The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) shows opposition to the possibility of a new statehood referendum on the island. The issue resurfaced last week, after it was reported that Republican congressman Rob Bishop –outgoing chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources- might have sent a letter to acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, suggesting a referendum to address the political status of Puerto Rico.
Democratic representatives Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, Florida, supported Bishop´s idea of a new referendum on status with a federally sponsored ballot.
However, Aníbal José Torres, president-elect of the PPD, said yesterday that Bishop´s proposal “is not intended to explore wise, real and democratic solutions for Puerto Ricans, but to compensate for the political favors of their PNP (New Progressive Party) statehood allies.
Torres stressed that Bishop did not address the Puerto Rico statehood issue despite the fact that he has chaired the House Committee on Natural Resources for years. House Resources has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico.
Bishop will no longer chair the Committee in 2019, since Democrats control the House after November 6 midterm elections.
“This is the congressman who, despite being one the most powerful Congress member in the last years, did nothing to promote statehood for Puerto Rico,” said Torres in written statements. But he made no comments regarding ideas to address to issue.
Bishop has supported statehood for Puerto Rico. In fact, he co-sponsored Resident Commissioner Jennifer González pro-statehood bill. However, Bishop did not even hold a hearing to discuss that bill.
Meanwhile, PPD legislators Jesús Manuel Ortiz, Carlos Bianchi Angleró and Ángel Matos García, criticized Soto´s support to a possible yes-or-no referendum on statehood.
They also criticized the fact that Soto defended the results of the 2017 plebiscite, when statehood won the majority vote -97 percent-, with a 23 percent voter turnout.
Soto explained that the 2017 plebiscite was organized with sufficient notice, reasonable access to the polls and it complied with the electoral law. “The result was 97 percent in favor of statehood. The voter turnout is irrelevant under the law to consider the admission (of Puerto Rico as a state)," Soto said.
However, Ortiz stressed that the low voter turnout was due to the boycott promoted by the PPD.
“Soto should know that the low voter turnout was not a coincidence, it was the result of a call against a process designed for statehood to win by removing other options from the ballot,” Ortiz remarked.
The options for the 2017 plebiscite were statehood, independence or the current territorial status.
Although the PPD has promoted what they call an “improved version” of the Commonwealth, they have not defined yet what elements would be different to the current political status.
Similar to Alaska and Hawaii
The new referendum on statehood proposed by Bishop would be similar to those of Alaska or Hawaii where people voted in favor or against statehood before their formal admission.
Governor Rosselló Nevares indicated he would support “a federally-sponsored, binding political status plebiscite on the admission of Puerto Rico as a state of the Union.” That is, if Puerto Ricans vote in favor of admission, then the USA should admit the island as part of the union.
“Puerto Rico’s current colonial political status is not sustainable,” said Rosselló Nevares in written statements.