Puerto Ricans voters back statehood in questioned referendum

Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello has announced that the USA island territory has overwhelmingly chosen statehood in a nonbinding referendum held yesterday amid a deep economic crisis that has driven hundreds of thousands of its citizens to the U.S. mainland.

"Today, we the People of Puerto Rico, are sending a strong and clear message to the world claiming our equal rights as American citizens". Just 7,600 opted for free association/independence; 6,700 voted to remain a USA territory.

Almost half a million Puerto Ricans have moved to the USA 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. A parade in New York City featured a man that some deemed a terrorist, and a non-binding referendum in Puerto Rico on the island's political status was boycotted by several parties, including the leading opposition group.

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

Rossello was nevertheless upbeat in announcing the result.

As that crisis continues to worsen, with cuts to pensions and a high cost of living, Suarez said to expect more Puerto Ricans to move to Florida with the hope of a brighter future.

Puerto Rico held a referendum Sunday on whether to remain a US commonwealth, be independent - or become the 51st USA state.

If made a state, Puerto Rico would be the poorest of the 51 states.

Congress, the only body that can approve new states, will ultimately decide whether the status of the U.S. commonwealth changes.

For Puerto Ricans, Sunday was a day of celebration and contention.

On Sunday, they voted on their choice, for the fifth time in 50 years as a part of a plebiscite, on whether to become the 51st state of the United States or not.

In this July 29, 2015 file photo, the Puerto Rican flag flies in front of Puerto Rico's Capitol as in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Boycotters were also angry about the costly referendum at a time when over 400 schools have closed and many Puerto Ricans are struggling to make ends meet.

Rivera is hailed by many as a national hero and a freedom fighter, with signs reading "Oscar Lopez Rivera is our Mandela" seen in the crowd.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for weeks defended his own decision to march, said last week that he was uncomfortable with the idea of honoring Lopez Rivera all along.

The Puerto Rican Independence Party had called the vote a "farce". Aren't "territories" remnants of a colonial past that we really shouldn't' have anymore? They can't ask for worldwide assistance either.

Many traditional sponsors of New York's largest ethnic parade withdrew their support this year because of Lopez Rivera's prominent role, and the parade was boycotted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, among other politicians.

Bloomberg reported on Election Day that Puerto Rico and the vultures will soon face off next week in a NY federal bankruptcy court "over who owns cash collected by the government's sales tax agency, known by its Spanish acronym Cofina".

Lopez Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy. They also lack full representation in Congress, where only a non-voting commissioner is able to represent the territory.

  • Leroy Wright