PUERTO RICO
(Senate - May 23, 2013)

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[Pages S3834-S3835]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                              PUERTO RICO

  Mr. WICKER. Mr. President, it is important for the United States to 
continue its efforts to promote a close relationship with Puerto Rico 
and its citizens. That includes supporting a fair and democratic 
process for Puerto Ricans on the perennial and controversial issue of 
statehood.
  I commend Puerto Rico's new Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla on his 
work to tackle the current challenges facing the island, particularly 
on the economic front. Congress has long supported reciprocity between 
Puerto Rico and the United States, with very positive results. When the 
Puerto Rican economy flourishes, trade with the United States 
increases, helping promote job creation here at home.
  I am disappointed the most recent budget proposal submitted to 
Congress by the White House recommends $2.5 million in fiscal year 2014 
to conduct yet another referendum on Puerto Rico's political status. 
Allocating U.S. taxpayer dollars for this purpose is wasteful and 
unnecessary, since a plebiscite was just held in Puerto Rico last 
November on this very question.
  The vote on Election Day specifically called for Puerto Ricans to 
express their views on the island's political status. Its backers 
sought to show that popular support exists for turning Puerto Rico into 
a State. But it is widely acknowledged that the ballot was not 
developed in a fair and inclusive manner. It instead presented 
statehood alternatives with a predetermined result in mind, to force 
Puerto Ricans toward an option they have rejected time and again, and 
to stack the deck in favor of statehood.
  The first part of the ballot asked whether or not Puerto Rican voters 
wanted to continue their territorial status. The second portion then 
provided three different non-territorial alternatives: statehood, 
sovereign free associated state, or independence. Keeping the island's 
current Commonwealth status was not even listed as an option in the 
second round.
  As expected, a slim majority--nearly 51.7 percent of the 1.9 million 
who voted--opted for changing the current status. However, in response 
to the second question, 834,191 voters chose statehood, 498,604 left 
the second question blank, 454,768 selected sovereign free associated 
state, and 74,895 favored independence. Any way you slice it, 
1,028,267--or nearly 55 percent--of the Puerto Ricans who traveled to 
the polls voted for options other than statehood.
  As Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, the first woman of Puerto Rican 
heritage elected to the United States House of Representatives, 
correctly pointed out: ``Casting a blank ballot is part of traditional 
form of objecting to an unfair process in Puerto Rican political 
history.'' In accordance with this tradition, the Commonwealth Party in 
Puerto Rico adopted a resolution calling on Puerto Rican voters to 
protest last November's plebiscite process by casting blank ballots.
  When you include the nearly half a million voters who left the second 
question on the ballot blank, it is clear--despite the claims of some 
statehood proponents--that a majority of voters do not support 
statehood for Puerto Rico. In fact, more than 1 million, or nearly 55 
percent, of Puerto Rican voters who participated in the plebiscite 
actually demonstrated support for something other than statehood.
  A concurrent resolution was adopted last week by the legislature in 
Puerto Rico stating that the plebiscite on November 6, 2012, portrayed 
a false majority in favor of statehood and prevented an accurate vote 
on the option of Commonwealth status. I ask unanimous consent to insert 
into the Record the text of that resolution.

       The Senate and The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico

                      COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO


                              THE CAPITOL

       We, EDUARDO BHATIA-GAUTIER, President of the Senate, and 
     JAIME R. PERELLO-BORRAS, Speaker of the House of 
     Representatives,


                                CERTIFY

       That the Senate of Puerto Rico and the House of 
     Representatives of Puerto Rico approved in final vote Senate 
     Concurrent Resolution No. 24, introduced by Messrs. Nadal-
     Power and Rosa-Rodriguez and Co-sponsors Messrs. Fas-
     Alzamora, Tirado-Rivera, Bhatia-Gautier, Dalmau-Santiago, 
     Torres-Torres; Mmes. Lopez-Leon, Gonzalez-Lopez; Messrs. 
     Nieves-Perez, Pereira-Castillo, Rivera-Filomeno, Rodriguez-
     Gonzalez, Rodriguez-Otero, Rodriguez-Valle, Ruiz-Nieves, 
     Suarez-Caceres, and Vargas-Morales and that the same reads as 
     follows:

                         CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

       To inform the President and the Congress of the United 
     States about the results of the plebiscite held on November 
     6, 2012, and support the request of the President of the 
     United States of America for the Congress to appropriate $2.5 
     million to the State Elections Commission for a federally-
     sponsored plebiscite after conducting the appropriate voter 
     education campaign, which incorporates all options, including 
     the enhanced Commonwealth, based on the principles of 
     fairness and equality; to authorize the disbursement of 
     funds; and for other purposes.


                          STATEMENT OF MOTIVES

       On November 6, 2012 a plebiscite was held in Puerto Rico 
     along with the general elections. The results of such 
     plebiscite were inconclusive because none of the options on 
     Puerto Rico's political status that received a majority of 
     votes. Said plebiscite consisted of two separate questions, 
     formulated by the preceding pro-statehood government 
     administration, which favored statehood for Puerto Rico, in 
     order to portray a false majority in favor of statehood and 
     prevent such formula from competing against the Commonwealth 
     option that had been favored by the people of Puerto Rico in 
     all previously-held plebiscites.
       The results were the following: the first question asked 
     voters whether or not Puerto Rico should maintain its current 
     form of political status. Nine hundred seventy thousand nine 
     hundred ten (970,910), that is, fifty-one point seven percent 
     (51.7%) of the people voted ``NO''; whereas eight hundred 
     twenty-eight thousand seventy-seven (828,077), that is, 
     forty-four point one percent (44.1%) of the people voted 
     ``YES.'' However, a total of sixty-seven thousand two hundred 
     sixty-seven (67,267) voters cast a blank ballot, which 
     accounted for three point six percent (3.6%) of voters.
       The second question asked voters to choose from options 
     that excluded the current political status. Statehood 
     received eight hundred thirty-four thousand one hundred 
     ninety-one (834,191), or forty-four point four percent 
     (44.4%) of the votes cast; sovereign free associated state 
     received four hundred fifty-four thousand seven hundred 
     sixty-eight (454,708), or twenty four point three percent 
     (24.3%) of the votes cast; and independence received seventy 
     four thousand eight hundred ninety-five (74,895), or four 
     percent (4) of the votes cast. However, such question 
     received a total of four hundred ninety-eight thousand six 
     hundred four (498,604)blank votes, which accounted for 
     twenty-six point live percent (26.5%) of the votes cast. 
     These results should not surprise us, since the preceding 
     Legislative Assembly approved the

[[Page S3835]]

     plebiscite disregarding the procedural and substantive 
     consensuses required to legitimize any plebiscite held.
       The Party that supported the Commonwealth option, which was 
     the political opposition at the time, objected this process. 
     It also argued that the process was contrary to the 
     provisions of H.R. 2499, as amended, approved by the United 
     States House of Representatives, which included the 
     Commonwealth among the options in the second question. 
     Moreover, it stated that the process had been criticized by 
     the White House because it was designed with the intent to 
     conceal the true expression of the people of Puerto Rico.
       Commonwealth supporters employed two methods to express 
     their opposition. On the one hand, the Governing Board of the 
     Party supporting the Commonwealth option adopted a resolution 
     asking voters to protest the process by casting a blank 
     ballot, On the other hand, a significant number of pro-
     Commonwealth leaders openly conducted campaigns in favor of 
     the Sovereign Free Associated State option.
       There is no doubt that the voters who wish to express their 
     dissatisfaction with the proposals or the candidates in the 
     ballot, traditionally do so by spoiling their ballots, 
     casting a blank ballot, or voting for a fictional character.
       If the United States Congress wishes to know the amount of 
     Puerto Rican voters against statehood for Puerto Rico, the 
     blank ballots should be taken into account because such votes 
     clearly express the intent of voters against statehood. Thus, 
     it should be understood that votes cast in favor of statehood 
     did not exceed forty-four point four percent (44.4%), which 
     shows a two percent (2%) decrease in the historical peak it 
     achieved in 1998. In other words, fifty-five point six 
     percent (55.6%) of Puerto Rican voters rejected statehood in 
     the 2012 plebiscite.
       Previously, in 1998, the pro-statehood party had also 
     designed a unilateral and exclusionary plebiscite; 
     nonetheless, voters had the option to vote for ``None of the 
     Above.'' The ``None of the Above'' option received fifty 
     point three percent (50.3%) of the votes cast, followed by 
     Statehood and Independence, which received forty-six point 
     five percent (46.5%) and two point five percent (2.5%) of the 
     votes cast, respectively. The results of the 1998 plebiscite 
     were consistent with those of the 1993 plebiscite, in which 
     the Commonwealth option received forty-eight point six 
     percent (48.6%) of the votes cast, whereas Statehood and 
     Independence received forty-six point three percent (46.3%) 
     and four point four percent (4.4%) of the votes cast, 
     respectively. The only other event of this kind held since 
     the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952, 
     took place in 1967. In the 1967 plebiscite, the Commonwealth 
     received sixty point three percent (60.3%) of the votes cast, 
     while Statehood received thirty-nine percent (39%).
       Unfortunately, the preceding government administration in 
     Puerto Rico, whose term ended in December 2012, failed to 
     sponsor a process that would include the recommendations of 
     the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status appointed 
     by President Barack Obama. Such Task Force proposed--on a 
     Report released in March 2011--various methods to ask Puerto 
     Ricans about their political status in a manner that is fair 
     for the supporters of all options. Furthermore, it also 
     failed to address the issue of Puerto Rico's political status 
     in an inclusive and responsible manner,
       On April 10, 2013, President Barack Obama included in the 
     budget proposal for the fiscal year 2014, an appropriation of 
     $2.5 million to the State Elections Commission in order to 
     conduct a voter education campaign and a plebiscite which 
     would include all constitutionally viable status options. The 
     action taken by the President of the United States shows that 
     the plebiscite designed by the preceding government 
     administration lacks legitimacy or credibility before the 
     government of the United States of America.
       In light of the history of imposed and exclusionary 
     plebiscites that only attest to our people's division with 
     regard to this issue, it is necessary to inform the President 
     and the Congress of the United States about the true results 
     of the plebiscite held on November 6, 2012.
     Be it resolved by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico:
       Section 1.--To inform the President and the Congress of the 
     United States about the results of the plebiscite held on 
     November 6, 2012, and support the request of the President of 
     the United States of America for the Congress to appropriate 
     $2.5 million to the State Elections Commission for a 
     federally-sponsored plebiscite, after conducting the 
     appropriate voter education campaign, which incorporates all 
     options, including the enhanced Commonwealth, based on the 
     principles of fairness and equality; to authorize the 
     disbursement of funds; and for other purposes.
       Section 2.--The results of the 2012 plebiscite were the 
     following: in the first question, which asked voters whether 
     or not Puerto Rico should continue to have its current form 
     of political status, the ``NO'' option received fifty-three 
     point nine percent (53.9%) of the votes cast, whereas the 
     ``YES'' option received forty-six percent (46%). The results 
     of the second question, which asked voters to choose from the 
     options that did not included the current status, were the 
     following: the statehood option received forty-four point 
     four percent (44.4%) of the votes cast (834,191); the 
     ``sovereign free associated state'' received twenty-four 
     point three percent (24.3%) of the votes east (454,768); the 
     independence option received four percent (4%) of the votes 
     cast (74,895), and blank ballots accounted for twenty-six 
     point five percent (26.5%) of the votes cast (498,604).
       Section 3.--The foregoing shows that the representations 
     made before the United States Congress stating that the 
     statehood option was favored by the majority of Puerto 
     Ricans, does not accurately reflect the results of the 
     plebiscite on Puerto Rico's status held on November 6, 2012.
       Section 4.--A copy of this Concurrent Resolution shall be 
     delivered to the President, the Vice President, and the 
     Secretary of State of the United States, to all the Members 
     of the 113th United States Congress, as well as to all 
     pertinent government and nongovernmental organizations, human 
     rights organizations, and the local, national, and 
     international media, among others.
       Section 5.--A certified copy of this Concurrent Resolution 
     shall be translated into English and delivered by the 
     Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of 
     Representatives of Puerto Rico to the members of the United 
     States Congress.
       Section 6.--This Concurrent Resolution shall take effect 
     immediately after its approval.
       In witness whereof we hereunto sign and affix the Seal of 
     the Senate and the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico. 
     Issued this Tuesday, 14th of May of 2013, at our offices at 
     the Capitol Building, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
                                           Eduardo Bhatia-Gautier,
                                              President of Senate.
                                          Jaime R. Perello-Borras,
     Speaker of House of Representatives.

                          ____________________