Puerto Rico votes in favor of U.S. statehood

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 20, 2017

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Five years after the last plebiscite on the same issue, Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly voted for U.S. statehood for their island in a non-binding referendum on Sunday.

As according to the latest reports, the turnout was at 23 per cent, with 97 per cent of those who voted, doing so in favour of full statehood as a part of the US.

Quinones said many of her relatives are among the almost half a million Puerto Ricans who have moved to the US mainland in the past decade to find a more affordable cost of living or jobs as the island of 3.4 million people struggles with a 12 percent unemployment rate.

Puerto Rico is set to vote on Sunday, June 11, 2017 on becoming the 51st state.

However, Puerto Rico is now exempt from the federal income tax, and opponents of statehood say beginning to pay it is a non-starter for a place where everything from electricity to basic groceries is more expensive than USA cities.

With virtually all results in, 97.2 per cent backed statehood, 1.5 per cent supported independence and 1.3 per cent opted for no change, but just 23 per cent of the 2.2 million-strong electorate cast a ballot. During the last referendum in 2012, 54 percent said they wanted a status change.

"The cost of statehood on the pocketbook of every citizen, every business, every industry will be devastating", Carlos Delegado, secretary of the opposition Popular Democratic Party, told The Associated Press.

Puerto Rico now suffers from a poverty rate of 45 percent and 12.4 percent unemployment.

The island's new governor, Ricardo Rossello, ran on a platform for statehood, holding that the only way out was to put the island's problems onto the backs and into the pockets of the American taxpayer.

Those who did vote seemed to agree. The reality is that with the economic crisis that Puerto Rico is facing right now, the last thing on the minds of the people of Puerto Rico is a vote over statehood that Congress - they know that Congress can not or will not grant.

The US Department of Justice in its letter pointed out that Puerto Ricans are US citizenship by birth, asking that the "potentially misleading" statement be removed.

Despite the fact that they are U.S. citizens, the 3.4 million Puerto Rican people can not participate in the presidential election and their Congress delegation has no right to vote.

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.

Among those hoping Puerto Rico will become the 51st state is Ana Maria Garcia, a 52-year-old business administrator who arrived with her family on bicycle to vote early Sunday.

The question of status is "fundamental" to breaking free from economic turmoil, said Christian Sobrino, chief economic advisor to the government. Puerto Rico's economic distress has forced the closure of schools and reduced availability of social services, as well as accelerating out-migration to the mainland from the island.

If accepted, the island will become the 51st state of the USA, more than 50 years after Hawaii joined.

As American citizens, often proudly so, Puerto Ricans can freely enter the United States, live and work.

Puerto Rico's two other main political parties have called for a boycott, raising concerns about a low voter turnout.

Beaten down by that loss in revenues and the global financial crisis, the island plunged into recession. On top of that comes the nature of Puerto Rico linguistically, culturally and racially in terms of its integration with the larger power.

Rossello has launched a drastic austerity regime to restore finances, but Washington still has the last word, via its oversight board.

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