Response to “Will Puerto Rico become the 51st State?

Last week, the Rocky Mountain Collegian published an op-ed by Rafael Rivero in which he claimed to explain the results of the status plebiscite held in Puerto Rico last November; however, his writing is full of inaccuracies, misleading assumptions and information that is simply not true.

Rivero is right to point out that the results of the vote were correctly reported, since in fact, 54 percent of voters rejected the current status in the first question, and 61 percent favored statehood in the second.

But that is where the facts end in Rivero’s column. He proceeds to claim that a change over the course of 14 years in voters preferences from a roughly 50-50 split between statehood and the current status is statistically iffy while offering no evidence to back this up.

Now as to the structure of the plebiscite, described in the column as a drastic change, we found ourselves with a case of what people call in Puerto Rico as “buscándole la quinta pata al gato” (or roughly translated, find the cat’s fifth leg — an idiom for looking for something that isn’t there).

Rivero calls the two-question plebiscite confusing. The reality of the matter is that it has been known for years that a majority of Puerto Ricans wish to change the current status, which is responsible for a lot of the economic problems that Puerto Rico currently faces.

However, when you stacked the Commonwealth’s supporters against its opponents the former would have achieved small pluralities, since status quo opponents became divided over which status option to pursue if a change occurred. This plebiscite is the first to address this political reality, by following the model of what is known as a recall election.

In structure, it first established the question of whether voters wish to continue with the incumbent (the ‘Commonwealth’ status), and if that incumbent were to be removed, which option voters would prefer.

Rivero also mentions that the blank ballots for the second question weren’t counted. Nowhere, not in Puerto Rico nor in any jurisdiction, are blank ballots counted as votes. Therefore, adding those numbers to the total is pure nonsense.

Let’s set the record straight: Not only is the math just absurdly wrong, but the sovereign association option is not the same as the status quo. The current status is a territorial one, in which Puerto Rico exerts only local power and is entirely subject to the supreme power of Congress. In addition, the PPD never endorse the sovereign association option as a party, some members did, but not the party itself.

Will Puerto Rico become a state? Polls, history and these results show that is increasingly becoming an inevitability.

William-José Vélez González is the Executive Vice President of the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association

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