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NPP Begins Lobbying Efforts in D.C. for Status Referendum

By on May 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, along with fellow New Progressive Party (NPP) officials, arrived on Thursday to the federal capital to promote the island’s June 11 political-status plebiscite.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, who is also a Republican, accompanied the governor along with P.R. Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, and expects this visit will produce next summer a public hearing on the plebiscite with the Natural Resources Committee. The three pro-statehood leaders will meet with the press in Washington.

The presence of these NPP officials is taking place while the U.S. Department of Justice is also still scrutinizing the plebiscite ballot, and the NPP’s political opposition is boycotting the referendum’s educational campaign for endorsing Puerto Rico’s annexation to the United States.

Despite the U.S. Justice Department’s order to include Puerto Rico’s present colonial status on the upcoming national referendum, the NPP is confident that they will achieve the $2.5 million federal allocation for the plebiscite–even though the government has openly campaigned for statehood–that statehood will obtain the majority vote, and that the federal government will be compliant with this result. (Courtesy)

The resident commissioner affirmed the goal is “to talk about where we stand and what we are doing.”

The governor has tried to link the status referendum to a 2014 federal law that requires the U.S. attorney general to determine whether the ballot and its educational campaign, endorsed by the P.R. State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials), complies with the U.S. government’s constitutional norms and public policy, in exchange for a $2.5 million allocation to finance the plebiscite vote process.

The federal Justice Department rejected the first draft of the Immediate Decolonization Act, which established the referendum, and required the local government to include the island’s current territorial status (or commonwealth), clarify that “free association” is a form of independence, and that the status quo ensures U.S. citizenship to people born in Puerto Rico.

The Immediate Decolonization Act, as originally presented, only included the options of statehood and free association/independence for the ballot. However, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), which is pro-commonwealth, lobbied heavily on Capitol Hill, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the inclusion of this political alternative.

PDP demands cancellation of Puerto Rico status referendum

Moreover, González is convinced the Natural Resources Committee will analyze the results of the plebiscite no later than September. “That is included in the committee’s work plan,” affirmed Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, who is also vice chair of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular & Alaska Native Affairs, which has primary jurisdiction over the island’s status.

However, she acknowledged the referendum has not been discussed with Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. The resident commissioner assured the local administration’s differences with the U.S. Justice Department, related to the content of the decolonization act, were put aside with amendments.

On Jan. 4, González introduced a bill to annex Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the Union—effective January 2025—and proposed the upcoming referendum to “ratify” statehood’s 2012 plebiscite “victory,” in which statehood received 61% of the vote.

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