03 February 2016

Two main independence forces call for 'definitive referendum'

SAN JUAN – The Hostosiano National Independence Movement, or MINH, lined up Monday with the Puerto Rican Independence Party’s plan to ask Washington for a definitive referendum on the political status of Puerto Rico.

“The PIP proposal should be backed by all independence movements, and, even more, by all the Puerto Rican people,” the MINH said in a statement regarding the “need for unity among patriotic forces” to resolve the question of status.

The United States invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War. Island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917 but they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.

Since 1952, the island has been a Free Associated State of the United States, an unincorporated territory with broad internal autonomy.*

Last week PIP leader Ruben Berrios proposed that the island’s main political parties speak to Washington with a single voice to demand that a binding referendum be held to determine the island’s status once and for all.

He therefore considered it necessary that all elements of the political class join forces to write the proposition to be voted on, including the choices offered to voters, matters that in previous referendums have divided politicians and have left the results with little credibility.

Last weekend the leader of the main opposition New Progressive Party, or PNP, which supports U.S. statehood for the island, Pedro Pierluisi, said he agreed with the PIP proposal.

However, Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress, rejected the possibility that this hypothetical referendum on status offer “national sovereignty” as a choice.

“To succeed we have to agree on a choice that offers more than just ‘admission as a state, yes or no.” We would prefer “statehood or independence,’ since the ambiguous term ‘national sovereignty’ could well lead to confusion,” he said.

His proposal is to vote on “statehood or independence.”

Nonetheless, the MINH lined up with the PIP while maintaining that one choice should be “statehood and sovereignty,” since this would unify both supporters of independence and defenders of the current commonwealth status, including the governing Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, which has yet to decide whether to back the proposal and enter into negotiations with the other parties.

Fifty-four percent of Puerto Rican voters supported a change in status in a non-binding referendum coinciding with the November 2012 gubernatorial election.

The ballot consisted of two questions.

Sixty-one percent of those who answered the second question favored statehood over the other two choices: enhanced commonwealth status – the PPD’s proposal – or independence.

But more than 460,000 Puerto Ricans who voted on the first status question did not respond to the second question.


* The 'commonwealth' status of Puerto Rico does not meet the mutual consent criteria of free association as defined in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV). A free associated state cannot also be an unincorporated territory. - (OTR)