Puerto Ricans vote on statehood question

It's complicated: Puerto Ricans vote on knotty US relationship

Puerto Ricans who voted for USA statehood in a non-binding referendum Sunday are "claiming our equal rights as American citizens", Puerto Rico's governor says.

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!"

Puerto Rico spent an estimated $8 million on the campaign and election process, according to a government spokesman. He also said that participation rates varied from 7 percent to 35 percent for states including Wisconsin and Hawaii when they were ratified as states. Free association is an official affiliation with the United States.

Lopez Rivera said last week he would decline the honor and participate as an individual, partly because he wanted the focus on Puerto Rico's problems, not him. "The current government of the Island entered the process and when it took longer than they wanted they made a decision to ignore the U.S. Justice Department's plea for more time to evaluate the validity of the ballot language.Sadly, today's vote will thus go down in history as yet another non-binding glorified poll with no real effect on resolving Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States". The letter was published in the local newspaper El Vocero.

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

All Puerto Ricans are already United States citizens, with unrestricted rights to settle on the U.S. mainland.

With 95% of the vote counted, the option of formally joining the USA as a fully fledged state was backed by 97.1% of those who cast their ballots.

Four previous plebiscites, or popular votes, have been held to decide the commonwealth's status in relation to the United States, with a majority of voters for the first time choosing statehood in 2012.

A non-binding referendum in Puerto Rico asking for the nation's future has had a very firm result: citizens want to become a proper part of the US. Congress did not act on that referendum.

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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.

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.

"Whoever claims that statehood triumphed is being intellectually dishonest", he said.

Rossello contested the commission's figures, telling CNN the electorate was 1.6 million - meaning turnout was 33%. As a US territory Puerto Rico does not elect members of the US Congress, but it does have a representative in Congress Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez.

"The federal government can not ignore the results of this plebiscite and the will of our people", the governor said.

What's Puerto Rico's current status? The Partido Popular Democrático, which broadly advocates the continuation of the current colonial arrangement whereby the island's 3.4 million people have USA citizenship but can not vote in federal elections, said the ballot was flawed from the outset. But it pulled out after the US Department of Justice insisted on including a colonial status quo option on the ballot form. Puerto Ricans are getting the chance to tell U.S. Congress on Sunday which. Today we are sending a strong and clear message for equal rights as American citizens.

What are the arguments for and against?

Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy on May 3, owing its creditors $73 billion. "Supporters of statehood did not seem enthusiastic about this plebiscite as they were five years ago".

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