[News] With 78% Abstention, Puerto Rico Plebiscite Seen as 'Failure'

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 12 10:38:56 EDT 2017


  With 78% Abstention, Puerto Rico Plebiscite Seen as 'Failure'

June 11, 2017

Puerto Rico's fifth plebiscite Sunday on whether to become an 
independent country, the 51st U.S. state or remain a U.S. territory was 
characterized by a staggering 78 percent voter abstention after the 
independence movement called for a boycott of what it termed an illegal 

    What You Need to Know About Puerto Rico’s Plebiscite

With 97 percent vote in, statehood won in a non-binding referendum that 
the U.S. colonial power does not have to recognize. According to data 
published on the website of the State Elections Commission, a total of 
476,635 voters out of the 2.8 million eligible voters, chose statehood. 
Those who voted for independence reached 1.5 percent of the vote, and 
1.3 chose the current commonwealth status.

Independence groups, along with three political parties, called for a 
boycott of the ballot as a protest against the government spending 
US$7.5 million on the election in the middle of a budget crisis that has 
forced the island to take on harsh austerity measures, making its 
colonial status more acute as the country can not solve the crisis 
without U.S. approval.

Critics also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Justice has not 
supported the plebiscite.

"I'm not voting. The government has spent millions of dollars on this 
campaign hoping that statehood wins, but even if it does, the U.S. 
Congress won't want to do anything about it," Felix Salasarar told Reuters.

The boycott seemed to have struck a chord with voters, amid a debt 
crisis, growing protests against austerity measures and the recent 
release of independence leader Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Puerto Rico independence activists held a caravan 
during the vote in the capital of San Juan outside the U.S. Federal 
Court building.

Vice President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party Maria de Lourdes 
Santiago described the electoral exercise as a failure, "The result of 
the plebiscite is a failure for those who were allowed to impose the 
inclusion of the colonial option and only served to dramatize 
disinterest and rejection of any project of annexation."

    Puerto Rico National Strike Protests 'Colonial' Debt Crisis

Those who support statehood, like Governor Ricardo Rossello, claimed 
that the change in status would help resolve the island’s US$123 billion 
debt load, including pension debts. Rossello said that being 
incorporated into the U.S. would allow Puerto Rico to become a 
“diplomatic center and a business center of the Americas.”

Groups that back the current commonwealth status, like the Popular 
Democratic Party, called for a boycott of the plebiscite, claiming the 
vote is “invalid” and “rigged.”

A spokesperson for the governor told Reuters he will push Congress to 
respect a result in favor of statehood, saying the island will pursue 
the Tennessee Plan, where U.S. territories send a congressional 
delegation to Washington.

Puerto Rico’s ability to deal with its debt crisis has been crippled by 
its legal status as a colony of the United States, which bars the island 
from filing for bankruptcy. An initial audit report found that up to 
US$30 billion of Puerto Rico’s debt load was issued illegally.

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