Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barceló on Friday blasted
“They want a blank sheet. It’s an insult,” the statehood movement stalwart said.
“The PDP says Puerto Rico isn’t a colony and isn’t a territory while asking people to vote for territory,” Romero Barceló said. “They have tricked the public again and again.”
Alejandro García Padilla, the president of the PDP and its 2012 gubernatorial candidate, announced last weekend that the commonwealth party is urging voters to skip the second part of the two-question status plebiscite scheduled for election day.
The PDP governing board unanimously agreed to protest the plebiscite by urging voters to mark “Yes” to the first question on the ballot, which asks voters if they want Puerto Rico to remain a commonwealth, and to leave blank the second question, which asks voters to check their preferred status option.
The first part of the referendum will ask voters if they want a change in status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth. The second part will ask that voters choose from three options: statehood, independence or sovereign free association.
The PDP says the exclusion of the current commonwealth status from the second part of the ballot is not fair. The party has pushed for a constituent assembly, instead of a referendum, to address the status issue. The PDP says commonwealth is not a territorial or colonial status.
The original proposal was to hold the first part of the referendum in August 2012 and then, only if the majority sought a change in status, hold the second part during the November 2012 general elections.
But under the proposal enacted by Gov. Luis Fortuño, who heads the pro-statehood NPP, both parts will be held on Nov. 6.
Regardless of what voters decide, any change requires approval by the U.S. Congress and president.
The Puerto Rican Independence Party has hailed the plebiscite as a concrete step toward the end of the island’s “colonial” status. The commonwealth-supporting Popular Democratic Party opposes the vote.
Puerto Rico has long debated its political status, with no majority for any particular status emerging in referendums held in 1967, 1993 and 1998.
Romero Barceló, a veteran leader in the NPP, is urging the administration to amend what he has characterized as a confusing plebiscite law that is wide open to legal challenges.
Romero Barceló is pushing for an amendment that stresses that the statehood option is essentially about individual rights in a democracy.
The former governor and resident commissioners has proposed that the statehood option be amended to read as follows:
“As a United States citizen and as a resident of Puerto Rico I want to have and hereby demand the same rights, privileges and benefits, as well as the same duties and obligations, that all other U.S. citizens have in the 50 states of the Union, including the right to vote for president and the right to elect representatives and senators to the nation’s Congress. Yes___ or No___.”
Romero Barceló is a two-term former governor of Puerto Rico (1977-84), a two-term former resident commissioner (1993-2000) and a two-term former mayor of San Juan (1969-78). He was president of the New Progressive Party for 11 years.