Puerto Rico votes for statehood in referendum

Puerto Rico votes for statehood in referendum

Puerto Rico has voted to ask the US Congress to grant it full statehood, after a non-binding referendum showed 97.1 per cent of voters in favour of the plan.

Options on the weekend referendum included remaining a commonwealth, becoming a state or entering free association/independence. Also, Puerto Ricans living on the US mainland, who outnumber those on the island, tend to be more in favor of independence but could not cast ballots in the referendum.

An official count of votes for Puerto Rico's plebiscite on Sunday showed overwhelming support for US statehood, although adding another star to the USA flag would likely face an uphill battle in Congress.

But many question the validity of the vote amid a low turnout and a boycott by several opposition parties. Turnout was the lowest of any vote on the island in over 50 years with nearly eight out of 10 voters not even showing up at the polls.

U.S. Congress has final say on any changes to the U.S. territory's political status, regardless of the referendum's final outcome.

The 2017 Plebiscite for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico was held on June 11.

Puerto Rico is exempt from the US federal income tax, but it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes and receives less federal funding than USA states.

"The scant participation ... sends a clear message", said Anibal Jose Torres, a party member. But only about 500,000 Puerto Ricans - about 23 percent of the electorate - voted.

More news: At first UN Ocean Conference, island nations plead for help

The referendum coincided with the 100 anniversary of the United States granting citizenship to the island's residents.

Politics took the front seat at this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade in NY on Sunday, as the traditional batons, floats and marching bands were overshadowed by the inclusion of a militant pro-independence figure and a vote in favor of statehood taking place on the island.

Opponents of the vote back keeping the status quo.

However, the results of these referendums were hardly reliable due to fact that most results favor whichever party was in power.

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. Congress laid out a process through a provision in a 2014 law that said that if Puerto Rico wanted the federal government to pay attention to another status referendum, it had to follow certain rules.

Those who did vote seemed to agree.

In March 2017, students, faculty and staff went on strike, closing the gates of the 11 public campuses on the island. For over a decade the island has been facing an economic crisis and is in desperate need of a respite. The fact that the island is now embroiled in a massive debt crisis probably won't help their case. The territory has a nonvoting delegate in Congress, called a resident commissioner. 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.

"Some see statehood as the best way to pull Puerto Rico out of its economic crisis", says CNBC.

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