Puerto Rico votes on statehood: Polls and protests

Puerto Ricans head to polls Sunday with one question in mind: Should the USA territory seek to become the country's 51st state?

Even though the majority voted in favor of statehood, a little more than 1.5 percent voted to receive independence from the US, while 1.3 percent sought to preserve the current status of the island.

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

2012 referendum which also backed statehood was left without consequences by the US Congress.

No clear majority emerged in the first three referendums on status, with voters nearly evenly divided between statehood and the status quo.

Rossello brushed aside those concerns, noting that the referendum was a democratic process in which the majority prevailed as he questioned why more people did not come out to defend alternatives to statehood.

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. Each has serious ties to Wall Street, and each makes a handsome living buying low and selling high, especially the bonds of failed or failing states such as Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly Sunday to become the 51st US state, but there is no celebrating yet.

The New Progressive Party, referred to as PNP in Spanish, pushed the "yes" vote for statehood.

Several sectors of the political opposition agreed on this aspect, particularly the leaders of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and the Puerto Rican Independentist Party (PIP), who called to boycott the plebiscite on the status, although for different reasons. "U.S. states had to fight for it".

The ballot language was not approved by the U.S. Justice Department, which rejected an earlier version because it did not allow voters to endorse the territorial status quo. Opposition parties boycotted the referendum because they considered it rigged.

Puerto Ricans will be presented with three options: Statehood, Independence/Free Association and Current Territorial Status (commonwealth).

Puerto Rico is exempt from the USA federal income tax, but it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes and receives less federal funding than US states. "Puerto Ricans think of themselves as Americans, but most Americans don't recognize them as citizens. So that means that the statehood support decreased by more or less 300,000 people in just five years".

"We will go before global forums to defend the argument of the importance of Puerto Rico being the first Hispanic state in the United States", Rossello said.

The vote came against the backdrop of a financial and economic crisis that has helped drive nearly half a million Puerto Ricans to the mainland in the past decade. The participation rate was almost 23% out of roughly 2.26 million registered voters. "Why would the USA government want to take on a problem like Puerto Rico?" said Carolina Santos, a single working mother struggling to make her mortgage payment and cover other bills. "Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be cancelled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay".

The results of the newest referendum could lead to similar claims, Vargas said.

  • Salvatore Jensen