Puerto Rico overwhelmingly votes on USA statehood in non-binding referendum

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello campaigned previous year on holding a referendum. While Puerto Ricans are American citizens and contribute to Social Security and Medicare, they do not vote for the us president, and their single representative in Congress has no vote.

Voters have three options Sunday: become a US state; remain a territory of the USA; or become a totally independent nation.

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

Puerto Rican citizens wait in line to vote during the fifth referendum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, June 11, 2017.

Puerto Rico's voters have overwhelmingly chosen for the territory to become the 51st USA state in a non-binding referendum, the island's governor said. With the result of the referendum, Gov. Ricardo Rosello says that the island sent a strong message to the U.S. Congress and the world.

To become a true U.S. state, to choose independence or to maintain the status quo: Puerto Ricans will on Sunday mull their political future in a non-binding referendum many have vowed to boycott.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello campaigned for the island's 2.2 million eligible voters to select statehood as the best avenue to boost future growth for the struggling island.

Puerto Rico previously voted in favor of becoming a state in 2012, but statehood opponents said the voter turnout was not high enough to accurately reflect will of the Puerto Rican people.

The referendum coincides with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting USA citizenship to Puerto Ricans, who are barred from voting in presidential elections and have one congressional representative with limited voting powers.

The head of the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueno, Fernando Martín García, described the result as an "absolute, unmitigated disaster" for the movement pushing to become a U.S. state. The island now has more than $70 billion of outstanding debt. Parade organizers say the 74-year-old was allowed to ride on a lead float because of his age and the 92-degree heat. The U.S. territory has been shuttering schools and cutting pensions, while its residents flee to the U.S.in search of work.

"Supporters of statehood did not seem enthusiastic about this plebiscite as they were five years ago", he said.

Puerto Rico, a USA territory with 3.5 million residents, was acquired by the United States after the Spanish-American War.

Senior members of the party said that it would give the movement a huge boost as it sought to persuade Washington that after 119 years of colonisation it was time to bring Puerto Rico on board on an equal footing with the existing 50 states.

Among those hoping Puerto Rico will become a state is Jose Alvarez, a 61-year-old businessman. Residents can not vote despite being considered citizens and they have a representative in Congress who is more or less just an observer with no real legislative powers. But with Puerto Rico on the brink of economic collapse, desperation can force even the most diplomatic person to become an extortionist.

  • Salvatore Jensen