The people of Puerto Rico have rejected right-wing governor and candidate Luis Fortuño’s proposed amends to the constitution by means of a referendum, celebrated August 19, 2012. The proposed amends would have reorganized the U.S colonies’ electoral districts, reduced the number of legislators, and eliminated the right to bail under certain circumstances. The electoral reform was rejected by 54% of the voters while the elimination of bail was rejected by 55% of voters.
The main criticism toward the electoral reform was based on the fact that the proposed electoral districts were strategically structured as to ensure future political victories for Fortuño’s New Progressive Party (PNP). On the other hand, the main criticisms toward the elimination of bail concentrated on the fact that it was undermining the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. Also, most left-wing and liberal analysts agreed that the elimination of bail would not make any dent in the nation’s ongoing crime wave, considering that its main contributing factor is the nation’s ongoing economic recession.
Surprisingly, Fortuño’s rival in the upcoming November elections, center-right candidate Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), supported in full the proposals. Most of the other leaders of his party, however, publicly supported to vote No on both, the electoral reform and the elimination of bail. Nevertheless, the “No-No” campaign was most predominantly organized by the left-wing Working People’s Party, the social democratic Puerto Rican Independence Party, the liberal Sovereignty Union Movement, along with numerous social movements and grassroots organizations.
The victory has filled the Puerto Rican left with joy and optimism; especially toward the upcoming elections, were for the first time in years there are three new political parties challenging the PNP-PPD hegemony: the Working People’s Party, the Sovereignty Union Movement, and Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico (Moderate environmental agenda). These will join the historical Puerto Rican Independence Party as the minority parties of the elections. Even though their chances of obtaining a significant number of seats in the colonial government are slim, they are hoping to start altering the traditional dynamic, which has done nothing but perpetuate the status quo on the island.
Finally, yet to be analyzed are the implications of this particular victory on the upcoming referendum on the political status of Puerto Rico, also this November. Puerto Ricans shall express if they wish continuing as a U.S colony or if they prefer a non-colonial status, and also which non-colonial status they prefer (becoming the 51st state of the U.S, becoming an independent state, or becoming a sovereign state associated with the U.S). The decision, however, lies in the hands of the U.S congress, no matter what the outcome of the referendum; exemplifying the undemocratic colonial state in which Puerto Rico currently resides.