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I saw a recommended diary last night regarding Puerto Rico's political status consultation, as well as Marko's bullet about the vote. As a Puerto Rican, I think there's some confusion about what happened in Puerto Rico last night and what it means.

Did Puerto Ricans actually vote for statehood last night? Short answer, in my opinion, is 'no'. For the long answer, make the jump.

Long answer: The process that led to last night's consultation was engineered to exclude the current form of commonwealth, which is what most Puerto Ricans actually prefer.

The law was passed over strong opposition of the Popular Democratic Party (the pro-commonwealth party) by the New Progressive Party government led by Republican governor Luis Fortuño, who lost reelection last night. The consultation consisted of two parts. The first question asked: "Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status?" The options were Yes or No. Most defenders of commonwealth strongly object to this characterization of the current status, but the question was designed to garner a composite majority of pro-statehood and pro-independence voters to defeat the current commonwealth.

The second question gave voters a choice between statehood, "sovereign" commonwealth, and independence. Markos is right that statehood garnered more than 60% of the vote in the second round. But what's gone little noticed is that nearly 470,000 ballots were left blank in this question (see this link, bottom left box where it says "en blanco," which means blank).

If this seems odd to you, here's your explanation: the pro-commonwealth PPD declined to defend the "sovereign" commonwealth option and urged its voters to leave that part of the ballot blank in protest. So it could be argued that if you add the pro-sovereign commonwealth vote, the pro-independence vote, and the nearly 470K blank ballots, you actually have a majority AGAINST statehood, to the tune of more than 175,000 votes.

I am not defending the PPD's political decision, nor arguing for any particular status option. I simply want to clarify that what looks like a Puerto Rican consensus around statehood today is anything but. Instead, it is a vote engineered by the pro-statehood party, led by Republican governor Fortuño, to give the appearance of consensus. My gut tells me that if you had a plebiscite that included the current status, statehood would at best garner a tiny majority, and certainly nowhere near what you would call a widespread consensus. Statehood has been defeated in every single plebiscite in the past, and I suspect that's what would happen again if the current status were in the ballot. Now, you can make a very reasonable argument that the current commonwealth shouldn't be on the ballot ever again, but the fact is that millions of Puerto Ricans support it, and that has to count for something if this process is to be truly democratic.

I know there are many good Democrats who see statehood for Puerto Rico as a civil rights issue, but for those of you who see it that way, please understand: my country is still deeply ambivalent about its relationship with the US. We are still working things out. There is no consensus. Any attempt to ram statehood through Congress will only make things worse. Please try to look at this issue through our deeply ambivalent eyes instead of looking at it through the US political lens.

Originally posted to vawolf on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 11:03 AM PST.

Also republished by LatinoKos.

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