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Principale » Puerto Ricans skeptical of change after vote for statehood

Puerto Ricans skeptical of change after vote for statehood

26 Juin 2017

Half a million Puerto Ricans voted this Sunday to become America's 51st state. Turnout was historically low - just 23 percent of the island's 2.3 million registered voters.

Currently, Puerto Rico is a US-territory, but not officially a state.

The referendum coincided with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting US citizenship to Puerto Ricans, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers.

According to figures released on the State Election Commission Web site, a total of 476,635 people voted for statehood for the USA commonwealth.

Sunday's ballot was a revised version after the Department of Justice wrote to Roselló in April saying the referendum ballot at the time incorrectly omitted Puerto Rico's current commonwealth status as a ballot option, offering only statehood or free association/independence.

Michelle Sierra, a hospital patient who cast an early vote in the plebiscite, is in favor of US statehood: "We deserve a better future and my children deserve a better future".

Its young governor, Ricardo Rossello, said that regardless of the crisis the referendum could not wait, repeating over the past several days in interviews and on Twitter that "the moment to vote for the decolonization has arrived!"

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Puerto Ricans have been United States citizens since 1917. "When you hear that argument, it's someone attempting to delegitimize this vote because they don't want it to happen". It has its own governor and legislative body and it became a U.S. commonwealth territory with its own constitution in 1952.

Last year, former president Barack Obama signed legislation to address Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis allowing it to file for bankruptcy-like proceedings to relieve its debt. "Others blame the U.S. for the malaise and would rather seek independence".

Its commonwealth status means Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. federal laws, though island residents are exempt from some federal taxes. "Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be cancelled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay".

The Puerto Ricans are American citizens but they don't have the right to vote or to represented in the United States' Congress although they are able to cross the border freely. "This was a democratic process and statehood got a historic 97 percent of the vote".

Unemployment is high, holding steady about 11.5% since March, and about 46% of the population of 3.4 million people live below the poverty level.

The standing of this tropical Caribbean island in relation to the USA has been the running sore, and dominant topic of local conversation, ever since it was handed to Washington as war booty at the end of the Spanish-American war of 1898. Puerto Rico is now facing economic crisis, which is posing serious issues for those who live there.

Soto is well aware that the Republican-controlled House and Senate may be reluctant to approve statehood because voters in the new state likely would put Democratic House members and senators into the Congress.

Puerto Ricans skeptical of change after vote for statehood