Puerto Ricans vote for USA statehood

Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello  Courtesy of CNN

Puerto Ricans on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming America's 51st state - at least the ones who bothered going to the polls.

It's the fifth time Puerto Ricans have voted on the matter, but statehood has never won a clear victory.

Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz vowed to push for statehood.

"To not vote in a process that has not been validated by any party in Puerto Rico, or by the USA government or by anyone outside the New Progressive Party is to respect oneself", he tweeted on Saturday.

After the vote, Rosselló said Washington can "no longer ignore" Puerto Rico's statehood preference.

David Aldarondo, a 31-year-old law student from Fishkill, New York, has lived in Puerto Rico for almost a decade and said he believes independence is the best option. The opposition had called for a boycott of the referendum. The governor announced that the US territory overwhelmingly chose statehood on Sunday in a non-binding referendum held amid a deep economic crisis that has sparked an exodus of islanders to the USA mainland. Puerto Rico has been a USA territory since the Spanish-American War in 1898.

This year's referendum coincides with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting US citizenship to Puerto Ricans, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers. This year, it comes on the same day Puerto Ricans vote among three choices: independence, statehood or their current territorial status. Turnout was the lowest of any vote on the island in over 50 years with nearly eight out of 10 voters not even showing up at the polls.

Those who oppose statehood warn that Puerto Rico will struggle even more financially because it will be forced to pay millions of dollars in federal taxes.




Moreover, this plebiscite was not authorized or certified by the U.S. Department of Justice or Congress, which throws its impact into question.

Proponents of statehood also argue that if it became fully integrated into the Union, Puerto Rico would receive more federal spending to reactivate the economy, which now has an unemployment rate close to 12 percent.

Governor Ricardo Rossello, right, and Congresswoman representing Puerto Rico Jennifer Gonzalez celebrate the results of a referendum on the status of the island, at the New Progressive Party headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, June 11, 2017.

According to the New York Times, since becoming de jure-wise a part of the U.S. Puerto Rico has voted on their future five times, with Sunday's referendum being the most recent.

The first three referenda were inconclusive, with voters split on statehood versus the status quo.

Despite the overwhelming vote to join the USA, nearly 80% of Puerto Rican voters avoided casting a ballot. The Partido Popular Democrático, which broadly advocates the continuation of the current colonial arrangement whereby the island's 3.4 million people have USA citizenship but can not vote in federal elections, said the ballot was flawed from the outset.

"The bad side of it is that we are not a full part of the United States", he told NPR's Greg Allen and Marisa Peñaloza earlier this year.

No clear majority emerged in the first three referendums on status, with voters nearly evenly divided between statehood and the status quo.

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