Friday, December 14, 2018

US House committee urges Puerto Rico gov’t to hold status referendum

By on November 28, 2018

SAN JUAN – U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) sent a letter to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and House Speaker Carlos Méndez, regarding what they said are “the next steps that can be taken in resolving Puerto Rico’s political status,” according to a release by the committee, which oversees Puerto Rico matters.

“As you know, together with almost 60 other Members, we cosponsored the bipartisan bill authored by Resident Commissioner González-Colón to enable the admission of the territory as a State of the Union, H.R. 6246. This bill is the natural progression following the two most recent plebiscites conducted in Puerto Rico in 2012 and 2017, in which the voters overwhelmingly supported statehood,” the letter reads.

“Given the overwhelming, pro-statehood results of the past two votes, we propose the following solution: legislate a new plebiscite that simply asks: ‘Statehood: Yes or No?’ This would allow for all opponents of statehood – whether they support independence, continued Commonwealth status, Free Association, or even ‘none of the above’ – to vote ‘No,’ thus defeating the exclusion argument that some have advanced in the past. Furthermore, the results of such a plebiscite would constitute an indisputable expression of the will of the people of Puerto Rico, with their decision being made by those who vote,” they further wrote.

Read the full letter here.

“We are ready for a binding process, endorsed by the federal government, that puts an end to more than 100 years of colonial status through a yes/no statehood vote,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló tweeted in Spanish, along with a picture of the letter. “We will do our part and the federal government must do its part. Our priority is to end the colony, fulfilling the wish of a people who has chosen statehood on two occasions in the last seven years.”

Committee lawmakers also sent a letter to Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist the government of Puerto Rico in certifying a plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s status.

“To date, Puerto Ricans have voted on the question of status on five occasions. On the last two plebiscites – in 2012 and 2017 – those, who voted, overwhelmingly chose statehood with 61% and 97% of the vote respectively. However, all these votes were locally sponsored and not federally-sanctioned, nor were they strict yes-or-no votes on statehood for Puerto Rico. If the duly-constituted government of the territory, established and exercising its delegated local powers under federal law (Pub. L. 82-447), determines to conduct a yes-or-no vote on statehood under Pub. L. 113-76, the legal standard prescribed by Congress for federal recognition of such an act of self-determination is clear. It is the Attorney General’s duty and responsibility to certify that the definition of any option to resolve the status of Puerto Rico on the ballot and related education materials are ‘not incompatible with the Constitution and laws and policies of the United States.’ The statehood option, which Puerto Ricans have already supported twice, unequivocally meets both criteria, as it would resolve the status of Puerto Rico in a way that is compatible with the Constitution, laws and policies of the United States,” the House members explained to Whitaker.

Read the full text of the letter here.

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