Is Puerto Rico a Classic Colony?
SAN JUAN – After the U.S. assistant attorney general and the U.S. solicitor general expressed to the U.S. Supreme Court in their arguments on the Luis. M. Sánchez Valle case on whether Puerto Rico and the U.S. are separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the debate on the criminal case turned political took a turn to address, albeit indirectly, what everybody had speculated about: Puerto Rico’s political status as seen by the U.S. government.
Reactions to such a statement vary dramatically, depending on who’s reacting and what his or her political status preference is.
“I am convinced the position expressed by the attorney general in this case, aside from being at odds with its previous positions, is incorrect. I foresee that, in accordance with previous expressions made by the [U.S.] Supreme Court about the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico’s position will be validated,” said Gov. Alejandro García Padilla in a written statement Thursday night.
The governor said the attorney general himself admits in his argument that he has decided to opt for a position different to previous ones adopted by his office.
For García Padilla, the U.S. Congress recognized the commonwealth a “degree of autonomy” similar to that of any state of the Union, since the “compact” between the two countries was enacted by Congress and ratified by the majority of the people of Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico is not a mere territory. It enjoys an unparalleled relation within the American constitutional framework,” García Padilla stated.
The U.S. government’s argument stems from the appeal made to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case “The People of Puerto Rico v. Luis Sánchez Valle,” where the defendant stood trial on criminal charges in both the Puerto Rico court and the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Sánchez Valle’s defense contends he cannot by tried twice for the same crime because the U.S. Constitution protects him against such, and because Puerto Rico is not a separate jurisdiction from the U.S. because it has no separate sovereignty from the U.S.
The government of Puerto Rico argues to the contrary, that the island does enjoy sovereignty and because of that the constitutional guaranty against the double jeopardy defence does not apply.
However, Resident Commissioner and New Progressive Party President Pedro Pierluisi thinks differently.
“Said allegation confirms, once again, that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States subject to the plenary authority of Congress and that Puerto Rico will continue to be a territory unless, and until, it decides to become a state [of the Union] or a sovereign nation,” Pierluisi said in a written statement.
Pierluisi further considers the U.S. government’s argument before the court negates the relation between Puerto Rico and the U.S. is “in the nature of a compact” and that it cannot be changed unilaterally by the U.S.