Puerto Rico votes for statehood in nonbinding, low-turnout election

Marco Green
June 26, 2017

Voters in the US territory of Puerto Rico approved a non-binding referendum to seek statehood.

In 2012, in the last referendum, 54 percent of voters expressed their desire for a change in status, and of the voters who answered the second question, 61 percent chose statehood, though almost half a million voters left that second question blank, AP notes.

Ricardo Rossello said that voters have sent a strong and clear message to the US Congress and the world.

Those who oppose statehood worry the island will lose its cultural identity and warn that Puerto Rico will struggle even more financially because it will be forced to pay millions of dollars in federal taxes.

For the fifth time, Puerto Rican voters went to the polls to decide one thing: Should the island become the 51st state??

More than 97 percent of Puerto Ricans who cast ballots in the non-binding plebiscite chose statehood.

Puerto Rico has a huge debt load of $70 billion - or about $20,000 for every man, woman and child living on the island.

Becoming a state would give Puerto Rico more say in Congress and more money for the USA government.

"We will now take these results to Washington, D.C., with the strong support of not only a duly executed electoral exercise, but also of a contingency of national and worldwide observers, who can attest to the fact that the process was fair, well organized and democratic", Rossello said. Instead, they pay local taxes and for social security while having a non-voting representative in the US Congress.

But that didn't stop Gov. Pedro Rossello from vowing to push ahead with his administration's quest to make the island the 51st US state and declaring that "Puerto Rico voted for statehood".

Students at the University of Puerto Rico, for example, have led a two-month-long strike against a proposed US$450 million education budget cut. In 1917, the islanders were granted United States citizenship, but they continue to labour under a political half-life in which they can elect their own local government and governor but cannot vote in federal elections.

It is under United States military protection and is entitled to federal funding for infrastructure and social programs. It has its own governor and legislative body and it became a U.S. commonwealth territory with its own constitution in 1952.

"The federal government can not ignore the results of this plebiscite and the will of our people", the governor said. Those funds have enabled politicians to install a welfare state that has turned vast numbers of the island's population into dependents on the government.

"I think it is really rather unlikely that Puerto Rico will become the 51st state in a xenophobic administration like the one that we have in the USA at the moment".

"This Sunday's plebiscite wastes millions of dollars and is not a good use of the time and energy we must devote to solving the fiscal and economic crisis of Puerto Rico". So the statehood party got a little over 500,000 votes.

Soto is well aware that the Republican-controlled House and Senate may be reluctant to approve statehood because voters in the new state likely would put Democratic House members and senators into the Congress.

Former governor Anibal Acevedo Vila said in an interview: "A 97 per cent win is the kind of result you get in a one-party regime".

"Tomorrow, not voting is a form of voting".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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