Thursday, July 17, 2014

Puerto Rico: Update--Gov. García to Hold Plebiscite by 2016 on US Statehood

According to The Associated Press, Gov. Alejandro García Padilla said Wednesday (July 16) that he will hold a new plebiscite by 2016 to decide the future of the island's political status.

Gov. García also said that his Popular Democratic Party (PDP) is working on a definition for the enhanced commonwealth status it supports. 

COMMENT: President Barack Obama has pledged US$2.5 million to finance a plebiscite, and the ballot would have to be approved by the US attorney general before going to voters, which politically would be a "done deal" for Attorney General Eric Holder.

In the interest of transparency,  it is essential to clarify that were the majority of Puerto Ricans to vote for US statehood, that would mean that it would be in the best interest of Eric Holder and President Obama to see Puerto Rico to become the 51st state, considering that 75% of voters in the Commonwealth voted for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

García previously said he would support a constitutional assembly to decide the US territory's status if Obama did not act on the issue.

The only possible hope is that the House-dominated Republican Party and hopefully by 2016 the Republicans will have achieved additional seats in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the island's representative in Congress whose party supports seeking statehood for Puerto Rico, said he favors a referendum that simply asks voters if they want Puerto Rico to become a US state.

Puerto Rico held a nonbinding, two-part referendum in November 2012 that was widely criticized for being too confusing. 

On the ballot's first question, more than 900,000 voters, or 54%, said they were not content with the current commonwealth status.

A second question asked voters to choose a status. 

Of the approximately 1.3 million voters who made a choice, nearly 800,000, or 61%, supported statehood. 

Some 437,000 backed sovereign free association and 72,560 chose independence. However, nearly 500,000 Puerto Ricans left that question blank.

Nonbinding referendums also were held in 1967, 1993 and 1998. 

Seeking US statehood has never garnered a clear majority, and independence has never obtained more than 5% of the vote.