SAN JUAN — The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) General Assembly approved to boycott the June 11 political-status plebiscite, days after the party’s Governing Board made the recommendation.
Although the minimum necessary quorum was about 2,040 out of the party’s 5,000 delegates, sources from the presidential board informed they had registered 911 delegates. Despite this low attendance, PDP Secretary-General Carlos Delgado Altieri certified the quorum.
Prior to approving the boycott, PDP President Héctor Ferrer scrutinized the plebiscitary process endorsed by the New Progressive Party (NPP), stressing that it eliminates the right to question results if there were differences between the number of voters and electoral lists.
PDP president Héctor Ferrer denounced the status referendum as a “rigged” process designed to create a “fictitious majority” for statehood.
After the meeting concluded, Ferrer told Caribbean Business that it wasn’t necessary to ask the assembly to demand the inclusion of the Commonwealth in the ballot because the boycott had been approved. “Because the boycott was approved, it would be academic to ask to include the Commonwealth,” he stated, adding that PDP will hold an active boycott campaign.
In the resolution approved by the assembly, PDP organizations, such as the Puerto Rico Mayors Association, were instructed to campaign against the status referendum due to procedural differences with the Immediate Decolonization Act, which established the plebiscite, and because it doesn’t represent PDP ideology, they said.
During his message, Ferrer read the definitions included in the referendum and asked the people present if any of those represented their ideology, to which the majority of the delegates replied no. However, when he read the definition for “free association,” three people supported the explanation, including political commentator Nestor Duprey.
After the assembly, San Juan mayor and PDP vice president, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, defended the option for free association, and warned her party’s leadership that it must be inclusive if it wants votes from other sectors in the general elections. “The PDP must achieve internal alliances in order to form alliances with sectors outside the Party,” she said. However, the general assembly didn’t address the issue concerning the Commonwealth as a territorial status, as defined by Congress and the federal Promesa law, and free association.
In that sense, Cruz Soto said the PDP’s official stance is to have a political relation with the United States outside the non-colonial, territorial clause. “I am a sovereigntist and I am a member of the Popular [Democratic] Party,” she affirmed.
PDP leader: Commonwealth is superior to statehood
The PDP has staunchly opposed the status referendum since its consideration in the Legislative assembly, because they argued the process is “rigged” to favor statehood and it allegedly excluded “hundreds of thousands” of voters who aligned neither with annexation to the United States or independence, which was the other status option considered in the ballot design.
After party leaders like former governors Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Rafael Hernández Colón lobbied in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Justice Department addressed a letter to the local government in which they stressed that the language included in the act was not compliant to U.S. public policy, and instructed the administration to include the Commonwealth as a viable status option in the ballot.
This, in turn alienated the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) because they argued that including that territorial option detracts the plebiscite’s original intention, which is to decolonize the island, whether through statehood or independence. Thus, the NPP is the only party left that supports the plebiscite, and must place its efforts toward campaigning for statehood while encouraging voters to participate in the national referendum while commonwealth and independence supporters alike condemn the process.
Jaime Perelló Attends General Assembly
Former House Speaker Jaime Perelló participated in the assembly from the presidential stand. Ferrer acknowledged that he couldn’t deny the former legislator’s right to participate because he hadn’t been formally accused of any crime.
Surrounded by members of the media, Perelló said he was calm and that “the Puerto Rican people have been with me throughout this process, which has been a siege. I am confident that I will be vindicated in this process.”
Perelló was forced to resign from his role as House speaker last year after he was linked to former PDP fundraiser Anaudi Hernández, who was convicted for a fraud scheme involving irregular contracts and recruitments in different government agencies, from both the Executive and Legislative chambers. Although no accusation was presented against him, then PDP president and gubernatorial candidate David Bernier demanded his resignation in an effort to amend the party’s image ahead of the general elections.