Published: Mon, June 12, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Puerto Ricans - But Not A Lot Of Them - Voted For Statehood

Following the ballot, Puerto Rico's governor announced that his nation has overwhelmingly voted "yes" in the non-binding referendum to join the USA as the 51st state.

Héctor Ferrer, president of the Popular Democratic Party that embraces the island's current status as a territory, also fears that statehood would bring a loss of Puerto Rican identity.

The current governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo ("Ricky") Rossello, who was sworn in on 2 January, campaigned on a promise of seeking full statehood for the island, which he says is needed to solve the current economic recession affecting Puerto Rico, the worst in decades.

The Republican Party has traditionally supported statehood for Puerto Rico, while the Democratic Party said it was ready to support whatever decision Puerto Ricans made through fair, open and democratic elections.

Recalling FALN's notorious terrorist past and more than 120 bomb attacks on U.S. targets, a number of USA groups, including the NYPD Hispanic Society and the Rafael Ramos Foundation boycotted the parade. "Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be canceled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay". Puerto Rico has been under the control of the United States since 1898, and certain political parties are pushing for independence from the United States entirely.

Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, however, as residents of a commonwealth territory rather than a state they can't vote for president in the USA general election.

As of 7:00 pm, the island's State Commission on Elections (CEE-PR) had reported that about 500,000 (23 percent) of the island's eligible voters had cast ballots, in contrast to Puerto Rico's historically high turnout in most elections.

Puerto Rico's governor said the territory will now put its "Tennessee plan" into action, meaning it will choose two senators and five representatives to go to Washington, D.C., to request statehood.

The previous ballot incorrectly claimed statehood was "the only option" for Puerto Ricans to secure their American citizenship.

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But Sunday's results showed only 23 percent of the island's nearly 2.2 million voters took part in the referendum.

"We have been a colony for 500 years, and we have had USA citizenship for 100 years, but it's been a second class one", Rossello said.

U.S. Congress has final say on any changes to the U.S. territory's political status, regardless of the referendum's final outcome. "If we were a state, we would have the same rights".

Going by votes cast, statehood was the overwhelming victor in a referendum Puerto Rico held Sunday.

Those who remain behind have faced new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive than the USA mainland and public services are 64 percent more expensive.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello greets people before voting at the San Jose Academy during the fifth referendum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, June 11, 2017.

More than 97 percent of voters favoured attempting to join the U.S. over becoming independent or remaining a self-governing territory.

A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department told The Associated Press that the agency has not reviewed or approved the ballot's revised language.

No clear majority emerged in the first three referendums on status, with voters nearly evenly divided between statehood and the status quo. During the last referendum in 2012, 54 percent said they wanted a status change.

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