Published: Sun, June 18, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Puerto Rico mulls political status in new referendum

Puerto Rico mulls political status in new referendum

A former Spanish colony taken over by the U.S. at the end of the 19th century, Puerto Rico has enjoyed broad political autonomy since 1952 as a commonwealth or "free associated state".

But political reasons are the least of the island's concerns going into the referendum.

Puerto Rico is suffering from about $123 billion in debt and has been battling a recession for the past 10 years.

A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department told The Associated Press that the agency has not reviewed or approved the ballot's revised language. Rossello said that being incorporated into the US would allow Puerto Rico to become a "diplomatic center and a business center of the Americas".

Sixty-one percent who answered a second question said they favored statehood, but almost half a million voters left that question blank, leading many to claim the results weren't legitimate.

- Tens of thousands of revelers were expected to pack Fifth Avenue for New York's annual Puerto Rican Day parade, despite a controversy over honoring a man who spent 35 years in prison for his involvement with a group responsible for bombings that killed and maimed dozens in the 1970s and 1980s.

According to U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez, because the turnout was so low, the results can not be trusted. Home values are plunging.

Congress has the final say over whether the territory changes its status, making the vote merely an advisory opinion. The island is now under the thumb of a Fiscal Oversight Board installed by Congress.

The standing of this tropical Caribbean island in relation to the U.S. 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. "It lacks the backing of the United States federal government and comes at the worst possible time to solicit political concessions from Congress", he wrote.

The next step in determining statehood for Puerto Rico would be for Congress to pass a statute detailing the transition process.

Directly behind him was a marching band from Lorain, Ohio, whose members voiced similar concerns about Puerto Rico's financial condition but disagreed about the solution.

Puerto Rico has also held plebiscites in 1967, 1993, 1998 and 2012.

The plebiscite, which is not binding, will see the island's more than 2.2 million registered voters choose between statehood, independence or free association and current territorial status.

But becoming a state won't magically solve the island's deep problems.

Governor Rosselló noted that statehood received 97% of the support, which represents more than 500,000 votes; a participation of about 33% compared to the voters in the November 2016 election event.

On Sunday, Puerto Ricans took part in a referendum on whether the country should become the 51st state of the United States of America. When he upped the ante to half, Franklin Advisors and Oppenheimer Fund, the two largest mutual funds holding the island's debt, pushed back, saying it was too much. Over 97% of the votes were for statehood, but turnout was very low. "They don't realize that people fight in American wars and pay social security".

To be or not be seemed to be the question that Puerto Ricans were trying to answer.

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