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FL: Former Miami mayor says proposed statehood leaves Puerto Rico ‘in limbo’

By   /   November 8, 2012  /   2 Comments

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

SI: Puerto Ricans voted in favor of becoming a U.S. state on Tuesday, but their fate will remain locked up in the U.S. Congress

MIAMI — A vote by Puerto Rico to apply for statehood not only raises the likelihood of a potential 51st state but could also lead to shifts in U.S. domestic policy.

The self-labeled “island of enchantment” adopted the measure alongside routine elections for the governor, senators and mayors throughout the island.

It was the fourth referendum on statehood status brought to the Puerto Rican people, and the first of its kind to pass.

The option on the ballot included two questions, asking residents their preference on continuing the island’s status as “commonwealth” or “unincorporated territory,” and their preference moving forward — statehood, independence or continuing as a commonwealth.

On the first question, 796,007 people said yes, and 934,238 said no. On the second question, 802,179 voters said yes, about 61 percent.

But this referendum represents neither a victory nor a drastic change in the eyes of former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, a native Puerto Rican who made his name on the mainland.

NO WAY: Ferre doesn’t anticipate that Puerto Rico will achieve statehood

“This is worse than anything,” he told Florida Watchdog. “The results represent only a third of the people. How can you say it’s a victory when, in the past two referendums, statehood only received 46 percent of the votes?”

None of the previous referendums garnered majority votes for statehood. In fact, in the most recent referendum before Tuesday, more than 70 percent of the population opted for “none of the above,” rejecting statehood and independence.

Pedro Pierluisi, the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, as well as its representative in  Congress, told the Statesman Journal the initiative was unprecedented.

“We made history with this plebiscite,” the Democratic representative said.

“The ball is now in Congress’ court, and Congress will have to react to this result,” he said. “This is a clear result that says ‘no’ to the current status.”

But Ferre believes the ousting of Republican Gov. Luis Fortuño, a pro-statehood politician, by Alejandro Garcia Padilla will slow any rush to push statehood on the Congress.

“The problem is that the new governor is totally opposed to this idea, so he will veto any proposal for Puerto Rico to become a state,” Ferre said.

OUSTED: Pro-statehood Gov. Fortuno lost his re-election bid on Tuesday

“If Luis Fortuño hadn’t spent all his time looking for a position in Washington with the Mitt Romney campaign, he could have won,” he said.

Fortuño played a big role at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in September and subsequently lost re-election by a margin of less than 1 percent.

“I don’t think I can bear to live to see a change,” lamented Ferre. “I don’t think it’ll change in the next 20 years.”

President Barack Obama on several occasions has said he will respect the decision of the Puerto Ricans on territorial status, but Ferre still believes it will forever be “in limbo.”

Puerto Rico has been part of America since 1917. Although residents of the island have U.S. citizenship, they cannot vote in presidential elections and have no representation in the Senate. Some critics call it “second-class citizenship.”

According to the 2010 Census,some 3,725,789 Puerto Ricans live on the island, while s many as 4,683,000 live in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Ferre said that nearly 35,000 Puerto Ricans come to the mainland every year, mostly to Florida.

“I think that fact will change the political map. In a few years, Florida will be more Democratic due to the presence of Puerto Ricans,” he said, echoing the fears of Republicans who have quietly dismissed the call for statehood.

Contactar: Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org

Watchdog.org’s Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.

Interview with Maurice Ferre, former Mayor of Miami:


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Yaël Ossowski is a national investigative reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at yael@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @YaelOss.

  • Ezequiel Gonzalez

    The Commowealth Option as understood by the Popular Democratic Party was not included in the party, so that party asked its followers to vote Yes in the first question as a way to oppose and reject the Governor position and then to leave the second question blank. Other leaders within the PPD party who believe in Free Association, as defined by international Law asked their followers to vote for ELA Soberano, specifically defined as Free Association in the ballot.

    So some followers of the PPD party left the second question blank, following the official position of their party, while others voted for FreeAssociation. The final result is that 438,896 voted for Free Association and 470,032 leave the second question blank.

    IF you take the blank ballots into account, only 46% of those who particiaped in the plebiscite voted for Statehood. That is the same percentage Statehood has had for the last 30 years. The new factor in this plebiscite is the growing support for Free Association. It got 438 thousand votes. If you add the 75,000 votes for full Independence then we see that the over half a million people now support Independence, one way or another.

  • raúl mattei

    …..maybe not in my lifetime,,,
    From your lips to God’s ear. Always forgotten in all of these discussions is that our island in 1898 was as much a part of Spain, if not more, than Hawaii & Alaska are part of the US. or Martinique & Guadaloupe of France.

    We were torn away from our TRUE mother country by a violent, calculated act of aggression, and all the tired PNP arguments about being saved from penury and ignorance are fantasy propaganda to gull the ignorant.

    Only an unoccupied Puerto Rico should conduct a plebiscite.

    Continuing to suborn the Puerto Rican electorate with promises of more free stuff from Uncle Sam, and that has long been the narrative coming from statehood’s advocates, is not only baldly manipulative, but insulting to the very people the PNP pretends to represent.

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