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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Dorado mayor: PDP must make up its mind on status (and choose ‘improved’ autonomous commonwealth)

Dorado Mayor Carlos López

By The Star Staff

Dorado Mayor Carlos López said this week it is time for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to define itself regarding status and called for a vote among party supporters to choose from associated republic, sovereignty, or an “improved” autonomous commonwealth.

The mayor expressed confidence that the improved autonomous commonwealth would win, leaving no room in the PDP for sovereigntists or for those who believe in the associated republic status option.

López said in a radio program that the PDP has become weak because it wants to keep all the different political status choices within the party.

He made his remarks after a group of Democratic members of Congress including the House majority leader and one Republican, recently proposed what would be the first-ever binding plebiscite that would offer voters in Puerto Rico three options: statehood, independence or independence with free association, whose terms would be defined following negotiations.

The U.S. congressional delegation, which came to Puerto Rico, for a forum on the proposed legislation last weekend said the inclusion of the commonwealth, as currently configured, in the plebiscite is off the table.

To a lesser degree, the delegation communicated that chances are slim at present that the U.S. Senate will allow statehood for Puerto Rico.

“We welcome those who favor the ‘enhancement’ of the Commonwealth that is not territorial and not colonial, and that they present that option to us,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.). “We are here to listen to those who tell us what the option of a non-territorial, non-colonial Commonwealth is.”

Under the proposed bill Congress would have to accept Puerto Rico as the 51st state if voters so choose it, but the proposal is not expected to survive in the Senate, where Republicans have long opposed statehood.

Everyone, even Congress members themselves, know that the possibilities of the draft bill becoming law are minimal and maybe non-existent, but it doesn’t stop it from being important, former Puerto Rico governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá told The Associated Press.

The proposal of a binding plebiscite -- a measure that has not yet been introduced in committee -- has frustrated some on the island.

The last referendum was held in November 2020, with 53% of votes for statehood and 47% against, with only a little more than half of registered voters participating.

Saturday’s public hearing came amid ongoing discontent with Puerto Rico’s current political status, with the U.S. Supreme Court further angering many in April after upholding the differential treatment of residents of Puerto Rico.

In an 8-1 vote, the court ruled that making Puerto Ricans ineligible for the Supplemental Security Income program, which offers benefits to blind, disabled and older Americans, did not unconstitutionally discriminate against them.

As a result, many of those who spoke at Saturday’s public hearing welcomed the proposed binding plebiscite.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said he hopes the bill will go to the House floor by August. If the measure is eventually approved, the plebiscite would be held on Nov. 5, 2023.

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