Puerto Rico status referendum lacks US gov’t approval
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló confirmed on Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to address the June 11 political-status referendum beyond a letter it had sent proposing amendments to the ballot.
This means the federal agency has not authorized the use of $2.5 million allocated by Congress to hold a status referendum on the island and has not publicly expressed its support for the plebiscite, in which voters will choose between “statehood,” “free association / independence” and “current territorial status.”
“The [U.S.] Department of Justice, as you know, sent their suggested changes. We changed them exactly as they requested. Therefore, we move forward with a plebiscite that has the changes suggested by the Department of Justice. We were not going to wait any longer. We had a process that was already underway,” Rosselló told Caribbean Business.
The last communication between the parties was “when we replied to them,” the governor said.
“We are trying to do this at the lowest cost to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said, referring to the cost of the referendum, for which the State Elections Commission received $5.3 million in legislative appropriations.
The governor made the changes to the referendum law on April 19, and presented them personally to the U.S. Justice Department on April 25. These changes were intended toward removing any reference to U.S. citizenship from and include “current territorial status” on the ballot.
Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín said in the past that the $2.5 million the federal government allocated for the referendum could be disbursed after June 11, so it would be provided as a type of reimbursement.
For the New Progressive Party, neither the number of people who participate in the referendum nor how many votes statehood obtains are a priority, but rather that the vote become, in conjunction with the Tennessee Plan and other measures, a strategy aimed at the island’s decolonization.
The Puerto Rican Independence Party, the Popular Democratic Party and several unions have urged voters to boycott the vote because it is not satisfactory to them and do not believe it would pull the island out of its fiscal situation.