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(Teresa Canino )

Washington - Two years after PROMESA, the President of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Héctor Ferrer, considers it is still possible to achieve a "model made for Puerto Rico" through which the US government has the "political will" not to interfere with the government of the island in the future.

Facing the commemoration of the 66th anniversary of the Commonwealth Constitution, which coincides with the 120th anniversary of the US invasion, Ferrer will speak to his militants on Wednesday, in Caguas, about the crossroads Puerto Rico faces. 

 In the midst of the fiscal and public debt crisis, US Congress and court have deepened the island's territorial relationship.

"For us, it is a negotiation process, about what can come from the relationship... amendments to federal laws, a greater participation in Congress, for some, the elimination of the Cabotage Law," said Ferrer, a former House representative, during meetings he hold last week with members of Congress.

Ferrer traveled to the federal capital with former Senator Roberto Prats, José Alfredo Hernández Mayoral who is in charge of the PPD Federal Affairs; and lawyer Luis Balbino Arroyo.

The community leader said that, during his meetings, he found that in Congress they consider three possible alternatives for the island: statehood, independence and the Commonwealth.

  

This, despite the fact that the most recent local plebiscites show voters favored statehood. 

"They see the Commonwealth as part of independence," he said, moving away from a proposal that, with a different tone, is defended by other voices in the PPD, such as the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz.

Ferrer did not mentions those federal lawmakers he met with between Wednesday and Thursday, but the visits included the House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

When the PPD leadership travels to Washington D.C., their meetings usually include Republican Senator Roger Wicker (Mississippi) and Democratic Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (New York). 

A viable model

Ferrer foresees it is possible to develop with the Congress "a model that is viable for the people of Puerto Rico, within the Commonwealth concept", which he insists is based on the "permanent union", the "American citizenship" and the Puerto Rican identity, among other things. 

  

"What is important about all these meetings is that we talked about future conversations to find out how the Commonwealth will be developed," he assured.

Through PROMESA Congress created the Oversight Board on June 30, 2016 that oversees the financial decisions of the elected government of Puerto Rico and a territorial judicial system to restructure the public debt of over $ 70 billion. 

Under that body, which goes over the Commonwealth Constitution, the Board -that may exist at least until 2026 and is based on the current territorial status- makes the final decisions on fiscal plans and the annual budgets of the island´s government.

At the same time PROMESA was approved, the US Supreme Court -in the case of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rican v. Sánchez Valle-, reaffirmed on June 9, 2016 that the source of power of Puerto Rico lies in Congress. It also compared the autonomy of the island with that of a city before a state.

In her first fundamental interpretation of PROMESA and the Board, although it does not constitute a precedent, Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who addresses the territorial bankruptcy, assured that Congress has exercised for a long time its plenary power of Article IV (of the US Constitution) to structure and define government entities for the island."

Given the power of Congress to grant and remove powers to the local government, plus the fact that a Congress does not undermine another, Ferrer said that "this has to be addressed so that the relationship is worthy."

To further complicate the legal debate, Ferrer also supports that the PPD -that distances itself from the Commonwealth concept- aspires to a relationship outside the plenary powers that the clause for territories of the US Constitution grants to Congress over the island.

According to Ferrer, "statehood in Congress is dead," despite the fact that Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González "submits five projects," "and the island does not want independence."

In ensuring that Congress "is not willing to grant statehood or independence," Ferrer was confident that they will find "the right model for Puerto Rico."


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