Romero Barceló: We’ll push status in DC

Romero Barceló: We’ll push status in DC

By : HÉCTOR MONCLOVA

Gov.-elect Alejandro García Padilla’s pledge to govern by consensus with all sectors requires that he push for action in Washington, D.C. on Puerto Rico’s latest status plebiscite, according to elder statesman Carlos Romero Barceló.

The former two-term governor (1977 to 1984) and resident commissioner (1993-2000) said García Padilla must set aside his personal concerns with the status vote and “respect the unmistakable claim of the people to end the territorial relationship with the U.S.”

For Romero Barceló, that means “demanding that President Obama comply with the plebiscite results and start the process to achieve the political and economic equality between the American citizens in Puerto Rico and those in the 50 states by admitting Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the union.”

That call by the statehood stalwart came during a press conference this week at New Progressive Party headquarters in Hato Rey.

The statehood supporting NPP maintains that the results of the two-step plebiscite represent a clear rejection of the continuation of the current territory status.

The two-part ballot first asked all voters if they favor the current status as a U.S. territory. Regardless of the answer, in the second question, all voters then had the opportunity to choose from three options: statehood, independence or “sovereign free association,” which would grant more autonomy to the island of nearly 4 million people.

More than 900,000 voters, or 54%, responded “no” to the first question, saying they weren’t content with the current status.

On the second question, only about 1.3 million voters made a choice. Of those, nearly 800,000, or 61% of those expressing an opinion, chose statehood — the first majority after three previous referendums on the issue over the past 45 years. Some 437,000 backed sovereign free association and 72,560 chose independence. Nearly 500,000, however, left this question blank.

The certified results were being sent to the White House and the congressional leadership, and it would be up to them to begin the process of possibly admitting Puerto Rico into the union.

“The Popular Democratic Party cannot ignore the vote from the majority of the electorate. Is “61 not a clear majority? Of course it is,” Romero Barceló said. “To run a government by consensus you have to respect the will of the people.”

García Padilla and his PDP argue that the ballot was designed to defeat commonwealth but failed to do so.

In a letter to Obama, García Padilla said the two-tiered vote failed to produce a “clear result” and dismissed statehooders “claiming victory” by arguing that the “combined vote of commonwealth supporters” defeated statehood.

Romero Barceló dismissed the criticism of the ballot, pointing to the report by the Obama administration’s task force on Puerto Rico.

“If we read carefully the President Task Force report on Puerto Rico, it talks about non-territorial alternatives. And commonwealth is not one of them,” Romero Barceló said.

The veteran statehood leader said the next step is going to Congress with the numbers and saying: “Listen, this was the vote in Puerto Rico. Do you believe in democracy or not? Are you going to tell the world that you will not pay attention to a claim by the majority of the Puerto Rican people?”

Romero Barcelo’s daughter, NPP Sen. Melinda Romero, is filing a joint resolution to send the plebiscite numbers to Capitol Hill and the White House as soon as they are certified by the State Elections Commission.

“[García Padilla] won’t do anything in Washington, but we will,” Romero Barceló said. “We will talk to senators and representatives, and we will explain what has happened. We will talk with pressure groups. We will find lobbyists, we will find people to help us to file a bill of admission as a state and get a referendum on Puerto Rican statehood.”

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