Puerto Rico Overwhelmingly Say Yes To Statehood But Will Congress Approve?

Posted June 12, 2017

On Sunday, Puerto Rico held its fifth referendum on its status in the United States, and this time voters unambiguously chose statehood.

"I'm not voting. The government has spent millions of dollars on this campaign hoping that statehood wins, but even if it does, the U.S. Congress won't want to do anything about it", 54-year-old Felix Salasarar told reporters.

Lopez Rivera said last week he would not accept the title of National Freedom Hero organizers first granted him 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. The U.S. Congress will ultimately decide whether to ratify the outcome that would grant Puerto Rico statehood.

After the vote, Rosselló said Washington can "no longer ignore" Puerto Rico's statehood preference.

"We will go before worldwide forums to defend the argument of the importance of Puerto Rico being the first Hispanic state in the United States", Rossello said, appearing with his wife Beatriz Areizaga Garcia in the northeastern city of Guaynabo.

His party also has noted that the U.S. Justice Department has not backed the referendum.

Its commonwealth status means Puerto Rico is subject to USA federal laws, though island residents are exempt from some federal taxes.

Rather than heading to the polls, some 500 Puerto Ricans marched on the streets of San Juan, waving Puerto Rico's flag and chanting in support of independence.

The referendum coincides with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting USA citizenship to Puerto Ricans, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers. The Associated Press reported that almost half a million votes were cast for statehood, but the participation rate was just 23%, leading opponents to question the validity of the vote. He also said that even among voters who supported statehood, turnout was lower this year compared with the last referendum in 2012.

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But going by the actions of most Puerto Ricans, staying home or going to the beach was the runaway victor. In the most recent vote, which was held in 2012, the island opted for statehood, though many people argued the answers on the two-question ballot proved inconclusive.

Residents pay social security, Medicare and local taxes, while Puerto Rico receives less federal funding than U.S. states, but is exempt from the USA federal income tax.

About 5.4 million Puerto Ricans live on the US mainland, a number that is growing because of an exodus of people who can not find jobs or continue school on the depressed island.

People participate in the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade marching up 5th Ave. on Sun., June 11, 2017, in New York City.

But still, newly elected Puerto Rican governor, Ricardo Rossello, has promised to force the issue if the statehood vote passes, engaging in what is called the Tennessee Plan, where the territory simply sends their representative to Washington DC and demand they be seated like they're a state.

"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.

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

It also gets U.S. military protection and receives federal funding from the government for highways and social programs, just not as much as official states receive.

The current territorial status option received 6,821 votes, or 1.32 percent.