Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hernández Colón: PDP future in jeopardy if US Justice excludes commonwealth option

By on February 16, 2017

SAN JUAN – Former Gov. Rafael Hernández Colón said Wednesday that the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) is playing with its future by relying on the U.S. Justice Department to decide whether the status referendum should include the commonwealth status formula as an option.

“If the NPP [New Progressive Party] prevails there with what it wants, which is to eliminate the commonwealth as an alternative for Puerto Rico’s future, what happens to the Popular [Democratic] Party then? This is why we must do whatever possible to defeat that plebiscite,” Hernández Colón stressed in the “Jugango Pelota Dura” (Playing Hardball) TV show.

Former governor Rafael Hernandez Colónn waves to the crowd during a celebration at the Capitol in San Juan, Puerto Rico Thursday, July 25, 2002 for the 50th anniversary of Puerto Rico's constitution which established the island as a "Free Associated State," or Commonwealth. (Lynne Sladky, File/AP)

Former governor Rafael Hernandez Colónn waves to the crowd during a celebration at the Capitol in San Juan, Puerto Rico Thursday, July 25, 2002 for the 50th anniversary of Puerto Rico’s constitution which established the island as a “Free Associated State,” or commonwealth. (Lynne Sladky, File/AP)

The local government approved the Law for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico to hold a status referendum June 11 with non-territorial options, statehood and independence/free association, thus excluding the commonwealth. The law establishes that the ballot must be approved by the U.S. Attorney General, who must decide if the status options are allowed under the U.S. Constitution. If a determination hasn’t been made by April 16, it will be assumed that the status options are acceptable to the federal government.

“If [the NPP] were to go to Justice and go to Justice under a federal law, and at Justice they approve this, then there would be a real problem for the commonwealth’s exclusion, then we would have to go to court,” he maintained.

The former governor said allegations that both he and former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá are trying to stop the plebiscite to avoid a party struggle between “soberanistas,” or sovereignty supporters, and free-association advocates is “completely unfocused.”

See also: PDP to take status referendum controversy to federal court

“What both Aníbal and I are looking for is for the Justice Department to tell the Government of Puerto Rico: ‘This ballot isn’t in accordance with the Constitution, to the laws and policies of the United States of America. Therefore, you can’t do this plebiscite.’ Why are we looking for that? Because if they told them the opposite…the Commonwealth will have disappeared from the ballot. There would be a plebiscite that will result in an overwhelming majority in favor of statehood, and thus lead the country toward statehood, and this is a problem as a country… It is a problem for all [PDP supporters] as well, and we want to solve it as something fundamental,” Hernández Colón said.

He also said he would prefer Acevedo Vilá became the party’s president instead of former candidate for resident commissioner Héctor Ferrer, because the former has the experience in dealing with a plebiscite.

Hernández Colón acknowledged there has been an increase in PDP members who are soberanistas, but he reaffirmed that they aren’t the majority in the party. He believes the overwhelming majority favors the commonwealth, whether “improved” or “perfected.” He added there hasn’t been as strong support for the commonwealth as when he was the party’s president or when former Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín was the PDP leader, blaming it on “liberal wannabes.”

See also: Cidre: Statehood to win status referendum ‘by a landslide’

Regarding the possibility of high-ranking PDP members, such as San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, defending “free association” in the referendum, Hernández Colón said they would have to form a separate organization, because the PDP disagrees with the plebiscite.

However, he maintained that his party must then decide whether Cruz Soto should be in a leading position.

“It’s about someone who considers herself [of the PDP] but takes steps that the Popular [Democratic] Party wouldn’t take. The Popular [Democratic] Party must decide if it will put a person like that in leadership positions,” the former governor said.

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