Puerto Rico isn’t holding a Constitutional Assembly to decide whether the island’s residents want to become the 51st state.
Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro García Padilla said Sunday he won’t push forward with plans to resolve the contentious issue of the island’s relationship with the United States until he sees what the White House has in mind, El Nuevo Día reports. But if he doesn’t see action in Washington in a year, he says he’ll take the lead himself.
“The campaign promise, which is part of the government’s program and is public, was that if the president didn’t take action during the first year, in the second year we’d take action,” García Padilla said Sunday, according to El Nuevo Día. “The president is taking action.”
The Obama administration included $2.5 million for a referendum to decide whether Puerto Rico should change its relationship with the United States in the budget it submitted to Congress last week.
The White House’s call for another vote amounted to a rejection of statehood supporters’ argument that a majority of voters backed statehood in a Nov. 6 referendum, while also recognizing that Puerto Ricans aren’t happy with their current commonwealth status.
Last year’s two-part referendum first asked if Puerto Ricans were satisfied with their current relationship with the United States. Some 52 percent said they weren’t.
A second question asked if voters wanted to become a state, an independent country or a freely associated state -- a type of independence in close alliance with the United States. Remaining a commonwealth wasn’t an option on the second question.
Statehood won the most votes, but more than 470,000 voters intentionally left the second question blank, leaving statehood with only 45 percent of the ballots cast -- well short of a majority.
García Padilla also took a shot on Sunday at the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP, in Spanish) for touting the inconclusive November referendum as a mandate to turn Puerto Rico into the 51st U.S. state.
“I’m sorry our friends in the PNP have been found out, and that plebiscite that they threw money at has turned out to be a fraud, like we had anticipated,” García Padilla said. “But now the president is taking serious action for a serious process.”
Puerto Rico’s lone, non-voting Congressman, Pedro Pierlusi, continued his push for statehood, saying that under the current system Puerto Ricans don’t enjoy the principles of equality extended by the U.S. Constitution.
“Together we can make sure that every American citizen has the same rights and responsibilities, no matter what part of the United States they live in,” Pierlusi said Saturday at the 2013 LULAC National Women’s Conference.