Puerto Rico gov upholds statehood in vote hit by boycott

Adjust Comment Print

A woman leaves a voting booth as Puerto Ricans head to the polls on Sunday to decide whether they want their struggling US territory to become the 51st USA state, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

While President Trump signaled during his presidential campaign that he is open to Puerto Rico officially becoming a state, in April he tweeted his opposition to any bailout of the territory. Some Puerto Ricans blame the current recession on the USA government, partly because of the elimination of tax credits that many say led to the collapse of the island's manufacturing sector.

Among those hoping Puerto Rico will become a state is Jose Alvarez, a 61-year-old businessman.

Meantime Senator Juan Dalmau of the Puerto Rican Independence Party said on Twitter that: "Including colony as an option in the plebiscite is a setback to the aspirations of decolonization and former governor Anibal Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party said on Facebook that he would not be voting "as an act of conscience". Three of the four political parties that participated in the elections of November 2016 called for a boycott of this plebiscite - which seems to have had a large impact. "Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be canceled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay". Statehood advocates point out that while USA laws have allowed other heavily indebted U.S. local governments to seek bankruptcy protection, Puerto Rico has fewer means of legal defence because it is not a USA state. But if they obtained statehood, Puerto Ricans living on the island would for the first time be able to vote in US presidential elections, and would elect lawmakers with the right to vote in the US Congress.

Results showed that 97.2 percent of those who voted wanted statehood, 1.5 percent supported independence and 1.3 percent backed no change. 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. But only about 500,000 Puerto Ricans - about 23 percent of the electorate - voted.

Almost half a million Puerto Ricans have moved to the US mainland in the past decade to find a more affordable cost of living or jobs as the island of 3.4 million people struggles with a 12 percent unemployment rate.

Congress will ultimately have to approve the outcome of Sunday's referendum.

The 2017 Plebiscite for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico was held on June 11. Puerto Ricans are getting the chance to tell U.S. Congress on Sunday which political status they believe best benefits the U.S. territory as it remains mired in a deep economic crisis that has triggered an exodus of islanders to the U.S mainland.

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

"The bad side of it is that we are not a full part of the United States", he told NPR's Greg Allen and Marisa Peñaloza earlier this year. From the sidelines, she said she refuses to back the man who served 35 years in prison for his involvement with a group responsible for bombings that killed and maimed dozens of people.