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Ban on Election Day Alcohol Sales won’t apply to Puerto Rico referendum

By on April 27, 2017

SAN JUAN – The so-called “dry law” that prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverage during electoral processes in Puerto Rico will not apply to the June 11 political-status referendum, which now includes the current commonwealth territory option in addition to the originally established statehood and free association/independence options.

The announcement was made by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. José “Conny” Varela, under whose presidency the House Government Committee approved Act 56 of 2017, which establishes that the sale of alcoholic beverages will only be banned during general elections, every four years.

This bill, which was approved last year shortly before the primaries, excludes all other election processes—including primaries and plebiscites—from the dry law.

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“Act 56 of 2017 clearly established that the prohibition will only apply to general elections,” Varela told Caribbean Business after elections officials and other sectors questioned which political events were subject to the law.

Before the representative’s announcement, the director of the State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials), Liza García Vélez, assured in a WKAQ 580 radio interview that the Immediate Decolonization Act, which creates the status referendum, includes in its proclamation that the dry law will apply the day of the plebiscite from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“By express provision of the legislator, the dry law will apply for this plebiscitary event,” reaffirmed the official, emphasizing that the measure proposed by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and enacted by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló at the beginning of February explicitly includes that the “Dry Law” will be in effect.

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García Vélez proceeded to recite the proclamation, which establishes that “the ‘Dry Law’ will only apply from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 11, 2017, as decreed in Art. 12.021 of the Electoral Law.” For the CEE president, this means the sale of alcoholic beverages will be banned.

Moreover, she said the orientation campaign aimed at voters resumed after interrupted during the amendment process to the plebiscitary law. The Legislative Assembly included the current territorial status among its options after the U.S. Justice Department demanded it, following intensive lobbying from PDP officials, such as former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who argued that the law excluded voters who didn’t support statehood or independence, and that the party in turn “rigged” the process to create a “fictitious majority” for statehood.

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