Uncertainty grows regarding June plebiscite following changes, calls for boycott

by May 10, 2017Headlines, Status0 comments

Following a surprising rejection from the United States Department of Justice regarding the language of plebiscite, the Rosselló administration changed the ballot options to ensure federal funding for the measure is received and the island can hold the vote. The DOJ refused to admit the materials as they were presented because they determined that the language was not clear enough on all issues to properly educate the citizens on each choice. This has led to a rewriting of the ballot and creating materials that include the option of maintaining the current territorial status. This has upset the governor and the administration who hold the view that remaining a territory is an option that limits and oppresses the Puerto Rican people. However the changes are upsetting to some of the main opposition group, the Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democático[PPD]) as well, citing that territory is too limiting a word for what Puerto Rico really is, and they are now calling for a boycott of the June 11 vote.

The party rejects the new language of the bill amending the plebiscite, based on the piece of language in the ballot that opts to have Puerto Rico remain a “territory.” This is an interjection of the DOJ who thinks that the territorial status is constitutional and still a viable option for the people and want to make clear the differences between the options. The DOJ claims that the territorial option allows them to keep their citizenship and many of the benefits currently available while maintaining the status quo of governing, or lack thereof, from the United States, but still remaining as unincorporated US land. Not a state, not a country, but land that belongs to the US government.

The PPD claims that the use of the word territory is a limiting notion of what Puerto Rico actually is and asserts that Estado Libre Asociado (Free Associated State or Commonwealth, as it is commonly known in English) is a more accurate description despite all federal government branches disagreeing with that interpretation. The PPD is against participation in the upcoming vote and is encouraging voters to boycott the event. This is nearly a direct call back to the 2012 plebiscite where the PPD called for people to turn in blank ballots, and nearly 500,000 people did so, the main difference this time is the call for total abstention. If the language of the ballot remains the way that it is, the PPD will continue on the boycott path and urge followers to do the same. The view of the PPD is that the Rosselló administration as well as the DOJ are not giving the full scope of the current situation and are biasing the voter to statehood or independence unfairly.

Governor Rosselló seems undeterred by the efforts of the opposition and says that despite the call for boycotts, the event will continue to move forward. The governor hopes that if the efforts of the administration prevail and federal funding is received for the vote, that the PPD will think of its constituents in what he calls a historic event. But with or without the funding, Governor Rosselló is committed to transitioning Puerto Rico into statehood, and while he respects the oppositions viewpoints and encourages the dialogue, he makes it clear in no uncertain terms that he believes the statehood movement will be successful and that Puerto Rico will begin to make the move to become a state in the union on the June 11 plebiscite.