Rosselló emphasizes historic importance of status referendum act
SAN JUAN — Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed Friday the plebiscite law that orders a status referendum next June 11 with the options of statehood and independence/free association.
Surrounded by former governors Carlos Romero Barceló and Pedro Rosselló González, the island’s chief executive described this law’s signature as historic, affirming it makes way for Puerto Rico’s decolonization.
“Statehood is wealth, the rest is poverty,” said the governor as he praised Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez for their work in the Legislature to approve the Law for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico.
“The electoral vote by the majority is a rejection by the Puerto Rican citizens to the centennial territorial and colonial condition which an issue that was locally solved in the 2012 plebiscite. Colonialism isn’t an option for Puerto Rico under any interpretation or judicial modality in the U.S. Constitution’s territorial clause,” said the governor after signing the law in a ceremony at La Fortaleza’s interior gardens.
The new act establishes two non-colonial options to choose from in the referendum: the first one, according to the governor, aims for political and social equality to the United States via statehood. If that option prevails, the governor would design a Transition Committee composed of seven members, in charge of developing the Transition Plan toward statehood. This plan, he explained, would be approved by him and presented to the U.S. Congress and President Donald Trump.
The second alternative proposes to transform Puerto Rico into an independent country, be it through independence or a “free association” treaty with the United States, known as a commonwealth.
If Puerto Ricans were to choose the second option, a second referendum would be held on Oct. 8, to choose between independence or commonwealth.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, who also participated in the ceremony, said that “what is at stake [in this plebiscitary process] is the development, equality, and wealth versus poverty for Puerto Rico. The federal government will only ask us once,” she warned.
For his part, Rivera Schatz stated that the act “is the instrument to solve the territorial and colonial issue once and for all, permanently with a non-colonial and a non-territorial political status option.”
Romero Barceló said in a brief statement that the measure’s signature was made in a time “when all the stars are aligned.”
Commonwealth advocates and former governors Rafael Hernández Colón and Aníbal Acevedo Vilá made efforts in the Legislature to prevent the bill’s approval, and affirmed they would take their complaints to Washington, D.C.; specifically, the U.S. Justice Department, since they believe it doesn’t offer equal treatment to the presented statuses.
During the legislative hearings, commonwealth advocates didn’t present a text to base their proposals, even though they were repeatedly asked to do so by Rivera Schatz.
The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) still hasn’t commented on whether it will participate in the plebiscite, which didn’t include the “developed commonwealth” status option they wished included. Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) will decide tomorrow if it will participate or not in the referendum, but they are expected to participate by default.