Puerto Rico plans to decide its political future
Wednesday, 05 October 2011

The governor of Puerto Rico announced Tuesday that he will present local legislators with a plan for a two-part referendum next year to decide the political future of the U.S. territory once and for all.

In a surprise televised address, Gov. Luis Fortuno said "the moment has come" to decide Puerto Rico's final status.


The announcement comes just days after President Barack Obama was criticized for saying the island would remain a commonwealth if there was not a clear, overwhelming majority leaning toward a different option.


In the 20-minute message, Fortuno said he would push ahead unilaterally with his decision.


"Let's be clear: neither Congress nor the president, nor any other power on earth can stop Puerto Rico from expressing itself freely and democratically about its preference regarding its political status," Fortuno said. "Congress did not act, but we will act."


Fortuno, whose New Progressive Party supports statehood, said he will present legislation today that would allow islanders to vote on Aug. 12 whether they want a change in status. If they want a change, voters would choose one of three options in a second referendum to be held during the November 2012 general elections.


The options would be statehood, independence, or a sovereign free association, which differs from commonwealth status.


Puerto Rico's House of Representatives and Senate will have to debate the proposed legislation.


Puerto Ricans have previously voted on the status issue in referendums issued in 1967, 1993 and 1998, but no clear majority emerged and the status quo has remained.


Commonwealth status grants Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship but bars them from voting for president, and their congressional representative cannot vote either.


In March, a federal task force charged with analyzing the island's status supported creation of a different referendum that would first ask voters whether they wanted to be part of the United States or become independent. If they chose ties with the United States, they would be given statehood or the current commonwealth as options. If they opted for independence, they would choose between free association and independence.


Source: Associated Press


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