Above: Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño is urging US President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to implement the vote in last week’s referendum that signaled a desire for statehood.
The referendum in last week’s election, which Fortuño lost to Alejandro Garcia Padilla by 0.7 percentage points, asked voters two separate questions.
The first was whether to change the territory’s current political status. The second gave voters three options for the territory’s political status: statehood, a free sovereign associated state, or full independence.
A majority of citizens, around 54 percent, voted to change the territory’s current political status. On the second question, 61 percent voted in favour of statehood.
The results of those two questions came under fire, however, after it was revealed that around 472,674 Puerto Ricans did not answer the second questions. (Just under 65,000 did not answer the first question, with just under 13,000 ballots protested).
Around 17,760 were officially listed as protested on the second question, according to data from Puerto Rico’s Election Commission.
That said, Fortuño pushed forward with his call to US leaders, urging in a letter to Obama to “fulfill your commitment to actively seek implementation of this choice by the US citizens of Puerto Rico.”
“The plebiscite’s results constitute the US Citizens of Puerto Rico’s clear rejection of the continuation of the current territory status,” Fortuño said. “The US citizens of Puerto Rico have also clearly voted, among the available non-territorial status options, for Puerto Rico’s admission as a state of the Union so that all United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico may have the rights, benefits and responsibilities equal to those enjoyed by all other citizens of the states of the Union, and be entitled to full representation in Congress and to participate in presidential elections.”
Fortuño pointed to the President’s endorsement of the 2011 report of his Task Force on Puerto Rico’s status.
“You wrote that you were ‘firmly committed to the principle that the question of the political status is a matter of self-determination of the people of Puerto Rico,'” Fortuño wrote.
In the report, the Task Force concluded that it would be “best for the people of Puerto Rico to speak first, with swift congressional action vindicating their will to follow.”
“In view of this policy and the integrity and clarity of these results, the people of Puerto Rico demand that you and the United States Congress proceed to work together to work together to definitely move this process forward, and enable the implementation of the will of the people of Puerto Rico,” Fortuño wrote.