Puerto Rico House approves $5.3 million for status plebiscite
SAN JUAN – The House of Representatives approved Monday a $5.3 million allocation to cover expenses related to Act 7 of 2017, or the Puerto Rico Decolonization Act, and holding a status plebiscite with “statehood” versus “free association / independence” on June 11.
Senate Joint Resolution 92 was endorsed by the New Progressive Party (NPP) and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) delegations, but opposed by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP delegation argued that, at a time when the island is suffering from cash flow problems, the money should go to essential services, the payment of suppliers or “even payment of the public debt” rather than a status referendum that excludes the commonwealth option and is “rigged” in favor of statehood.
PDP Rep. Luis Vega Ramos said the measure demonstrates the government’s difficulty in getting the federal Justice Department to disburse the $2.5 million approved a few years ago for a status referendum on the island. The federal agency has yet to express itself on the matter.
For the representative, the allocation corroborates that the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission “has no money” to hold the plebiscite, which the legislator believes will cost more than $5.3 million, and for which “$2 [million] to $ 4 million more” will eventually be allocated, “if they want to run with the costs of the consultation and carry out the educational campaign.”
However, for NPP Rep. José “Quiquito” Meléndez, the status referendum was something the party promised in the campaign, so “we kept [our promise] to the people.” He took the opportunity to criticize the PDP for lacking a political stance. The party has yet to take a position on the plebiscite, although several of its members have expressed that they favor the “free association / independence” option.
The measure now goes to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s desk, as it’s sister bill was passed in the Senate last week.