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Letter from Pierluisi to Obama: “The People of Puerto Rico Have Spoken”

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Representative in Congress, has written a letter to President Obama analyzing the recent plebiscite vote and urging an “appropriate and timely” federal government response.

The letter began by summarizing the results:

On the first question voters were asked whether they want Puerto Rico to remain a U.S. territory, the status the island has had since 1898. Over 1.74 million people responded to this question. That is approximately 75 percent of all registered voters in Puerto Rico, a level of participation that is substantially higher than the national turnout for the U.S. general elections the same day.

The response to the first question was 54% desiring a change and 46% accepting the status quo. The Pierluisi letter also summarized the answers to the second question, which offered three options for Puerto Rico’s status:

  • 61.13% for statehood
  • 33.33% for free association
  • 5.54% for independence

“There is no reasonable way,” Pierluisi continued, “to interpret these results as anything other than a decisive rejection of the current territory status.”

Pierluisi pointed out that the number of votes for statehood on the second question — about 810,000 — is greater than the 803,400 voting in favor of maintaining the territorial relationship. “For the first time ever,” he said, “there are now more people in Puerto Rico who want to become a state than who want to continue as a territory.”

The letter went on to acknowledge and discuss the points that have come up in news reports since the vote. Some have said that there were many ballots left blank, implying a vote against statehood or a vote for the status quo. “[I]n our democracy,” Pierluisi pointed out, “it is well settled that outcomes are determined by ballots proerply cast/ Power rests with the ctitzen who votes, not the one who stays home or refuses to choose from among the options provided.”

It has also been suggested that another status option, generally referred to as “Enhanced Commonwealth,” should have been on the ballot. “But each of the last four presidential administrations,” said Pierluisi, “has considered and rejected this proposal as a valid status option.”  He added:

To summarize: a majority of voters in Puerto Rico have soundly rejected the current status in favor of a new status. Among the three viable alternatives, statehood won a decisive victory[.]

Pierluisi then concluded, “In light of these results, I believe that the White House has a clear basis, and a clear responsibility, to act.”

The letter quotes the most recent Task Force report, which said, “If the process produces a clear result, Congress should act on it quickly with the President’s support.” It goes on to quote the President’s own statement: “When the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you.”

The letter concludes with a reminder that “the people of Puerto Rico have spoken,” and an invitation to step forward with the changes called for in the vote. Read the full text of the letter.


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