results, stating that the ballot did not include “enhanced Commonwealth.” However, as your letter clearly pronounced: “non-viable status options such as the ‘enhanced commonwealth’ should not be considered, as they confuse the debate and undermine efforts to resolve this issue.” Consequently, this PDP argument, which served as a basis for their opposition to the plebiscite before it was carried out, as the sole basis for that party’s call for voters to leave the second question blank as a so-called form of “protest,” and as the basis for arguing that the official results of the second question in the plebiscite are invalid because of those very same blank answers to the second question, is not just baseless but completely deceptive.

Besides, our electoral statute in Puerto Rico establishes that blank votes are not valid and should not be counted in favor of any candidate or proposal. Secondly, both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court have upheld that blank ballots are not valid and should not be credited for any position or candidate or even taken into consideration in any determination of a majority. Additionally, the PDP never adopted the position that the votes should be cast blank. The PDP president and other leaders stated that they personally favored that position and at the same time other leaders stated the opposite. The PDP never campaigned for that position.

For informed observers of this debate, your letter directly refutes the core argument that the PDP employs to try to dismiss the official plebiscite results. Based on your logic the only rational and coherent interpretation of the results of the plebiscite is that a majority of voters in Puerto Rico oppose the current territorial condition, that among the only three valid and viable alternatives statehood has the most support, and that there is more support for statehood than for the current territorial status. What this means is that the only clear mandate in favor of changing Puerto Rico’s political status is for statehood.

Being the leaders of the committee that holds sole jurisdiction over this issue your letter demonstrates a serious and sincere will to move this debate forward, so I urge you to use your power to initiate legislative action. “Igualdad” petitions you and or your colleagues in the Committee to introduce a companion bill to H.R. 2000 or a similar bill that directly responds to the results of Puerto Rico’s political status plebiscite and provides a process to end our current territory status by opening the path to full equality within our American democracy for the 3.6 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico.

We look forward to your continued leadership on this issue of great importance to both Puerto Rico and the United States.

Hernán Padilla
Igualdad, Futuro Seguro

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