President of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the Puerto Rico Senate, José Luis Dalmau Santiago.
President of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the Puerto Rico Senate, José Luis Dalmau Santiago. (Teresa Canino Rivera)

Washington D.C. - As president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the Puerto Rico Senate, José Luis Dalmau Santiago, asked the chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, Raúl Grijalva, to be allowed to recommend amendments to the measure by Congresswomen Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez before calling to a voting session on the status bills.

In a letter dated November 10, Dalmau Santiago reaffirmed he wants to submit amendments to bill H.R. 2070 by Democrats Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, both representing New York, to propose incorporating ‘Commonwealth’ as an alternative.

In July, Dalmau Santiago had already indicated that the PDP wanted to present amendments to the legislation. But, they have not yet disclosed the language aimed at making changes to the Puerto Rican representative’s bill, which proposes to bind Congress to a Status Convention in Puerto Rico and a referendum on non-territorial alternatives.

" Reaffirming our willingness to discuss possible amendments to House Bill 2070, I respectfully request that before holding a markup session of your committee, you allow us to present and argue the corresponding amendments that would allow the inclusion of the Commonwealth development option, as is the aspiration of the party that l lead,” Dalmau Santiago added in his letter to Grijalva sent this week.

In that letter, the PDP and Senate president said the proposed amendments would also seek to link the Velázquez and Ocasio Cortez legislation to the 2014 act requires that the U .S. Department of Justice certifies that the political status options that are included in a ballot along with the governmental educational campaign “are consistent with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States” to approve an appropriation of $2.5 million for a referendum on the island´s status.

The PDP president also told Grijalva that he has invited the island’s political parties to an “open dialogue” to try to find “common ground” on a status process in Washington or San Juan.

“I strongly believe that the matter of Puerto Rico status is best served if Puerto Rico takes the first steps through this initiative that will include all possible options,” Dalmau Santiago stated in his letter.

The idea of integrating upcoming status legislation into the January 2014 U.S. law (113-76) would allow the PDP to take advantage of the U.S. Department of Justice’s position that the territorial relationship - known as Commonwealth - has to be part of any federal referendum in Puerto Rico that incorporates status alternatives.

In his letter, Dalmau Santiago also reiterated his party’s rejection of the pro-statehood bill by Puerto Rican Democratic Representative Darren Soto (Fla.) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, who is a Republican.

Dalmau Santiago said that he has initiated a “discussion process with our Popular Democratic Party’s leadership to set the parameters of a formal proposal for the development and evolution of the Commonwealth”.

Such a proposal could be part of federal legislation, “if Congress is willing to include the Commonwealth option in any federal legislation as is required by the US Department of Justice,” Dalmau Santiago added.

Dalmau Santiago has advocated for the inclusion of the Commonwealth option.

Grijalva told El Nuevo Día last July that he wants to bring both H.R. 2070 -by Velázquez and Ocasio Cortez-, and Soto y González’s H.R. 1522 -seeking federal referendum on statehood yes-or-no and a process for admitting the island as a state- before the end of 2021.

The Democrats - who are divided on the status bills - continue to be locked in an internal struggle to advance President Biden’s social agenda, an issue that could take at least the rest of the year.

Dalmau Santiago sent Grijalva another letter last July telling the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources that the island’s legislative majority was going to propose a new referendum in Puerto Rico - linked to the 2014 law that requires the federal Justice Department to certify status definitions - if by November 3, as has happened, Congress had not acted on the results of the plebiscite in which statehood won 52.5 percent of the vote.

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