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Puerto Rican people defeat two constitutional amendments championed by conservative Gov. Fortuño

By Brad Sigal |
August 21, 2012
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In a surprise to many observers, on August 19 Puerto Ricans resoundingly voted “no” on two proposed constitutional amendments that had been championed by conservative Governor Luis Fortuño of the New Progressive Party. Fortuño is also a member of the U.S. Republican Party leadership, and will be a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida next week. The “no” vote is a blow to his agenda.

An amendment that would have eliminated the right to bail for people accused of certain types of crimes was defeated by 55%-45%, and an amendment to reduce the size of Puerto Rico’s government was defeated by a vote of 54%-46%.

Leading up to the August 19 vote, the mass media’s polls indicated that the two referendums were likely to pass. Alejandro García Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party, who is running against Fortuño for governor in November, also campaigned for a 'yes' vote on the amendments. But a strong grassroots movement was built urging a no vote as a vote to protect people’s basic rights.

The amendment that would have eliminated the ability of people accused of certain crimes to have the right to bail was pitched as a conservative ‘tough on crime’ measure, but its rejection indicates that Puerto Ricans saw it as connected to the recently-passed penal code reforms that were also spun as ‘tough on crime’ measures but were aimed clearly at restricting people’s rights, such as the right to protest and disagree with the government. The other defeated amendment would have reduced the size of Puerto Rico’s legislature, another cause championed by Governor Fortuño.