Moving forward together

Last November my administration was tasked with tackling the many challenges facing Puerto Rico, including, rampant crime, high unemployment and an economy in deep recession. Sadly, ever since losing the election, instead of joining me in addressing these challenges, the previous administration has chosen to focus on misrepresenting the outcome of the 2012 Puerto Rico plebiscite on self-determination. Falsely claiming that a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in support of statehood, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi and his allies from the prior administration continue to spread in Washington the politics of division.

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In their zeal to attempt to demonstrate support for statehood, the New Progressive Party has worked tirelessly to mischaracterize the results of the plebiscite – so much so that both houses of the Puerto Rican legislature felt it necessary to pass a joint resolution on Wednesday to set the record straight. 

These are the facts recited in the resolution: The results of the Nov. 6, 2012, plebiscite are inconclusive — none of the options for Puerto Rico’s political status received a majority of votes. The plebiscite consisted of a two-step question process. The first question asked voters whether or not Puerto Rico should maintain its current form of political status: 970,910, or 51.7 percent, of the people voted “NO,” and 828,077, or 44.1 percent, of the people voted “YES.” And 67,267 — 3.6 percent — of voters cast a blank ballot.

The second question asked voters to choose from only three options that excluded the Commonwealth. Statehood received 834,191, or 44.4 percent, of the votes cast; sovereign free associated state received 454,768, or 24.3 percent, of the votes cast; and independence received 74,895, or 4 percent, of the votes cast. In addition, nearly 500,000 ballots were left blank as an act of protest to the biased structure of the plebiscite. These numbers are a far cry from a majority support for statehood. Moreover, these results show a 2 percent decrease in support for statehood compared to the plebiscites held in 1993 and 1998. 

Every Puerto Rican agrees that any self-determination that is fair, transparent and democratic should give an equal opportunity to each and all of the viable options with respect to our relationship with the United States. I commend President Obama for his proposal to hold a new plebiscite in Puerto Rico, which is an act that acknowledges that any fair self-determination process must include all valid options: statehood, independence, free association and Commonwealth. 

While Puerto Ricans may continue to have different views concerning our relationship with the United States, we should be united in our desire to improve the lives of our fellow Puerto Ricans. With unemployment still high and economic growth still not at our desired level, there is much work to be done to create the environment businesses and families need to thrive.

Since I took office in January, my administration has worked tirelessly to create and implement new economic development policies and crime-reducing strategies. For example, the Jobs Now Act, which provides incentives to new and existing companies based in Puerto Rico, will help create an additional 50,000 new jobs during the first 18 months of my administration. And the security efforts launched by my administration have brought about an across-the-board reduction in all crime indexes.

It is time to move beyond the election cycle and focus on the many challenges at hand. Puerto Ricans are yearning for its leaders to come together and work to create a better future for all.


Garcia-Padilla is the current Governor of Puerto Rico.