01/21/2014 03:30 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Puerto Rico Plebiscite Is A Waste Of Money, Rightwing Think Tank Says


Assessing the political status of Puerto Rico is a waste of money, according to one conservative think tank.

The Heritage Foundation lashed out at Congress last week for authorizing $2.5 million in federal funds to support a plebiscite to determine the island’s relationship to the United States.

In a blog post criticizing the Omnibus Spending Bill, Heritage portrayed the spending as government waste, writing:

Another foolish waste of taxpayer money is $2.5 million for the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico to conduct “objective, nonpartisan voter education about, and a plebiscite on, options that would resolve Puerto Rico’s future political status.” But Puerto Rico already held a vote on that issue in 2012. Residents pretty much split on the question of whether they wanted to stay a territory or change their political status. There is no reason for the American taxpayers to spend any money on another plebiscite -- if the Puerto Rican government wants to do so, why doesn’t it do it on its own dime?

The blog Latino Rebels pushed back against Heritage, saying that putting federal dollars into the plebiscite process would force the U.S. government to “put some skin in the game.”

“With about 3.8 million American citizens living on the island and another 4 million Puerto Ricans living on the mainland, it is the duty of Congress to finally wake up and move on this issue,” Latino Rebels wrote. “The dollar amounts aren’t big, but it would cause the Department of Justice to get involved in a process, and it could be the sign that such a process would be binding and permanent.”

The appropriation was suggested by the Obama administration last year, after disputes over Puerto Rico’s referendum results failed to move the issue forward. The two-part plebiscite first asked respondents whether they were happy with their relationship with the United States. Dissatisfaction won, with 52 percent of the vote.

The referendum then asked whether voters wanted to become a state, an independent country, or a freely associated state -- a type of voluntarily limited sovereignty. Remaining a commonwealth wasn’t an option.

Most people who answered the second question chose statehood. But because some 470,000 commonwealth supporters submitted blank ballots in protest, statehood won only about 45 percent the total votes cast.

The island’s lone, nonvoting representative in the Congress, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, used the inconclusive results to push for statehood.

When the argument failed to convince Congress, he instead filed legislation calling for an up-or-down vote on whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st U.S. state.

The U.S. military invaded and colonized Puerto Rico in 1898. Despite holding four referendums since 1967, the island remains a U.S. commonwealth.

H/T: Latino Rebels.



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