In a guest post for El Nuevo Dia, Antonio Quiñones Calderón reflected on the five plebiscites Puerto Rico has held so far on its political status.
In 1967, the “commonwealth” option received 60.4% of the vote, a clear majority. At that time, many people still believed that “commonwealth” would evolve into some special legal status which would be different from territory status.
In 1993, the “commonwealth” option received 48.6% of the votes, while statehood received 46.3%. Neither of these options received a clear victory in that referendum. The author pointed out that former governor Romero Barceló said in that plebiscite, “Congress lost the ‘consent of the governed’ in its current exercise of sovereignty over Puerto Rico and is again sovereign only by virtue of right of conquest.”
In 1998, the “commonwealth” party called for a “None of the above” option, which received 50.3% of the votes. Statehood’s support increased again, to 46.5% of the votes.
The 2012 vote, says Quiñones Calderón, meant “The end of ‘ELA’.” ELA is the “commonwealth” idea — the myth of enhanced commonwealth. 54% of voters rejected it in the first question on the 2012 ballot. On the second question, 61% of voters chose statehood.
In 2017, 97% of the voters chose statehood. “The people who voted, which counts, overwhelmingly supported the statehood option,” said Quiñones Calderón, calling this “a highly significant step in the fight against colonialism.”
Quiñones Calderón continued, “The planets are aligned: Congress, the Federal Supreme Court, the White House, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Federal Justice, the Legislature and the anti-colonialist people. The writing is on the wall. Let him who has eyes to see it, let him see it. Those who do not, continue in denial.”
The series of plebiscites shows a clear and steady rise in the popularity of statehood as the permanent political status of Puerto Rico. The federal government has made it clear that the idea of “enhanced commonwealth” is a fantasy. Few people in Puerto Rico want independence. Statehood is the remaining option.
Statehood is also the best option. Most of the changes that have been proposed for the economic improvement of Puerto Rico would come naturally as part of the rights Puerto Rico would gain as a state. A voice in the federal government would come with voting members of Congress. It’s time.