San Juan: Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla has said that he will hold a new plebiscite by 2016 to decide the future of the island`s political status.
Garcia also said yesterday that his Popular Democratic Party is working on a definition for the enhanced commonwealth status it supports.
President Barack Obama`s administration has pledged USD 2.5 million to finance a plebiscite, and the ballot would have to be approved by the US attorney general before going to voters. Garcia previously said he would support a constitutional assembly to decide the US territory`s status if Obama did not act on the issue.
The US Congress would have to approve any change in status.
Garcia promised that the upcoming plebiscite would include a variety of options.
Meanwhile, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the island`s representative in Congress whose party supports seeking statehood for Puerto Rico, said he favours a referendum that simply asks voters if they want Puerto Rico to become a US state.
"That is the easiest and most inclusive referendum we can offer," he said.
Puerto Rico held a nonbinding, two-part referendum in November 2012 that was widely criticised for being confusing. On the ballot`s first question, more than 900,000 voters, or 54 percent, said they were not content with the current commonwealth status.
A second question asked voters to choose a status. Of the approximately 1.3 million voters who made a choice, nearly 800,000, or 61 per cent, supported statehood. Some 437,000 backed sovereign free association and 72,560 chose independence. However, nearly 500,000 left that question blank.
Nonbinding referendums also were held in 1967, 1993 and 1998. Seeking statehood has never garnered a clear majority, and independence has never obtained more than 5 per cent of the vote.