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PDP seeks to curb Rivera Schatz’s status referendum

By on January 27, 2017

SAN JUAN – Were Senate Bill 51 to hold a status plebiscite with two non-colonial or territorial options becomes a law, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) will use the tools at its disposal to ensure the referendum proposed for June 11 is not carried out.

PDP Sen. José Nadal Power said his party will seek to stop the referendum by appealing to the U.S. Department of Justice for the inclusion of other status formulas than the two proposed for the plebiscite: the “annexation” of the island as a state of the United States or “separate sovereignty” from that nation.

PDP Sen. José Nadal Power criticized that the budgets during the years in which Luis Fortuño was governor were not included in the investigation. He argued that between 2009 and 2012, the level of public debt increased significantly. (Felipe Torres / CB)

PDP Sen. José Nadal Power presented amendments to the SB 51, but they were defeated. These sought to include three additional options in the status referendum. (Felipe Torres / CB)

The formulas proposed by Nadal Power were “Estado Libre Asociado (ELA, or free associated state) desarrollado,” or developed commonwealth with which “the relationship established by the constitutions of Puerto Rico and the United States is perfected”; “sovereign ELA,” a decolonizing option that recognizes the island as “a legal body with its own authority” with an agreement with the federal government; and a fifth box with the “None of the above” option.

With these three new options, the ballot of the proposed plebiscite would have been similar to that of the 1998 status plebiscite, in which “None of the above” obtained a majority of the votes.

“You cannot be afraid of competition, that the options of autonomy compete…on equal terms with statehood and independence,” the legislator said during the debate on the measure, which extended for four hours.

The senator said his amendments were constitutionally valid, so it was “arbitrary to exclude them,” and added that “they were defeated without any justification.”

He argued that the amendments were discussed and endorsed by several PDP leaders who testified at the status hearing, including former Govs. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Rafael Hernández Colón. The PDP delegation in the Senate also endorsed them.

The PDP stance is rejected by the New Progressive Party (NPP).

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

During the session, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz explained that only two status formulas were included because they are internationally recognized as non-colonial or territorial. In addition, a second consultation is possible if “separate sovereignty” prevailed when voters choose between “free association” or “independence.”

SB 51 was approved 22-8 and next moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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