Puerto Rico’s main opposition party to boycott status plebiscite

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Puerto Rico’s main opposition party, the Popular Democratic Party, voted to boycott a status plebiscite planned for June 11.

The party’s vote Sunday was a rejection of the revised ballot language written by the ruling New Progressive Party.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and the NPP legislators had approved a ballot that just had options for independence and statehood. Then a deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter saying that the ballot options were unfair. The official said he wouldn’t recommend the U.S. Congress release federal money allotted for the plebiscite with the planned ballot choices.

Puerto Rico legislators responded by voting to revise the language to add a third option: remaining a “territory.”

The PDP has argued that Puerto Rico is more than a territory of the United States and objected to this ballot language. Members of the party wanted to have part of the current name of Puerto Rico, “Estado Libre Asociado,” be the option rather than “territory.” The former can be translated as “Free Associated State,” though it is usually translated as “commonwealth.”

On Sunday the PDP’s Governing Board, General Council, and General Assembly voted against participating in the plebiscite because of the use of the term “territory” on the ballot.

The Puerto Rico Independence Party has also said it would boycott the plebiscite.

The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t yet recommended the release of funds for the plebiscite. The Puerto Rico government has said it has the money to support the plebiscite if the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t recommend the release of money to fund it.

Rosselló, who was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, possibly to discuss the plebiscite, hadn't released any information as of 4:30 p.m..

The PDP's membership in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives has fallen to 13 from 16 within the last three weeks, as Luis Raúl Torres, Manuel Natal and Luis Vega Ramos said they would cease caucusing with the party.

The El Vocero news website reported that ideological differences with Rafael Hernández Montañez, who serves as the PDP’s House Minority Leader, caused Torres’ split. Natal and Vega Ramos complained about alleged insults Hernández Montañez made towards them on Sunday.

There were varying reports as to whether Natal and Vega Ramos resigned or were pushed out of the caucus by Hernández Montañez.

The departures reduced PDP's repesentation in the House to 25% from 31%. There are 51 members of the Puerto Rico House. For the time being the three former PDP legislators will be unaffiliated.

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