Statehood wins questioned Puerto Rico referendum

Puerto Ricans will on Sunday mull their political future in a non-binding referendum many have vowed to boycottMore

Those inequalities and the ongoing crisis prompted 66-year-old Maria Quinones to vote for the first time in such a referendum, the fifth on Puerto Rico's status.

Puerto Ricans who voted for U.S. statehood in a non-binding referendum Sunday are "claiming our equal rights as American citizens", Puerto Rico's governor says. Almost 500,000 Puerto Ricans participated, equaling 23 percent of eligible voters, and several political parties had urged supporters to boycott the vote.

According to the New York Times, since becoming de jure-wise a part of the U.S. Puerto Rico has voted on their future five times, with Sunday's referendum being the most recent. Statehood was prominent during Puerto Rico's election in November when two pro-statehood candidates won: Rossello, a Democrat, became governor and Jenniffer Gonzalez, a Republican, was elected resident commissioner - Puerto Rico's sole representative in U.S. Congress who can write and submit legislation, but doesn't have the authority to vote.

"The United States of America will have to obey the will of our people!"

The referendum has sparked dozens of memes that turned viral, including some showing the tropical island covered in snow.

Becoming the 51st US state in any case depends on the US Congress, where there is little enthusiasm for the move.

In the 1998 referendum, the top choice among Puerto Ricans was "none of the above" while in 2012 referendum voted heavily in favor of statehood, with the rest of the ballots left blank. Others said they'd march to show support for Puerto Rico despite disagreeing with FALN's methods.

"Let's send a loud and clear message to the United States and the entire world", he said in a statement on Saturday.

Puerto Rico's hazy political status, dating back to its 1898 acquisition by the United States from Spain, has contributed to the economic crisis that pushed it last month into the biggest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

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His party also has noted that the U.S. Justice Department has not backed the referendum.

Former Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who did not seek re-election previous year and whose party supports the status quo, rejected Sunday's results. "The boycott defeated statehood". It means Puerto Ricans have United States citizenship, but can't vote in presidential elections and have just one congressional representative, who has limited voting powers.

Those who remain behind have been hit with new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive than the US mainland and public services are 64 percent more expensive.

Puerto Rico is exempt from the USA federal income tax, but it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes but receives less federal funding than US states.

"In the democratic process there is no such thing as a boycott", he said.

Many supporters of statehood believe the island's territorial status is partly to blame for a decades-long fiscal crisis.

Those who remain behind have faced new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive than the US mainland and public services are 64 percent more expensive. Given its population size, it could expect to gain the requisite two U.S. senators, bringing the total in that chamber to 102, and five House representatives, which would need to increase its seats by law from the current 435.

This is the fifth time a non-binding referendum has been put before the island's voters. This is in stark contrast to the last plebiscite held in 2012 - in which 1,363,854 people, or 78.19 percent of registered voters, cast a ballot.

Still the result is hardly as convincing as Rosselló claims. "They are going to make a feeble attempt to persuade Congress to listen, but Congress will see this flimsy result as an excuse to say it's not enough".

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