Saturday, December 14, 2013

U.S. Senate Leaders Caution Regarding New "Commonwealth" Status and Assembly Plan 12/14/13 00:36 from Puerto Rico Report

» U.S. Senate Leaders Caution Regarding New "Commonwealth" Status and Assembly Plan
12/14/13 00:36 from Puerto Rico Report
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate committee responsible for the political status of Puerto Ricans today advised territories against Considering the "Commonwealth" [...] 

» Insist exclude option ELA improved
13/12/13 18:21 from El Nuevo Día: Politics
federal Senate leaders sent a letter to the chairmen of the political parties in Puerto Rico

US Senate Leaders Caution Regarding New “Commonwealth” and Status Assembly Plan 

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The Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate committee responsible for the political status of territories advised Puerto Ricans today against considering the  “Commonwealth” party’s ‘developed Commonwealth’ plan or similar proposals for the territory’s status.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Minority Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) cautioned that such proposals “confuse the debate” over the Puerto Rico’s ultimate status “and undermine efforts to resolve this issue of great importance.”
The U.S. Senate leaders wrote the presidents of the territory’s “Commonwealth,” statehood, and Independence parties because Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth” party-controlled government is preparing to call a government assembly to make the  ‘developed Commonwealth’ plan the territory’s future status proposal.
Further discouraging such an assembly, the senators noted that the U.S. Congress is still considering President Obama’s proposal for responding to the status plebiscite conducted by Puerto Rico along with its elections in November 2012. Obama’s proposal is for a Federally supported vote on one or more of the plebiscite’s options.
The plebiscite rejected Puerto Rico’s current territory status and overwhelmingly chose statehood among the possible alternatives.  The other options are independence and nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end.
The Obama vote would be on an option or options proposed by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission, which includes a representative of each of Puerto Rico’s status-based political parties.  The proposed option or options would have to be found by the U.S. Department of Justice to not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the U.S.
The White House embraced the 2012 plebiscite and its results but proposed another vote because Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and the other ‘commonwealthers’ who control Puerto Rico’s government elected at the time of the plebiscite dispute the plebiscite and results.  Their opposition threatened to cause Congress to not act on Puerto Ricans’ self-determination petition for equality within the U.S.
Like the plebiscite, the vote proposed by the Obama Administration would not include the “Commonwealth” party’s proposal for an unprecedented “Commonwealth status” because it has no possibility of being implemented.  
Wyden and Murkowski, who termed the ‘developed Commonwealth’ proposal “non-viable,” urged Garcia to work with the presidents of Puerto Rico’s other parties to “give the people of Puerto Rico a meaningful choice in determining the future of the Islands” — a choice that does not include the impossible ‘developed Commonwealth’ proposal.
Under the proposal, the “Commonwealth” government would be permanently empowered to nullify Federal laws and court jurisdiction in Puerto Rico and to enter into international agreements as if it were a sovereign nation.  The U.S. would also be obligated to grant Puerto Rico new economic benefits along with all current assistance to Puerto Ricans and continued U.S. citizenship.
In addition to congressional committee leaders such as Wyden and Murkowski, the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations have said that the ‘developed Commonwealth’ proposal is impossible for constitutional and other reasons
“Commonwealth” party leaders — who have used government resources to lobby the Federal government to not act in response to the vote of Puerto Ricans in the plebiscite — have said that they will call their status assembly if the Federal government does not act in response to the plebiscite this year.

The Republican-controlled Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives has approved Democrat Obama’s proposal.  Final congressional consideration is expected to come early next year.

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Representative Explains Territory Status is Reason for Puerto Rico’s Poor Economy 

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Puerto Rico’s budgetary problems and worsening economy has been the focus of a great deal of national and international news media attention since the end of August.  The coverage was prompted by a precipitous drop in the value of its Commonwealth bonds, which are widely held throughout the United States.
Bond buyers and reporters have speculated on whether the territory would default on its excessive debt.
Puerto Rico’s economy has been ailing for many years: After narrowing for a couple of decades, the gap between incomes in the Commonwealth and incomes in the States has grown for a third of a century.  The economy has been in recession for all but a year of the past seven and a half years, and the growth during that year rarely exceeded 1% in any one month.  Only two-fifths of working age Puerto Ricans are in the workforce, compared with three fifths in the States.  Even with this the unemployment rate is 14.7% while it is 7% in the States. The unemployment and related problems are driving more Puerto Ricans to the mainland and increasing crime in the Commonwealth.
On December 4th, Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government, Pedro Pierluisi explained the root cause of the problem in an address to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It pains me to read media accounts of the island’s troubles,” he began “especially because I know that my constituents are just as capable and industrious as their fellow citizens in any other U.S. jurisdiction.”
Indeed, Puerto Rico’s labor force had been recognized as a factor that increases the territory’s competitiveness. Still, as Pierluisi pointed out, “Puerto Rico’s economic performance and, by extension, quality of life … has been far worse than any State according to every indicator, including unemployment, average household income, and the ratio of government debt to economic production.”
As the past four decades have seen many changes in the administration of the insular government, Pierluisi pointed out, it doesn’t follow that the policies of the various governors are at fault.
Pierluisi explained that “the territory’s economic problems are structural — traceable, ultimately, to its muddled political status,” quoting an editorial in The Washington Post.
He continued:
As long as Puerto Rico remains a territory, deprived of equal treatment under critical federal spending and tax credit programs, forced to borrow heavily to make up the difference, and lacking the ability to vote for the president and members of Congress who make our national laws, the island will be in a position merely to manage, rather than to surmount, its economic problems. This is the only reasonable conclusion to draw from decades of empirical evidence.
A majority of my constituents understand this, which is why they voted to reject territory status in a referendum held one year ago. The Obama administration recognizes this as well, which is why it proposed the first federally-sponsored status vote in Puerto Rico’s history to resolve the issue once and for all. And, finally, Members of Congress from both parties comprehend this, which is why 125 of them have co-sponsored legislation I introduced that provides for an up-or-down vote in Puerto Rico on the territory’s admission as a state and outlines the steps the federal government will take if a majority of voters favor admission.
“There are many reasons to oppose Puerto Rico’s territory status,” Pierluisi continued.  It “is unequal, undemocratic and un-American… Those who refuse to acknowledge this fundamental truth for ideological reasons are doing a great disservice to the people of Puerto Rico. They are on the wrong side of history.”
Read the full text of the speech.
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Ukraine Gears up for More Anti-government Protests

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Ukraine's opposition leaders are calling for a new mass protest on Sunday, while supporters of President Viktor Yanukovych also plan a rally just a kilometer
away. Members of the opposition held direct talks with President Yanukovych Friday for the first time in more than three weeks of mass anti-government
protests. But opposition leaders emerged from the meeting, which included other political and civil society representatives, saying the president failed to meet

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