Puerto Rico Police drafts plan for potential status-referendum protests
SAN JUAN – Less than two weeks before Puerto Rico holds its political-status referendum, Police Superintendent Michelle Hernández announced Tuesday that the government’s contingency plan ahead of the vote takes into consideration expected protests as part of a boycott organized by several groups.
“What distinguishes this event from the elections is that there is a contingency plan that has been developed based on the events that have surfaced during the past months because we have some tendencies; for example, in Mayagüez we know of some groups and that have been taken into consideration,” the superintendent said in press conference in La Fortaleza.
When asked to specify which groups she referred to, Hernández answered that these are “groups associated with the University of Puerto Rico, and we have had demonstrations on other occasions.”
Different pro-independence organizations have called for a march to protest the June 11 status referendum, which takes place the same day as the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York.
Meanwhile, Alfonso Orona, the governor’s legal adviser, explained that “there are areas where the groups of demonstrators have been more vocal, and the people who are urging a boycott to the plebiscite have been concentrated geographically in specific areas. In these areas, which is where these events traditionally take place, the drafted contingency plan has some people designated to ensure that all people in these areas who want to exercise their right to vote can do so without duress.”
Multiple groups and sectors have urged a boycott, including the New Progressive Party’s (NPP) political opposition, unions and groups that are either pro-commonwealth or pro-independence. While the Popular Democratic Party has always been adverse to the referendum, arguing it is “rigged” to favor statehood, the Puerto Rican Independence Party withdrew its support after the U.S. Justice Department ordered the NPP administration to include the island’s territorial status on the ballot, even though the voting process was established under the Immediate Decolonization Act.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, and Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz travelled to Washington, D.C., last week to lobby in favor of the referendum and for Congress to approve a $2.5 million in federal funding for the referendum’s educational campaign.