In December 2003, President George W. Bush amended an executive order originally issued by his predecessor. Like the original, the Bush version establishes the Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status to "seek to implement the policy" it sets forth, namely: .... to help answer the questions that the people of Puerto Rico have asked for years" regarding the options for a future status and a corresponding process. It would also "consider and develop" positions on proposals, discuss them with Puerto Rican and congressional representatives, and clarify options "not incompatible with the Constitution and basic laws and policies" of the United States. Only then would the Task Force consider implementation.

The hortatory nature of Bush's order does lot commit the United States to resolving Puerto Rico's century-old undemocratic status as a colonial territory under the U.S. Constitution. Its timid policv-to-implement-a-policv approach would be passable if it were to actually set in motion a decolonizing process. But further doubts regarding its seriousness arise from the fact that the amended version postpones a required progress report from one year to two years, three years after it was originally issued!

The White House press release of this procrastinating approach occurs when Bush is openly courting - some say pandering to - the Hispanic vote in the United States. It curiously coincides with the status procrastination proposal of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party president, resident commissioner and current gubernatorial candidate of Puerto Rico. While he holds to the PDP's traditional status-is-not-an-issue stance, he also tries to placate decolonization sentiment within his party, which has the executive and legislative power to act on status now, by promising to hold a referendum to inquire what to do, if he wins the election.

A healthy sense of skepticism compels us to question the seriousness of the Republican candidate for U.S. president, as well as that of the PDP's gubernatorial candidate, where Puerto Rico's status is concerned. Skepticism regarding the order's quasi-policy grows in light of the history of attempts to provide for federally sponsored referenda on status during the 1990s. Among the prominent reasons for their failure are U.S. reticence to speak clearly about the problems that would arise with a statehood offer to a Spanish-speaking, Latin American country of the Caribbean; the scant knowledge or concern among government officials, Republicans or Democrats, for our people's inalienable right to self-determination; and a general lack of enthusiasm in the White House to assign high priority to legislation on this subject.

In Puerto Rico, skepticism yields to incredulity regarding PDP promises to do anything on status. The PDP administration has done absolutely nothing, in spite of the governor's campaign platform and reiterated promises to initiate a process during her term in office. ("An excellent idea," she publicly called the notion of a constituent status assembly.) Finally, one should not overlook the opportunity that the Executive Order Redux also afforded the Republican-affiliated candidate for resident commissioner of the pro-statehood party to claim some credit for the executive order's rehash.

If Bush is serious about putting the Task Force to work, he should do more than a politically timed press release. Perhaps a press conference on the subject would be more convincing. After all, only two years ago, in Sweden, he signaled the course of US policy regarding Vieques to the international community in a press conference. The State of the Union message carne and went without even a passing reference to Puerto Rico's status; but the United Nations remains, as always, an appropriate forum for a serious policy pronouncement of international implications, as the case of Puerto Rico warrants.

In any case, the time is right for a Puerto Rican initiative that could activate the Task Force as an interlocutor in Washington to advance our decolonization. The Puerto Rican Independence Party's decades-old call for a status assembly is no longer the voice of a sole political party clamoring in the colonial wilderness. The Puerto Rico Bar Association has historically favored this concept. Other organizations of Puerto Rico's civil society have also expressed their support. Even prominent statehood advocates concede that Puerto Rico's status would most fairly be resolved through such a process.

Although there is a growing consensus in favor of a status assembly among PDP stalwarts, only time will tell if the flowery accolades of PDP leaders in the wake of the mayor of Ponce's untimely death were sincere. Within the PDP, no one was more vocal than he when it came to calling a spade a spade and commonwealth, a colony. He was a thorn in the side of a decadent commonwealth leadership, content with the imperial Cold War vision of Puerto Rico as a U.S. military base, and worked to raise consciousness, among his party's rank-and-file, of the need for Puerto Rico's sovereignty through a status assembly.

If only the U.S. government and the PDP administration in Puerto Rico had the political will to act now, Puerto Rico could make important strides in our quest for decolonization.

In December 2003, President George W. Bush amended an executive order originally issued by his predecessor. Like the original, the Bush version establishes the Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status to "seek to implement the policy" it sets forth, namely: .... to help answer the questions that the people of Puerto Rico have asked for years" regarding the options for a future status and a corresponding process. It would also "consider and develop" positions on proposals, discuss them with Puerto Rican and congressional representatives, and clarify options "not incompatible with the Constitution and basic laws and policies" of the United States. Only then would the Task Force consider implementation.

The hortatory nature of Bush's order does lot commit the United States to resolving Puerto Rico's century-old undemocratic status as a colonial territory under the U.S. Constitution. Its timid policv-to-implement-a-policv approach would be passable if it were to actually set in motion a decolonizing process. But further doubts regarding its seriousness arise from the fact that the amended version postpones a required progress report from one year to two years, three years after it was originally issued!

The White House press release of this procrastinating approach occurs when Bush is openly courting - some say pandering to - the Hispanic vote in the United States. It curiously coincides with the status procrastination proposal of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party president, resident commissioner and current gubernatorial candidate of Puerto Rico. While he holds to the PDP's traditional status-is-not-an-issue stance, he also tries to placate decolonization sentiment within his party, which has the executive and legislative power to act on status now, by promising to hold a referendum to inquire what to do, if he wins the election.

A healthy sense of skepticism compels us to question the seriousness of the Republican candidate for U.S. president, as well as that of the PDP's gubernatorial candidate, where Puerto Rico's status is concerned. Skepticism regarding the order's quasi-policy grows in light of the history of attempts to provide for federally sponsored referenda on status during the 1990s. Among the prominent reasons for their failure are U.S. reticence to speak clearly about the problems that would arise with a statehood offer to a Spanish-speaking, Latin American country of the Caribbean; the scant knowledge or concern among government officials, Republicans or Democrats, for our people's inalienable right to self-determination; and a general lack of enthusiasm in the White House to assign high priority to legislation on this subject.

In Puerto Rico, skepticism yields to incredulity regarding PDP promises to do anything on status. The PDP administration has done absolutely nothing, in spite of the governor's campaign platform and reiterated promises to initiate a process during her term in office. ("An excellent idea," she publicly called the notion of a constituent status assembly.) Finally, one should not overlook the opportunity that the Executive Order Redux also afforded the Republican-affiliated candidate for resident commissioner of the pro-statehood party to claim some credit for the executive order's rehash.

If Bush is serious about putting the Task Force to work, he should do more than a politically timed press release. Perhaps a press conference on the subject would be more convincing. After all, only two years ago, in Sweden, he signaled the course of US policy regarding Vieques to the international community in a press conference. The State of the Union message carne and went without even a passing reference to Puerto Rico's status; but the United Nations remains, as always, an appropriate forum for a serious policy pronouncement of international implications, as the case of Puerto Rico warrants.

In any case, the time is right for a Puerto Rican initiative that could activate the Task Force as an interlocutor in Washington to advance our decolonization. The Puerto Rican Independence Party's decades-old call for a status assembly is no longer the voice of a sole political party clamoring in the colonial wilderness. The Puerto Rico Bar Association has historically favored this concept. Other organizations of Puerto Rico's civil society have also expressed their support. Even prominent statehood advocates concede that Puerto Rico's status would most fairly be resolved through such a process.

Although there is a growing consensus in favor of a status assembly among PDP stalwarts, only time will tell if the flowery accolades of PDP leaders in the wake of the mayor of Ponce's untimely death were sincere. Within the PDP, no one was more vocal than he when it came to calling a spade a spade and commonwealth, a colony. He was a thorn in the side of a decadent commonwealth leadership, content with the imperial Cold War vision of Puerto Rico as a U.S. military base, and worked to raise consciousness, among his party's rank-and-file, of the need for Puerto Rico's sovereignty through a status assembly.

If only the U.S. government and the PDP administration in Puerto Rico had the political will to act now, Puerto Rico could make important strides in our quest for decolonization.