Last Thursday, interim US undersecretary of Justice, Dana Boente, warned governor Ricardo Rosselló that the omission of the territorial status in effect violates the federal government’s public policy (horizontal-x3)
Last Thursday, interim US undersecretary of Justice, Dana Boente, warned governor Ricardo Rosselló that the omission of the territorial status in effect violates the federal government’s public policy. (Archive / GFR Media)

The latest version of the law regulating the plebiscite for next June 11 will include as an alternative the “territorial status in effect” such as the Department of Justice demanded for the consultation to be valid, El Nuevo Día has learned.

Also, it will incorporate the definitions on status, according to that provided in the letter.

However, opinions among the leadership of the New Progressive Party (PNP, by its Spanish acronym) differed, since some of the principal mayors and legislators held that the consultation should continue ahead as contemplated. 

Last Thursday, interim US undersecretary of Justice, Dana Boente, warned governor Ricardo Rosselló that the omission of the territorial status in effect violates the federal government’s public policy

The new version, while including the current territorial condition, will make no specific reference to the Free Associated State (ELA, by its Spanish acronym).

This new version will be debated during a legislative session today in the Senate, called for 1:00 p.m., announced Senate president, Thomas Rivera Schatz through statements written on Facebook. 

“Tomorrow (today) in the Senate we will pass the amendments to the plebiscite law that were prepared jointly with our governor, the House Speaker, (Carlos “Johnny” Méndez), our commissioner resident (Jenniffer González), and the undersigned,” reads part of the message published on his profile.

“The wellbeing and dignity of Puerto Ricans cannot be delayed. Our commitment will be met fully,” added the note.

El Nuevo Día has learned that a sector within that group was against including the territorial status in effect among the options of the consultation because it could widen the possibilities for an adverse result for statehood, and thus, for the current administration.

While the result would be of no consequence, it would be one in favor of statehood which would be added to that of the 2012 plebiscite. 

However, in the letter sent to the governor, the Department of Justice indicated that the result of that process did not justify omitting the current status of Puerto Rico.    

Meanwhile, the other group defended accepting the amendments for the result to be binding, said sources of this daily. What would not seem as an option would be to postpone the consultation, since, come next fiscal year, it would it would fall to the Oversight Board to decide on its final course, in line with the PROMESA law.

In the letter, the Department of Justice questions the definition of statehood included in the original ballot for understanding that it would induce error when it claims that “it is the only option that guarantees American citizenship.”

It also objected to the definition of free association, by considering it similar to an enhanced ELA, an alternative which, it recalls, has been rejected. It must be made clear that free association is a formula for independence, the letter states. 

Likewise, it makes clear that both under the free association and independence, a “variety of issues pertaining to citizenship” would have to be reevaluated. 

The plan is for the new version to be approved by the Senate today, followed by the House tomorrow, and then have it sent to Washington with the governor’s signature on Wednesday. Part of the PNP leadership would travel on Thursday to the federal capital.    

Support for amendments

Yesterday, former governors de la Palma, Pedro Rosselló González, Carlos Romero Barceló, and Luis Fortuño endorsed the alternative to amend the consultation on the status to include the proposals made by the Department of Justice.

“These expressions by the federal government validate the PNP’s position that the enhanced ELA is not possible and is unconstitutional. On June 11 we will have to choose between the colony, which has led us to bankruptcy, independence or equality,” said Romero Barceló in a written statement.

For Rosselló González, the demands from the federal government could be a unique opportunity to end the colonial status. “the federal Department of Justice has stated that free association is the independence of Puerto Rico and would end our American citizenship by birth,” he said.

Fortuño, for his part, said that the options are clear in the face of the decisive moments the country is experiencing over its political, economic, and social future.

A call to the CEE

Meanwhile, yesterday, the president of the Democratic Popular Party (PPD, by its Spanish acronym), Héctor Ferrer, requested State Elections Commission (CEE) president, Liza García Vélez, to immediately cancel the publicity campaign on the plebiscite for June 11, 2017.

“It makes no sense to continue a publicity campaign for a plebiscite which has, from the outset, excluded the great majority of Puerto Ricans. My call is for the entire process to start from scratch, that is if the PNP wishes to address than in a serious manner,” said Ferrer, when questioning the cost of the campaign of some $2 million in public funds.

“Since day one, I have said prudence and patience should prevail in making decisions that most benefit the Country. I make that same call for the State Elections Commission to act with prudence when incurring in an expense of public funds for an event that lacks seriousness,” added the president of the PPD.

For the time being, García has cancelled the printing of the ballots to be used as a model during the campaign to guide the voters on the process, which was scheduled for today.

For now, everything is on hold because, even the changes being evaluated to lead to additional changes to the design of the voting ballot.


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