Para ver este documento en español, oprima aquí.


Confusion Over the Puerto Rican Vote


December 25, 1998
©Copyright 1998 The New York Times

The only clear message from the recent plebiscite in Puerto Rico is that the question of the island's political future remains deeply divisive. Congress's failure to sponsor orderly balloting that would give the island's 3.8 million voters a meaningful say about their political status has not helped.

Earlier this year the House passed a bill that would have set up a Congressionally approved referendum for Puerto Ricans on whether the island should retain its current commonwealth status, seek statehood or become an independent nation. If statehood or independence received a majority vote the Federal Government would develop a transition plan, leading to a vote by Congress for a status change within 10 years. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have long supported Puerto Rican self-determination. But the Senate blocked the legislation and simply said it would review the outcome of any nonbinding local vote.

The recent ballot, prepared by the Puerto Rican government, was crowded with five options: statehood, commonwealth, independence, free association or none of the above. Negative campaigns mounted by both the statehood and commonwealth camps contributed to "none of the above" picking up 50.2 percent of the vote. Much of that was a protest vote from the pro-commonwealth camp, which saw the ballot as misleading. The statehood option, championed by Gov. Pedro Rosselló, received 46.5 percent of the votes, far more than the other options but not enough to win.

Much of the debate has focused on what is possible under a commonwealth status. Puerto Ricans currently have American citizenship, and are subject to Federal laws and the draft. But they do not pay Federal income tax and do not vote for President or elect voting members of Congress. Some commonwealth supporters fear that statehood would jeopardize the island's Spanish-based culture, and have argued that getting enhanced rights from the Federal Government is possible without becoming a state. Pro-statehood advocates reject that position as unrealistic.

Congress can reduce the confusion by crafting a referendum with input from Puerto Rican leaders on all sides that accurately reflects the options available. "None of the above" does not move Puerto Ricans any closer to defining their future.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback