April 4, 1997

After long debates the Popular Democratic Party late week ironed out a new definition of commonwealth which was submitted to Congress.

The island's three main political parties were given until March 31, 1997 to file their proposals for the status definitions to be included in the proposed 1998 status plebiscite.

Rep. Don Young R-Alaska filed at the end of February, for the second time in two years, a bill that has the purpose of defining the status of Puerto Rico. A process of "decolonizing" the island that for one hundred years has been under the sovereignty of the United States.

The commonwealth definition included in the bill was unsatisfactory by most PDP leaders which were not united on the future of commonwealth The more conservative populares wanted few changes in the status quo, while more liberals proponents of free association focused on establishing a bilateral compact and granting additional rights to the island.

Last week & PDP announced it had consensus.

Following is the party's proposal:

A new commonwealth relationship:

(A)The new Commonwealth of Puerto Rico would be joined in a union with the United States that would be permanent ad the relationship could only be altered mutual consent. Under a compact, the Commonwealth would be an autonomous body politic with its own character and culture, not incorporated into the United States, and sovereign over matters governed by the Constitution of Puerto Rico, consistent with the Constitution of the United States.

(B) The United States citizenship of persons born in Puerto Rico would he guaranteed and secured as provided by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and equal to that of citizens born in the several states. The individual rights, privileges, immunities provided for the Constitution of the States would apply to residents of Puerto Rico. Residents of Puerto Rico would be entitled to receive benefits under Federal social programs equally with residents of several States contingent on equitable contributions Puerto Rico as provided by law.

 (C) To enable Puerto Rico to govern matters necessary to its economic, social and cultural development under its constitution, the Commonwealth would be authorized to submit proposals for the entry of Puerto Rico into international agreements or the exemption of Puerto Rico from specific Federal laws a provisions thereof to the United States. The President and the Congress, as appropriate, would consider whether such proposals would be consistent with the vital national interests of the United States on an expedited basis through special procedures to be provided by law. The Commonwealth would assume any expenses related to increased responsibilities resulting from the approval of these proposals.

See related commentary:

In-Depth Analysis of the PDP Definition, Staff Reporter

Supreme Court and Department of Justice Positions, Staff Reporter

Constitutional implications of the Commonwealth Proposal, Staff Reporter

Understanding Free Association as a form of Separate Sovereignty, by Fred M. Zeder II

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