Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Senate’s status referendum bill postponed

By on January 24, 2017

SAN JUAN — The Senate has postponed considering the status referendum bill filed by its president, Thomas Rivera Schatz. It has not provided a specific date to address the bill.

The Law for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico (S.B. 51), which until Tuesday afternoon was going to be heard Wednesday, after an homage to Iván Rodríguez for being included in the World Baseball Hall of Fame, will undergo some changes, including a change of date, which may end up being the second Sunday of June.

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz introduced S.B. 51 to hold status referendums. (Felipe Torres/CB)

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz introduced S.B. 51 to hold status referendums. (Felipe Torres/CB)

Originally, S.B. 51 called for the plebiscite to be held Sunday, May 28, but a date change was proposed during the last week’s public hearing. However, the bill, whose commission report was being developed Tuesday afternoon, doesn’t contemplate other major amendments, as assured by New Progressive Party (NPP) Majority Leader Carmelo Ríos.

Former Govs. Rafael Hernández Colón, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, and Alejandro García Padilla —all from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP)— had criticized the bill’s content, saying its language favored the statehood option.

The NPP majority in the Legislative Assembly was inclined to approve the status referendum bill without waiting for the PDP to present the status formula they advocate.

In the referendum, voters would choose between statehood and independence, excluding the commonwealth option; and if independence wins in a later referendum, voters would choose between the independence or commonwealth status options.

Former senator and current president of San Juan’s Municipal Assembly, Marco A. Rigau, also from the PDP, has criticized his party’s former governors for attending the legislative public hearings without offering a status proposal.

Rigau said there is a sector in the PDP leadership that doesn’t acknowledge Puerto Rico’s colonial status, nor the need to produce a status option that is acceptable for the United States in light of its new public policy regarding Puerto Rico, which establishes that the U.S. Congress has plenary power over the island’s government.

“In politics, merely opposing is not enough. You have to bring proposals,” Rigau said as he criticized that his party doesn’t have a real proposal to address Puerto Rico’s political reality in relation to the United States.

The former senator, who supports commonwealth, asked legislators to clarify the bill’s language regarding with regard to commonwealth because its current draft tends to benefit the statehood option, he said.

For his part, Hernández Colón warned senators that not including commonwealth as an option “would raise serious concern about the referendum’s legitimacy.”

PDP Senate Minority Leader Aníbal José Torres has warned that the party will say what it will do because it is an exclusionary bill that fails to consider over half of Puerto Rico’s voters.

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