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It is quite understandable that Puerto Ricans seek to preserve a cultural sense of identity without separating politically from U.S. national sovereignty.
Internal self-government under a local constitution was authorized by Congress and approved by the residents in 1952, but federal law is supreme in Puerto Rico and residents do not have voting representation in the Congress.
Instead of generating either unnecessary alarm or a false sense of security regarding these fundamental issues, the best course is to empower people with the truth.
In historical and constitutional terms, the recent political status vote in Puerto Rico was a necessary but obviously not decisive step on the road of self-determination leading to full self-government.
If U.S. national sovereignty continues, it is only as a state that Puerto Rico will have permanent 10th Amendment powers over its non-federal affairs, as well as voting power in Congress.
If Congress does its job in this regard, the residents of Puerto Rico will be empowered to act in their own self-interest and express their future political status aspirations accordingly.
However, the sovereignty of the states is constitutionally defined and recognized, while the powers of the local government in Puerto Rico are defined by, and subject to alteration under, federal statutory law.
Federal program and services outlay in Puerto Rico is approximately $10 billion per year.
As the highest ranking American official in the United Nations organization, I came to understand thoroughly that the national constitutional processes of the member states define the status of territories under their sovereignty.
Apparently tired of waiting for clear direction from Congress, the people of Puerto Rico have used the tools provided by their own local constitution to schedule a vote for Dec. 13 on the status of the island.
After one hundred years of federal rule, the United States House of Representatives has moved to provide for the first meaningful route to self-determination for the Puerto Rican people under our federal system.
Yet, Puerto Rico's economic convergence and political integration with the rest of the nation is in a state of arrest - even though the island has been within the national borders, political system and customs territory of the U.S. for a century.
Yet, individuals and corporations in Puerto Rico pay no federal income tax.
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