Puerto Rico casts symbolic vote for statehood

12 June, 2017, 15:45 | Author: Clay Erickson

Residents of the USA territory of Puerto Rico voted Sunday to become the 51st state of the United States of America.

But many question the validity of the vote amid a low turnout and a boycott by several opposition parties.

Nevertheless, the final say regarding Puerto Rican statehood lies with Congress despite the referendum's outcome.

Ricardo Rossello says the island has sent a strong and clear message to US Congress and the world.

But Puerto Rico is seen as a low priority in Washington.

"That could be used as an excuse by many for not allowing a debtor state into the Union at this time", he said.

"I think it's good that he declined it because it was entirely distracting from the issue at hand, which is Puerto Rico", Mayor Bill de Blasio, who planned to march all along, said last week. The opposition had called for a boycott of the referendum.

In the non-binding referendum, voters were asked to pick one of three options: statehood, independence or to remain as a US-territory. The letter was published in the local newspaper El Vocero.

Becoming the 51st star on the U.S. flag would instill "new hope" in Puerto Ricans, she told AFP, as well as sorely needed economic aid.

The vote came against the backdrop of a financial and economic crisis that has helped drive nearly half a million Puerto Ricans to the mainland in the past decade.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The Latest on Puerto Rico's referendum on its political status. Congress did not act on that referendum.

Almost half a million votes were cast for statehood, about 7,600 for free association/independence and almost 6,700 for the current territorial status, according to preliminary results.

"The governor lost, statehood lost", Ferrer said.

Rossello contested the commission's figures, telling CNN the electorate was 1.6 million - meaning turnout was 33%.

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"In any democracy, the expressed will of the majority that participates in the electoral processes always prevails", Rossello said.

"The federal government can not ignore the results of this plebiscite and the will of our people", the governor said.

The sovereignty view is and has been a minority in Puerto Rico.

Still, Rossello says that he's grateful for his island's connection with the USA, and that he remains hopeful that connection will grow closer. It has its own governor and legislative body and it became a USA commonwealth territory with its own constitution in 1952.

Many believe the island's territorial status has contributed to its 10-year economic recession. It means Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship, but can't vote in presidential elections and have just one congressional representative, who has limited voting powers.

Red, white, and blue filled the entire route of the procession along Fifth Avenue from 44th to 79th Streets, as New Yorkers marked the complicated history of the unincorporated territory of the United States.

How would everyday life change if the island became a USA state?

What are the arguments for and against?

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

Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy on May 3, owing its creditors $73 billion.

Popular Democratic Party Senator Jose Nadal Power wrote an op-ed in El Nuevo Dia last Monday arguing that statehood was not the answer. At this point in time, the results of the vote have not provided any conclusions for Puerto Rico. "It lacks the backing of the United States federal government and comes at the worst possible time to solicit political concessions from Congress", he wrote.

Few expect current United States lawmakers to be very enthusiastic about eventual statehood for Puerto Rico.

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

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