> Author Index > T - Authors > Dick Thornburgh Quotes

Dick Thornburgh Quotes





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.
 

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.
 

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.
 

Federal program and services outlay in Puerto Rico is approximately $10 billion per year.
 

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.
 

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.
 

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.
 

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.
 

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.
 

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.
 

It is quite understandable that Puerto Ricans seek to preserve a cultural sense of identity without separating politically from U.S. national sovereignty.
 

Now that the there is a path for the people of Puerto Rico to express their self-determination on Puerto Rico's political status, there are some who seek to block that path.
 

Specifically, the reservation of sovereignty to the people of the states in matters not governed by federal law is constitutionally defined and permanently enshrined in the 10th Amendment.
 

That is why, with optimism instead of fear, all those who want to see Puerto Rico's status resolved should seek the truth about each option, including the upside and the downside of each.
 

The capacity of the commonwealth government created under the local constitution to exercise governmental powers in local affairs is like that of local government in the states of the union in regard to non-federal affairs at the local level.
 

The need for a permanent status resolution approved by Congress is made even more clear to me because of my experience as a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
 

The political status legislation which emerged in Congress in 1990 and 1991 did not receive the support needed for enactment into law during my tenure as Attorney General.
 

The powers of government exercised locally derive from a federal law authorizing government by consent in local affairs only, unless those affairs are otherwise governed by federal law.
 

Yet, individuals and corporations in Puerto Rico pay no federal income tax.
 

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.