Published: Tue, June 13, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Statehood wins questioned Puerto Rico referendum

Sunday's referendum is the fifth one for Puerto Rico.

Almost half of the island's 3.4 million people live in poverty, and unemployment is 12.4 percent, compared with 4.3 percent on the USA mainland.

Statehood supporters were expected to dominate the vote because three parties that favor other options were boycotting, including the island's main opposition party. "Even if it's still a long way off in the distance, it's our only hope".

More than 97 percent of Puerto Ricans who cast ballots in the non-binding plebiscite chose statehood.

Despite the low level of participation, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello vowed, after casting his vote for full annexation by the United States, to defend internationally the result. Rossello yelled to a crowd clutching USA flags and dancing to a tropical jingle that promoted statehood.

"I would like to see Puerto Rico become a state, " said Sonia Vargas, 51, a Brooklyn-born bookkeeper who now lives in Ohio.

Ricardo Rossello said Sunday that the island has sent a strong and clear message to U.S. Congress and the world.

The last time Puerto Ricans were asked in a plebiscite whether they wanted to become the 51st state, in 2012, some 830,000 said yes; this time that number had dropped to about 500,000. Puerto Rico is exempt from the USA federal income tax, but it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes and receives less federal funding than US states. Our future is independence. From the sidelines, the 28-year-old spectator said she refuses to back the man who served 35 years in prison for his involvement with a group responsible for bombings that killed and maimed dozens in the 1970s and 1980s. Hector Ferrer, president of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) which favors the present commonwealth status pointed out that most voters went to the beach or did everything but vote and claimed that most people did not actually want statehood.

Voting took place at deteriorating public schools in makeshift cardboard polling booths draped with brown plastic for privacy.

Most of the tens of thousands of revelers turned out simply to celebrate Puerto Rico, happily salsa dancing and waving Puerto Rican flags. "I am taking it not just to Congress but to other forums, such as the Organization of American States".

Rossello had requested that the federally appointed oversight board trigger Title III of the Promesa Act, a court-supervised debt restructuring similar to bankruptcy, in order to guarantee the best interests of the Puerto Rican people.

Lopez Rivera was convicted in 1981 on charges of seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms, and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property. This was his decision.

Organizers expected 1.5 million to watch Sunday's event, held the same day as the USA territory holds a referendum on statehood.

Some police and fire department groups won't attend, nor will Gov. Andrew Cuomo. New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the nation's largest police union, called for a boycott of the annual celebration by Americans with roots on the Caribbean island, home to 3.5 million residents. Puerto Rico is now facing economic crisis, which is posing serious issues for those who live there. "That's the only thing this parade should have been about".

Either way, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, whose parents hailed from Puerto Rico, cautions the wire service that "Congress won't do anything". Federico de Jesús, with FDJ Solutions in Washington is a former Obama and Puerto Rico government official.

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