Sunday, December 9, 2012

Puerto Rico: The Road to Statehood May Encounter Many Obstacles

Although former New Progressive Party Governor Luis Fortuño was in favor of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state, in-coming Governor Alejandro García Padilla and his Popular Democratic Party is not. That being said, in the November 6 election, 62%, or roughly 800,000 voters, were in favor of US statehood. 

In the months ahead a special legislative session will be established to push for approval of a resolution urging the US Congress and President Barack Obama to honor the results of a recent referendum on changing the island's political status.
In the first question of the two-part referendum, more than 900,000 voters, or 54%, said they were not content with Commonwealth status.
The second question asked what status was preferred. Some 437,000 backed sovereign free association and 72,560 chose independence. Yet, nearly 500,000 voters left that question blank, further complicating the electorate's true sentiments.
COMMENT: Needless to say, the November 6 vote, considering that Governor Fortuño lost his election, coupled with 500,000 voters failing to properly complete to the two-part referendum, could place the vote in legal jeopardy. 

In actuality, the accurate number of those who voted for statehood was 45%.
Additionally, the in-coming governor is not in favor of statehood, adding yet another wrinkle.
Notwithstanding, the US Congress might not be inclined to vote in favor of statehood, given  the fact that Puerto Rico has one of the highest levels of per capita crime of any US state or territory, not to mention a police force fraught with a history of misconduct and corruption.

It should also be mentioned that that 2011 recommendations from President Obama's Task Force on Puerto Rico disclosed that the US Congress would have authority over Puerto Rico's admittance into the US.

Another factor is that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth where Spanish is predominantly spoken. Thus, statehood no doubt would include legal strings that English would become the official language, including in government affairs, courts and schools. At the moment, less than 30% of Puerto Ricans speak English fluently.

Considering that in January, 2013, newly-inaugurated Governor Alejandro García Padilla will assume office, it is very unlikely that he will be in favor of a point of view of a governor he has defeated in a democratic election.