Voters crowded polling stations across Puerto Rico on Sunday and rejected constitutional amendments that would have reduced the size of the U.S. territory’s legislature and given judges the right to deny bail in certain murder cases. With 99 percent of polling places reporting, officials said 54 percent of the 805,337 votes counted rejected the legislative measure and 46 percent favored it. Fifty-five percent opposed the bail measure and 45 percent supported it. The referendum’s results mean Puerto Rico remains the only place in the Western Hemisphere where everyone is entitled to bail regardless of the alleged crime.
“It is a time to celebrate because the people have saved our constitution and our rights,” said Arturo Hernandez, gubernatorial candidate for the Sovereign Union Movement, one of the island’s minority parties. Gov. Luis Fortuno and other members of his pro-statehood party lamented the bail change wasn’t approved. “This would have been a great tool to fight crime,” Fortuno said as he thanked the families of victims who supported the measure.
The island of nearly 4 million people reported a record 1,117 homicides last year, and the drug-fueled violence continues unabated, with an increasing number of innocent bystanders being killed. Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said he accepted the defeat but added that he doesn’t regret supporting the proposed amendments. “We defended our principles,” he said.