Looks like 2012 is shaping to be the MOTHER of POLITIQUERÍA (loosely translated: political shenanigans) on the island colony of Puerto Rico, as politicians begin to hedge their bets and in some cases, employ a classic cover your culo mentality. Today, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, a member of the island’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), has backed off from pushing a different election date for the island’s plebiscite status vote and has washed his hands from claiming any accountability in ensuring the statehood party’s success in the vote.
According to Rivera Schatz, that responsibility will now rest 100% on the leader of the PNP, Puerto Rico’s Republican Governor Luis Fortuño. With a plebiscite vote set to occur on the same day as Puerto Ricans choose for their next governor (Fortuño is the incumbent), the embattled and unpopular governor is taking a huge political gamble that will either produce a historic windfall or a dismal catastrophic miscalculation. But maybe this play by Fortuño, tying the plebiscite vote to the island’s general election in November, is all he has left, given that the majority of Puerto Ricans would agree the Fortuño administration has done very little to solve the island’s economic crisis.
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz has dropped his plan to amend plebiscite legislation to avoid holding a status vote on Election Day next November, but said Gov. Luis Fortuño will be accountable for the results.
Rivera Schatz opposes having a status vote on Election Day, contending the general vote and the status plebiscite are too important to be held together. Other New Progressive Party leaders have said having the status vote on Election Day could make it the target of a “punishment vote” by voters disgruntled with Fortuño.
“The leader of the NPP is Luis Fortuño and he is assuming all of the responsibility,” Rivera Schatz said.
The status calls for the first part of a two-step plebiscite to be held on Aug. 12, 2012. If a second status vote is required, it will take place on the same day as the general election in November 2012.
The first referendum will ask voters whether they want to maintain the current commonwealth status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution or whether they prefer a nonterritorial option.
If more voters check that nonterritorial option, a second vote would be held giving people three status options: statehood, independence or free association.
In the meantime, even though there is clear indication that the plebiscite status vote will indeed occur next year, there are still questions about what the final language of the vote will be. As the article continues:
A vote on the bill enabling the status plebiscite is slated to be held in the Senate on Tuesday, according to NPP officials. The legislation is not expected to see significant changes, but officials are considering removing any reference to the commonwealth as a colonial status from the bill. During a Senate hearing Monday, Popular Democratic Party Sen. Antonio Fas Alzamora, a former Senate president, opposed having the second of the two-tier vote on Election Day and called for the elimination of the word “colony” from the bill.
He suggested that the first vote should give voters the option of a territorial status that falls under the U.S. territorial clause or a permanent non-territorial status.
He then proposed his own definition of commonwealth status for the second vote. Fas Alzamora proposed a pact of association, which he said is different from free-association.
“Puerto Rico and the United States agree to replace the Federal Relations Law for an associated pact that is not subject to the territorial clause with permanent citizenship” in which the United States and Puerto Rico will decide “which powers will the United States keep and which powers will be delegated to Puerto Rico.”
Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said the two votes should be held on Election Day. “Our people should be allowed to decide if they want the current status and express their status preference,” he said.
He insisted that the plebiscite has to be held no later than 2012. On the other hand, he also said the first of the two votes, which asks voters if they want to change the current political status, is the most important of the two votes because it could force Congress to act.
While he did not expect commonwealth supporters to abstain from the vote, doing so could cause Congress not to take the plebiscite results seriously. In that regard, he opposed the inclusion of the world “colony” in the legislation.