19 November 2011

Puerto Rico considers legislation for political status referendum


Mark Keller
Americas Society/Council of the Americas

Come 2012, Puerto Ricans may find themselves considering the island’s political status. On October 5, Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño submitted a proposal to the legislature seeking a two-part referendum that could allow Puerto Ricans to choose their island’s political future.

This is not the first such referendum in Puerto Rico—previous votes were held in 1967, 1993 and 1998—though none reached a conclusive outcome. The proposal comes less than a week after U.S. President Barack Obama indicated that a super-majority favoring change would be necessary for the U.S. Congress to take up the issue. Attitudes within the island are mixed, with the ruling party supporting statehood and the opposition contending that, with rising crime and high unemployment, Puerto Rico has more pressing issues.

In a televised address to his constituents on October 4, Governor Fortuño announced that Puerto Rico’s “moment has come” to decide its political future, and the next day submitted a 24-page proposal to the Puerto Rican Congress. The legislation proposes a referendum in two parts. In the first part, to be held on August 12, 2012, Puerto Ricans will be asked if they want a change in the island’s status. If voters indicate that they do, a second vote will be held during November 2012 gubernatorial elections that will allow voters to choose between independence, U.S. statehood, or sovereign-free association—the last of which is a status similar to the island’s present commonwealth status.

But the result of any plebiscite would have to be approved by the U.S. government to be valid. The elections would be open only to the island’s 3.7 million residents and not the larger stateside diaspora, numbered at 4.6 million in 2010.

Read the full article here .