Thursday, April 29, 2010

Congress to vote on Puerto Rican status referendum

The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on whether to pass a non-binding act establishing a referendum for Puerto Rico’s legal status.

The Puerto Rico Democracy Act would establishes a two-tiered vote wherein eligible voters would decide if they were satisfied with the island’s current commonwealth status. That could subsequently lead to a second vote where Puerto Ricans would select to have the island either remain as a commonwealth or move towards becoming a state or an independent country.

The possibility of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state to the U.S. has alarmed some on the right. The Lexington Institute think tank issued a report in March warned of economic issues that “would need to be addressed” if statehood were to be achieved. On a more extreme level Glenn Beck declared that the act was part of a conspiracy by “the progressives” to rig the vote, ensure statehood, and increase their political power.

The bill has received some support from Republicans, however. "Congress has never asked those American citizens residing in Puerto Rico to express their opinion on the territory's political status," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Republican political consultant Alex Castellanos urged GOP legislators to pass the act and not fall into the trap of “mischaracterizing” it as a statehood bill. Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño (who is allied to the Republicans) advocated for the act last year:
“The reality is that the island’s current status does not enable the people of Puerto Rico to fulfill their potential for social, economic and political development,” the island’s governor said on Wednesday in a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources…

He said the measure presented by Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative to Congress, Pedro Pierluisi, provides for a “just and impartial” process, without taking a position in favor of or against the options on the table.
Though the measure has received mostly Democratic support, one congressman is upset with the “shady” proceedings surrounding it. Rep. Luis Gutierrez wrote that he was disappointed with the alleged lack of debate and he will vote against the measure.

Image- Mental Floss
Online Sources- HULIQ,, Lexington Institute, FOX News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, National Review Online, LAHT, Huffington Post

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