Puerto Rico gov upholds statehood in vote hit by boycott

Gov. Ricardo Rossello greets people before voting at the San Jose Academy during the fifth referendum in San Juan Puerto Rico Sunday

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

It is under U.S. military protection and is entitled to federal funding for infrastructure and social programs.

Of a total of 2,260,804 registered voters, less than half a million went to the polls in the non-binding referendum.

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

But the ballot's previous language prompted calls by opposition parties to boycott what they saw as a rigged vote.

According to preliminary results, almost half a million votes were cast for statehood, more than 7,600 for free association/independence and almost 6,700 for retaining the current territorial status.

The original version of the ballot reportedly only gave voters the option to become a state or a free association/independence, leaving out the option to retain its current commonwealth status.

What's Puerto Rico's current status?

Historical populations for each state come from the U.S. Census Bureau and are from the decennial census closest to each state's admission to the Union.

Even if it did, most analysts say statehood already faced an uphill battle in Washington, where President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress don't appear all that enthusiastic about adding a 51st star to the US flag. They are citizens of the United States, but they're not allowed to vote for president and they don't pay federal income taxes. In the most recent vote, which was held in 2012, the island opted for statehood, though many people argued the answers on the two-question ballot proved inconclusive.

However, Puerto Rico is now exempt from the federal income tax, and opponents of statehood say beginning to pay it is a non-starter for a place where everything from electricity to basic groceries is more expensive than US cities.

Statehood's advocates say it would help the economy; its opponents warn that the island will lose its cultural identity and struggle even more financially because it will suddenly have to pay millions of dollars in federal taxes.

Attachments to cultural and national identity are the main reasons why Puerto Ricans may oppose US statehood, Cruz-Martinez said.

After the votes were tallied, the Popular Democratic Party called the vote a waste of public money and a stinging humiliation for the government. "This was a democratic process and statehood got a historic 97 percent of the vote". Congress has to make that decision.

"I voted for statehood", Armando Abreu, a 74-year-old retiree, said after voting.

A spokesman for the governor told Reuters he will push Congress to respect a result in favor of statehood.

Rossello will ask Congress to respect the result, but Puerto Rico is seen as a low priority in Washington. He said he would create a commission to ensure that Congress validate the referendum's results.

"To not vote in a process that has not been validated by any party in Puerto Rico, or by the US government or by anyone outside the New Progressive Party is to respect oneself", he tweeted on Saturday.



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