Puerto Rico votes in favor of U.S. statehood

Puerto Rico votes in favor of U.S. statehood

"Now that the people have spoken in Puerto Rico, this is something Congress has to address", Sean Spicer, President Trump's spokesman, said during a Monday press briefing.

The island's two main opposition parties boycotted the vote, which gave Puerto Ricans three options: becoming a US state; remaining a territory; or becoming an independent nation, with or without some continuing political association with the United States. Ninety-seven percent of ballots cast were in favor of statehood, but on an island where voter participation usually hovers around 80 percent, only 23% of registered voters cast ballots. The previous ballot incorrectly claimed statehood was "the only option" for Puerto Ricans to secure their American citizenship.

According to Puerto Rico's election commission data, this is the island's fifth vote addressing the issue of statehood.

The sovereignty/independence option received 7,779 votes, or 1.5 percent.

"Our argument is that a half million Puerto Ricans came out to vote and voted 97 percent for statehood". Puerto Ricans have made great contributions to our nation in all fields of human endeavor, including science, arts, sports and politics.

"Statehood offers the most practical civil rights guarantee and long term access to USA markets and thus world markets by virtue of being a permanent part of the U.S", Worley says.

As a USA territory, Puerto Rico does not have representation in Congress, although Puerto Ricans themselves do have United States citizenship. "If I were planning to open a business, I would not open it in Puerto Rico".

The June 11 vote brought out the second lowest turnout rate of all electoral contests conducted in Puerto Rico since 1967. Still, over 517,000 voters participated in the election.

He says that efforts by groups opposing the referendum may also account for low turnout.

"Puerto Rico's in the midst of a severe economic and, in many respects, social crisis with large-scale emigration toward the United States".

Many who boycotted the vote believed the plebiscite's cost - more than US$8 million neglects the needs of citizens living in precarious economic conditions in Puerto Rico.

An unincorporated USA territory under American control since 1898, Puerto Rico lacks sovereign powers - an urgent problem as it grapples with public debt of $73 billion and its economy stumbles.

Puerto Rico's motion follows U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain's decision on May 30 to suspend payments to sales-tax bondholders until the parties resolve who has control of the $400 million of reserve funds. The government has had to deal with peaceful and violent protests over the years, carried out by Puerto Ricans who seek to make the "Isla del Encanto" a free and sovereign country. Critics feel these board members may be motivated by a desire to make money, or threaten the island's sovereignty. That's because of an old rule called the Jones Act that forces goods to go the mainland first and then be shipped only on a US vessel to Puerto Rico.

This article appeared originally at The Conversation.

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