U.S. taskforce encourages vote to decide Puerto Rico status

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The U.S. task force on Puerto Rico's status has requested that the U.S. Congress set a date for a plebiscite in Puerto Rico whereby the people would be able to decide if the commonwealth would like to change its status.

The first vote would consist of a simple "yes" or "no" vote on changing the current commonwealth status. From there, if the vote went in favor of changing status, Congress could then set another date for a vote on whether the people favor independence or statehood. Co-chair Ruben Barrales said, "We hope that Congress will take a look at the recommendations and hopefully move the question forward."

In past plebiscites, Puerto Ricans are divided relatively evenly between statehood and commonwealth status. Those who favor independence are in a small minority. Currently Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and receive many of the benefits that the federal government offers, but cannot vote in national elections and do not pay federal taxes. If Puerto Rico were to become a state of the U.S., it could mean a shift in the balance of power in Congress and in presidential elections.

The press release including the question and answer section can be viewed here. The recommendation calls for 2 polls, one on whether to remain at the status quo and the second to decide between independence and statehood. This could create some controversy. In the past there has been a 1 single poll with all options included. There is also the issue on "free association" which falls somewhere between commonwealth status and independence. Some in Puerto Rico might argue that these options are too narrow and stacked against a commonwealth status.