Puerto Ricans surprised pollsters and political observers by voting against amending their constituition to limit the right of bail in certain homicide cases and also against reducing the size of the legislature.
Predictions pointing to majority support for Gov. Luis Fortuño's initiative went unfulfilled and undermined his possibilities of winning a second term in the Nov. 6 elections.
Fortuño called for the referendum on grounds that giving judges the discretion to refuse bail in certain cases was the only way to deter criminals, while cutting the legislature by 30 percent would bring significant savings.
Soon after 50 percent of the vote had been counted, Fortuño appeared before the media to say that voting down the bail amendment was an opportunity lost, though he said he would respect citizens' wishes in the matter.
Fortuño is consequently blocked from proceeding any further with one of his emblematic projects at a time when violent crime has become the worst problem facing this U.S. commonwealth in the Caribbean.
Critics said that limiting bail would do nothing to attack the root of the problem and was only a strategy to portray the governor as tough on crime.
Fortuño's chief rival in the governor's race, Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the main opposition PPD, who had let it be known that he would vote "yes" in the referendum, appeared before the media as a victor and said that the governor has lost all credibility.
Analysts and editorials noted, however, that Garcia Padilla does not come out of the situation with any particular advantage, since he backed the "yes" vote based solely on opinion polls.
The gubernatorial candidate of the small Puerto Rican Independence Party, Juan Dalmau, said that the "no" vote represents a "moral defeat" for both Garcia Padilla and Fortuño.
The idea of reducing the legislature by 30 percent was also rejected.
With 93 percent of the votes counted, the "no" to the bail-limiting amendment had 54.61 percent of the vote against 45.39 percent in favor, while 53.82 voted against reducing the legislature compared with 46.18 percent in favor. EFE