Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla has stressed before a US Senate panel that the island’s November’s plebiscite failed to include the “enhanced commonwealth” option on the ballot.
García Padilla, in testimony last week before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said the non-binding referendum fell short of providing “a true self-determination process.” He claimed that even though the Commonwealth Elections Commission of Puerto Rico “certified that 1,878,969 participated and that 834,191 voted for statehood. The truth is that of the total of votes cast, only 44.4 percent favor statehood.”
Voters were asked two questions: the first, whether to continue under the current status as a Free Associated State (or commonwealth) of the United States, and the second, which of the three options – statehood, independence, or free association – they preferred. While 54 percent preferred ending the current status, more than 460,000 Puerto Ricans declined to vote on the second question, reported EFE News Service.
The 2012 plebiscite was organized by García Padilla’s predecessor, Luis Fortuño, with the pro-statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista party.
García Padilla, with the pro-commonwealth Partido Popular Democrático, repeated his preference for a proposal by the Obama Administration for a new vote which would include a fourth option — modification of the current commonwealth agreement — in the hands of Puerto Rico.
However, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the committee’s chairman, said any future referendum should include only two options: statehood or independence.