Mr. Franklin D. López
703 Calle La Paz
San Juan, P.R.00907
June 22, 2011
The White House
Washington D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
First of all, thank you for your visit fulfilling a campaign promise you made during the Presidential Primary process in Puerto Rico. The writer supported your candidacy in 2008, helping Mr. Andrés W. López who coordinated your efforts on the Island.
I was State Democratic Chair of Puerto Rico from 1977-1980. I was also the first Hispanic to be appointed National Hispanic Field Coordinator in the 1976 Carter/Mondale Presidential campaign, and Deputy Campaign Manager for Ethnic Affairs in the 1980 as well.
I am first a statehooder and, secondly, a democrat. I make that distinction because the struggle to achieve political equality is above any party affiliation. Evidently, with the emblematic name given to me by a strong supporter of FDR, I can say that I was born a democrat from day one.
Puerto Ricans are very passionate about their politics and they take it very personal. That is why we have one of the highest participation percentage in electoral processes of eligible voters in the world, 86 per cent. Our National participation of registered voters is below 50%. There is a clear difference between eligible and registered.
I would like to provide an honest and sincere analysis of your Presidential visit to Puerto Rico. It is not motivated by partisanship or by ideology, but rather by a patriotic effort to establish a foundation for a self-determination process that can be accepted by the International community and the People of Puerto Rico. Let me provide you with my assessment and the implications of your visit and actions.
First: Your message. In your message to the 1000 selected invitees you said, and I quote, "First of all, we’ve addressed the question of political status. In March, a report from our presidential task force on Puerto Rican status provided a meaningful way forward on this question so that the residents of the Island can determine their own future. And when the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you." This statement is not new and is more of the same hollow messages that have kept us in a colonial carrousel for the past 113 years.
The United States policies towards Puerto Rico have been those of benign neglect. Since we became a territory of the United States, Washington has treated us with multiple segregationist policies and apartheid. Then, under the administration of President Harry S. Truman, Washington devised and created a political abstraction called "Estado Libre Asociado"- The Free Associated State. It was a genial use of words to project many different things with one single phrase. Under that colonial status we are neither a state, nor free, nor associated. We are simply a colonial regime. It was created with the intended objective of appeasing the United Nations who was demanding the self-determination of many colonies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in a post war world..
Washington promoted a political parties structure in Puerto Rico by adding the colonial pill that we have been swallowing since 1952, washing it down with the liquid of Federal funding programs. Washington has been successful in maintaining and promoting the colonial regime divided into three tribes: the "Estado Libre Asociado", the pro statehood, and the pro independence tribes. Using its Federal law enforcement agencies since the decade of the early 50s, Washington D.C. moves the colonial political pendulum and controls the party in power to its principal interest of maintaining the status quo.
Since the creation of the "Estado Libre Asociado", Washington has administered the colonial regime with segregationist policies that are inconsistent with the global projection of our government that we are "the beacon of equality and democracy." Since the end of the second World War we have gone to Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Granada, Panama, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to promote democracy and equality while the United States maintains a territory dependent on Federal programs, with a short leash imposing a colonial society.
Eisenhower, at the end of his second term, invited the opposition party leader Luis A. Ferré to return with him to Washington on Air Force One, making a "statement of support" to the statehood cause. Kennedy visited us in 1961 and projected his support to Governor Luis Muñoz Marín’s party. Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the Status Commission with joint congressional and executive commissioners. Nixon’s policies ignored our existence. Gerald Ford, in his last State of the Union speech, introduced a bill to grant statehood knowing that it was a lame duck symbolic gesture. After my presentation before the United Nations Decolonizing Committee in 1977, Carter, a president that I worked hard to get nominated and elected, signed the first Executive Order proposing the Status of Puerto Rico Alternative Futures, taking us on an endless ride in the colonial carrousel. In 1980, The Carter White House was working in a Federally sponsored status plebiscite, but was derailed by the opposition of the leaders of the NPP and PDP, who were more interested in milking the colonial administration cow! Reagan made several "statements of support" to the statehood cause keeping us in the Colonial Sargasso Sea. George H.W. Bush came to the Island and shouted to the four winds "statehood now!" taking his support in the same path of "read my lips...no more new taxes!" William J. Clinton took us in the usual routine of appointing Presidential Task Forces trying to be with all sides at the same time with no substantive interest in resolving our status issue. George W. Bush emulated Clinton and Carter issuing Presidential Proclamations full of empty and worthless words. The last 60 years of “presidential actions” have been a long and painful ride in the colonial carrousel. Your message was more of the same when The White House does not want to address an issue relevant to the democratic ideals and spirit of our Founding Fathers.
You came to Puerto Rico to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Official Visit of 1961. Your visit was supposed to be an "Official Visit." As such, The White House was supposed to follow an “Official Visit Protocol." You did not. Your plane arrived at 11:33 am, a few minutes short of lunchtime. You gave a speech at the Muñiz Military Base hangar, went to La Fortaleza, had lunch with the Popular Democratic Party candidate Alejandro García Padilla, went to the fundraiser, and departed with short of a million dollars in donations.
The fact that you decided and projected your preference to have lunch with the opposition party candidate instead of the governor has sent a chilling message to the general population of Puerto Rico. This message is the following: The President of the United States supports a candidate who participated in the drafting, and supported, the Popular Democratic Party 2008 Platform that promotes the sovereignty and associated republic status solution for Puerto Rico! On June 14, 2011 this candidate for governor said: "I do not support the presidential vote for the People of Puerto Rico. The less intervention of the Federal government in Puerto Rico the better." Therefore, the image projected by this "lunch of support" to the candidate that promotes "political segregation and apartheid" under the Commonwealth Status, will have serious political consequences both on the Island of Puerto Rico as well as in key battleground states like Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
What are these political consequences?
They are the following:
a) The spark that began the massive exodus started when Governor Sila María Calderón (PDP) invited Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves Frías to her inauguration followed by the burial of holding of Presidential Primaries in Puerto Rico. Her successor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, threw gasoline to the fire by unanimously adopting a new sovereign and separatist formula for a “new estado libre asociado”, the elimination of Federal funding on the Island, substituting it with a one-time payment by the United States in the amount of 144 billion dollars, the elimination of the Federal Court System, and many regulatory agencies. These actions caused the biggest emigration of American citizens residing in Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland in modern history. More than 550 thousand left Puerto Rico and moved mostly to Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. President George W. Bush assisted in helping the “exodus” when he classified us as "those neighbors down there don't like us", referring to the People of Puerto Rico’s opposition of the bombardment of Vieques Island by the U.S. Navy.
When the Republicans "won" the 2000 election as a result of the Supreme Court coup d’etat, I advised President Bush to be conscious of the sensitivity of sending the wrong message to the People of Puerto Rico with Presidential statements and policies. I told him that if he sent the wrong message it was going to provoke a big emigration to the U.S., especially in battleground states. The U.S. Census of 2010 confirmed my February, 2001 prediction to The White House. I received a customary response by the Deputy Chief of Staff.
In August 2004, The Washington Post confirmed that the population shift of American citizens from Puerto Rico living in the I-95 corridor was going to be a decisive factor in the Presidential contest between Bush and Kerry. The Bush campaign sent key surrogates from the statehood movement to Orlando-Kissimmee corridor and won Florida!
The U.S. Census of 2010 found that 257 thousand existing homes of Puerto Rico's housing stock are empty. That is 16.7 per cent of the total existing homes on the Island. The population that left Puerto Rico in search of a better life and job opportunities were part of the professional and productive population of Puerto Rico causing a serious negative "financial hole" to the colonial treasure. This population shift converted the recession into a severe depression with un-employment rate of 16.6%. Your emblematic "lunch" will be formidable fuel for more emigration of hundreds of thousands with dire economic consequences to Puerto Rico.
b) Your support of a candidate representing the colonial regime, which your Task Force included as an alternative for the People of Puerto Rico status, will be a very persuasive tool for the Republican candidates to express to all ethnic Latino population groups that "the first African American President supports a colonial and segregationist regime." One of the principal foundations of the Hispanic culture is the unquestionable support to family and solidarity to other Latino brothers and sisters.
The absence of political sensitivity in intervening in the electoral process of Puerto Rico affecting the self-determination status issue will generate responses and political actions by the statehood movement in Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. A poll made for a group of local investors in May 19-24, 2011 in the Orlando-Kissimmee area showed a support of 67.3 per cent for the statehood cause by Puerto Ricans living there. The Pew Hispanic Center review of the 2010 Census data shows a dramatic increase in the Hispanic vote in the 2010 Mid-Term Elections. With these numbers your re-election efforts there may be in trouble. Your "emblematic lunch" will serve as a political polarizing effort of uniting statehooders residing in Florida and elsewhere. You have to understand that we are first supporters of equality, and democrats and republicans second! In fact, on Monday, June 20, 2011 on page 30 of Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Día, the banner headline read: “Boricuas of Florida Upset with Obama.” Already a former statehood Governor, a state senator, and others have begun a call to campaign against you in Central Florida, if you don't correct the message you sent by showing support of a segregationist and colonial candidate.
c) The White House and Congress have the same responsibilities and obligations of resolving our right for political equality under statehood or under independence. Expressing your policy of "when the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you" is not the correct or right path to resolve the status question. Besides that, the message sent to the People of Puerto Rico “endorsing” the opposition candidate is a direct interference of the presidency in support of the “status quo” and the colonial candidate. Washington must bear the responsibility and commitment to provide a pristine Federal selfdetermination process to the citizens who have served the Nation and answered the call to fight for democracy in all corners of the World. Yesterday, another Puerto Rican soldier gave his life in the war of "liberating" Iraq. Why can the Nation honor the thousands of Puerto Ricans who gave their lives or were injured fighting for the cause of freedom and democracy that Washington denies them in the present colonial status?
Former Governor Pedro J. Rosselló has filed a complaint before the Organization of American States Human Rights Commission. We are working in filing complaints against the Washington policies at the United Nations Human Rights Commission and at the International Courts at The Hague. The International community only recognizes three formulas as decolonizing: independence, statehood, or free association. (See U.N. Resolution 1541-XV) Then, how can The White House propose the colonial status (Commonwealth as it is today) that causes the problem as an alternative? I believe it is the superficial treatment and absence of deep knowledge of our 500 plus years of colonial servitude by the staff of your "Presidential Task Force"! Your support, through the Presidential Task Force of the present “status quo” as an option in a decolonizing referendum is like proposing segregation and apartheid as an option to the people of South Africa during the F.W. de Klerk regime, or proposing slavery as an option to the African American during the Civil War!
1) Correct as soon as possible the "wrong message" sent by your having lunch with Senator García Padilla. If not, Puerto Rico will succumb into a whirlpool of dire and deep economic problems and crisis.
2) Initiate legislation to promote a Federally sponsored Self Determination bill in Congress with the three decolonizing formulas recognized by the International community.
3) Avoid using the Department of Justice prosecution of key political figures, with the exception of those who blatantly have violated the law, to move the political pendulum in favor of one party over the other!
4) Create a serious Washington-Puerto Rico Dialogue between key executive branch and congressional leaders to promote knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the status of Puerto Rico issue.
Mr. President, the People of our Nation trusted you with the Presidency based on your campaign theme "Change we can believe in!" Make it happen with integrity, commitment, and courage! Adopting the same policies of benign neglect and status quo is not an option in the administration of the first African-American president and the 21st Century!
Franklin D. Lopez
Former State Democratic Chair of Puerto Rico 1977-1980
Cc: The Vice President
Mr. William “Bill” Daley, Chief of Staff
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
Dr. Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for National Security
Mr. David Plouffe, Senior Advisor
Ms. Cecilia Muñoz, Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs
Mr. David Axelrod