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Plebiscite Dismissed as Illegal Attempt to Favor Statehood

By on June 10, 2017

SAN JUAN — Despite “propaganda” efforts from the Gov. Ricardo Rosselló administration to get out the vote for Sunday’s status plebiscite, this is poised to be one of the electoral events with the lowest participation rate in Puerto Rico’s political history.

Ever since the plebiscite law was amended last April, the two main opposition parties, the Popular Democratic (PDP) and the Puerto Rican Independence (PIP) parties, have assumed a boycott position against the plebiscite, albeit for different reasons.

PDP President Héctor Ferrer says the Constitution prohibits the use of public funds for private purposes in a political campaign. (Courtesy)

“The procedural usefulness of the plebiscite lied in the noninclusion of the colonial status as a political alternative. For the first time, Puerto Ricans were going to have the chance to choose between truly decolonizing alternatives. But that was altered the moment the commonwealth [option] was included among the status alternatives,” said PIP Sen. Juan Dalmau.

For the senator, the inclusion of the commonwealth status turned the plebiscite into an event that ratifies or validates the colonial regime to which Puerto Rico has been subjected and was rejected by Puerto Ricans in the 2012 plebiscite.

For PDP President and former Rep. Héctor Ferrer, there are several reasons not to take part in a “rigged plebiscite.”

“This is not a process that has been validated by any federal entity. It is a process in which the PDP was banned from participating, it was legislated to cheat, it is a process legislated to allow statehood to win, and it is a process legislated to change the way electoral events are conducted in Puerto Rico,” said Ferrer, who characterized altering the electoral regulations as “legislating fraud.”

“For these, and many other reasons, the PDP is not going to take part in this process, which has no validity or consequence,” he added.

Former San Juan Mayor and PDP leader Héctor Luis Acevedo added to the list of objections, such as eliminating the electoral ban on government advertising, which he characterized as “an accommodating move from the governor and Legislature” to give statehood a favorable advantage in the plebiscite.

The ban, in place since 1974 for general elections, and extended to referendums and special elections since 1994, creates a special committee in charge of evaluating all government advertising and propaganda to identify and avoid any instance in which the administration could be using government resources to advance a particular cause, with the argument that it is keeping the people informed about government issues.

Predicts boycott will be effective

To the age-old paradigm that only those who vote actually count toward a solution, the PDP president assured that come Sunday, “the boycott is going to win against statehood.” Ferrer did not elaborate on the subject, but hinted that he is confident the turnout for the plebiscite would be paltry, thus fulfilling his anticipated outcome.

Dalmau coincides in that statehood, and the New Progressive Party, will be the biggest losers after the plebiscite, mainly due to the anticipated small voter-turnout.

“The political dynamics in this kind of event is measured by how the electorate behaves regularly during general and special elections. For instance, in the 2012 plebiscite, 54% of 1.8 million voters rejected the current political status, colony [the commonwealth]. Now, people in the U.S. know that a fewer number of voters will be understood as an act of rejection against the process,” he argued. In the 2012 plebiscite, some 970,000 voters voted against Puerto Rico keeping its current territorial status, and 834,000 voted in favor of statehood as their preferred political status.

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“Now, even if statehood comes out as the winner in Sunday’s plebiscite, the significantly low turnout would turn such a win into a resounding defeat. Statehood would be delegitimized, not only here [in Puerto Rico], but also in the U.S.,” Dalmau argued.

The pro-independence leader specifically argued that statehooders have to realize the plebiscite is not a mere mathematical process, but a political process.

Nevertheless, in strict mathematical terms, it seems quite difficult to argue that there is going to be a massive turnout for Sunday’s vote.

According to PDP Electoral Commissioner Miguel Ríos, 69% of registered voters participated in last November’s general election, not counting the 624,000 voters who were pulled from the rolls by the different judiciary actions presented. Ríos pointed out that four political parties and two independent candidates for governor competed in that election.

“Now, there is a survey that says 72% of the electorate is going to participate in the plebiscite. That same survey also says the NPP [statehood] would get 52% of the votes…. Look, to get 52% of the 72% [voters who could be participating], they would need 850,000 voters in this plebiscite…. That is almost 200,000 more votes than those obtained by the governor in the past election. From where are they going to get those votes? From where are they going to get those numbers?” questioned Ríos, while pointing to the fact that no member from the opposition is participating in the plebiscite.

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