Monday, December 17, 2018

Puerto Rican governor and GOP members agree on statehood vote

The Republican leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee yesterday called on Puerto Rico to hold a new vote on statehood.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) tweeted a letter dated Monday, signed by four top Republicans on the House panel, which oversees territorial affairs. “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,” said Rosselló.

The letter recognizes the validity of two previous statehood plebiscites, in 2012 and 2017, and blames the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the nonbinding effects of the 2017 process. “The inability of the DOJ to provide a timely blessing of the 2017 vote has allowed its opponents to contest its results,” wrote the Republicans, led by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

Bishop was joined by fellow Republicans Rep. Don Young (Alaska), the chairman emeritus of the panel; Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), head of the Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee; and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón. The letter represents the most explicit acceptance of the 2017 plebiscite’s results, where 97 percent of voters picked statehood.

The plebiscite was considered nonbinding, as the Department of Justice requested changes to the ballots initially presented by Rosselló. Rosselló’s administration made changes suggested by the DOJ, but refused to change the date of the plebiscite to allow the feds time to review the new ballot.

That ballot included a three-part question, meant to level the playing field between statehood, independence or maintaining Puerto Rico’s status as a free-associated state. Although Rosselló and other pro-statehood Puerto Rican officials have based their claim on statehood on the 2017 plebiscite, the governor seemed open to the suggestion in the letter, advanced by his ally in the statehood fight, González-Colón.

“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,” Rossello tweeted in Spanish.

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