Puerto Rico Votes In Favor Of Statehood Amid Very Low Turnout

For decades the issue of Puerto Rico's independence and the statehood of the island with the United States has been discussed. The government has had to deal with peaceful and violent protests over the years, carried out by Puerto Ricans who seek to make the "Isla del Encanto" a free and sovereign country.

On Sunday, June 11, at the same time as the Puerto Rican Day Parade was held in New York City, elections were held in Puerto Rico to learn about the people's thinking about annexation. For the fifth time, voters were asked what political relationship they want to have with the United States. The query asked whether they wanted Puerto Rico to gain final independence or whether they agreed that it would remain an autonomous territory of the United States, as it has until now.

According to the report of the State Elections Commission of the island, 97.18% of the voters, slightly more than half a million Puerto Ricans, chose the statehood option with 99% of the votes counted. It means, the vast majority of those who exercised their right to vote want Puerto Rico to be the 51st state of the United States. However, voter participation was just 23% after opposition parties called for a boycott of what they called a "rigged" process in part over the ballot language.

Puerto Rico A polling official marks the finger of a voter with indelible ink during an early vote during the referendum for Puerto Rico's political status. Photo: Getty Images

According to CNN, the ballot's previous language prompted calls by opposition parties to boycott what they saw as a rigged vote. The previous ballot incorrectly claimed statehood was "the only option" for Puerto Ricans to secure their American citizenship. The DOJ in its letter pointed out that Puerto Ricans are US citizenship by birth, asking that the "potentially misleading" statement be removed. The ballot was later changed to include "current territorial status" as an option, but the call for a boycott remained.

Despite the election, the final decision is not really in the hands of Puerto Ricans, but by the US Congress. According to El Diario NY, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, had previously said that statehood is necessary to resolve the current economic recession that is affecting Puerto Rico. "It will be up to this new generation of Puerto Ricans to demand and claim in Washington the end of the current improper colonial relationship, and begin a transition process to fully incorporate Puerto Rico as the next state of the Union," Governor Rosselló said in a statement Sunday.

The economic crisis on the island has led to government deficits, cutbacks in public services and rising service fees.

 

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