Puerto Rico votes overwhelmingly for statehood

Jane Richards
June 13, 2017

The parade coincided with a nonbinding vote on the island, the fifth in the last 50 years, in which Puerto Ricans wereasked whether they favor statehood, maintaining the status quo, independence or free association, in which the US would continue to provide military protection.

Any decision on bestowing statehood on Puerto Rico would be taken by the US Congress, which has not endorsed the non-binding referendum and is unlikely to recognize the result.

As of 7:00 pm, the island's State Commission on Elections (CEE-PR) had reported that about 500,000 (23 percent) of the island's eligible voters had cast ballots, in contrast to Puerto Rico's historically high turnout in most elections.

Anthony Suarez, president of the Puerto Rican Bar of Florida, said the vote is nothing more than political posturing.

The Spanish-speaking USA territory's referendum proposes "the immediate decolonization of Puerto Rico" - just as the bankrupt island is drowning in $70 billion in debt.

Decades ago, FALN claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in the US and Puerto Rico, including a lunchtime blast in 1975 that killed four people at New York's historic Fraunces Tavern. If Congress does not pass a statute, Puerto Rico's status will remain as it is. PPD President Hector Ferrer has gone as far as claiming the vote is "invalid" and "rigged". This is a tactic that Tennessee used in the 19th century to pressure Congress to admit Tennessee as a state. Along with the missing option, the original ballot incorrectly claimed statehood was the only way Puerto Ricans would be granted American citizenship.

97% of Puerto Ricans have voted in favor of USA statehood in a referendum with a turnout of 23%. As on top of the vote is non-binding, it has witnessed a mass boycott from major political parties, which lead to the voter turnout to be extremely low. "Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be cancelled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay".

According to preliminary results, nearly half a million votes were cast for statehood, with just 7600 for independence and 6700 to stay the same. Should Puerto Rico be admitted to the union if a representative majority of its residents vote for it?

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An unincorporated United States territory under American control since 1898, Puerto Rico lacks sovereign powers - an urgent problem as it grapples with public debt of US$73 billion (S$100 billion) and its economy stumbles.

Schatz argues that statehood would help Puerto Rico in its attempt to face down its debt crisis.

On Sunday, Puerto Ricans took part in a referendum on whether the country should become the 51st state of the United States of America.

The island's government says it can not meet all of its $US72 billion debt obligations.

Governor Ricardo Rossello, an integration advocate, struggled to find the support in Washington without success.

Unemployment on the island, home to 3.4 million residents, stands at 12%, and the cost of living is soaring.

Groups that back the current commonwealth status, like the Popular Democratic Party, PPD, have called for a boycott of the plebiscite.

Other reports by VgToday

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