Puerto Ricans vote overwhelmingly to apply for U.S. statehood

Puerto Ricans vote overwhelmingly to apply for U.S. statehood”

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's governor is vowing to make the US territory the 51st state after statehood won in a non-binding referendum hit by a boycott and low turnout that raised questions about the vote's legitimacy.

An island-wide referendum on Sunday favored statehood in a 97 percent landslide, though voter turnout reached just 23 percent as opponents of Governor Ricardo Rossello's push to become a state boycotted the vote. The U.S. Department of Justice in April called on Rossello to change ballot language that initially did not give voters an option to remain a U.S. territory.

Voters in the US territory of Puerto Rico approved a non-binding referendum to seek statehood. That would mean a 30 percent cut to the administrative budget of the University of Puerto Rico. Free association is an official affiliation with the United States.

In the 1998 referendum, the top choice among Puerto Ricans was "none of the above" while in 2012 referendum voted heavily in favor of statehood, with the rest of the ballots left blank. The letter was published in the local newspaper El Vocero.

The post Puerto Ricans vote for statehood amid economic turmoil appeared first on PBS NewsHour. Residents of Puerto Rico are not entitled to electoral votes for President. The most recent was in 2012, where the majority voted in favor of statehood, but Congress never picked up the matter.

With 97 percent of the vote counted, a total of 97.17 percent of the Puerto Ricans who turned out to vote in Sunday's plebiscite on the island's legal status opted for US statehood. Congress did not act on that referendum. Eastern the statehood vote had won over an astonishing 97% of the vote, with just 1.5% choosing independence and 1.3% voting to have the island maintain its current territorial status.

Rosselló will go to the United States capital armed with a 97% backing for statehood from voters in Sunday's plebiscite on the future of the stricken U.S. colony. Add to that the heavy opposition at home from pro-independence and pro-territory parties and the prospect of being the 51 state looks rather bleak.

Still the result is hardly as convincing as Rosselló claims.

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And Lopez Rivera said last week he would not accept the title of "National Freedom Hero" but would instead join the parade as a regular citizen, partly because the focus was too much on him and not enough on the plight of Puerto Rico. "It would be highly contradictory for Washington to demand democracy in other parts of the world, and not respond to the legitimate right to self-determination that was exercised today in the American territory of Puerto Rico", he declared.

What's Puerto Rico's current status?

Despite the lack of consensus, many said putting politics aside and embracing Puerto Rican culture is what it's really all about. And so it continues to be a colonial territory of the US.

Three of Puerto Rico's political parties including the main opposition party had called on their supporters to boycott the referendum, which they labeled a failure. While Puerto Ricans are American citizens and contribute to Social Security and Medicare, they do not vote for the USA president, and their single representative in Congress has no vote. When he suggested that they take a one-third haircut on their investments, the commission said that was too generous, that it was letting them off the hook too easily. "Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be canceled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay".

What are the arguments for and against?

Puerto Rico's status quo is somewhat between full independence and statehood.

Unemployment is high, holding steady about 11.5% since March, and about 46% of the population of 3.4 million people live below the poverty level.

The ruling party "is a victim of its arrogance, abuse of power and ideological narcissism", said one of its senators, Anibal Jose Torres. The results from these elections are but a reflection of, not simply the economic crisis Puerto Rico is facing, but of the political crisis it is facing as well.

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