Puerto Rican voters back statehood in questioned referendum

A Puerto Rican citizen votes during the fifth referendum in San Juan Puerto Rico Sunday

On Sunday, Puerto Rico held its fifth referendum on its status in the United States, and this time voters unambiguously chose statehood.

Héctor Ferrer, president of the Popular Democratic Party that embraces the island's current status as a territory, also fears that statehood would bring a loss of Puerto Rican identity.

Rosello has argued that statehood for Puerto Rico could help the island's economy. In 2012, the island opted for statehood, but Congress, the ultimate arbiter of the Puerto Rico's bid for statehood, never picked up the matter.

Among those hoping Puerto Rico will become a state is Jose Alvarez, a 61-year-old businessman. "Supporters of statehood did not seem enthusiastic about this plebiscite as they were five years ago". The opposition had called for a boycott of the referendum. Since then it has laboured under the colonial relationship and in the past decade the island has endured a prolonged recession and accumulated debts and pensions shortfalls of more than $120bn.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The Latest on Puerto Rico's referendum on its political status. But if they obtained statehood, Puerto Ricans living on the island would for the first time be able to vote in US presidential elections, and would elect lawmakers with the right to vote in the US Congress.

Almost half a million Puerto Ricans voted for statehood compared to more than 7,600 who voted for free association/independence and almost 6,700 who wanted full independence.

Michelle Sierra, a hospital patient who cast an early vote in the plebiscite, is in favor of US statehood: "We deserve a better future and my children deserve a better future".

The previous ballot incorrectly claimed statehood was "the only option" for Puerto Ricans to secure their American citizenship.

The official results recorded that just 23% of the island's 2.3 million registered voters turned out to cast their ballot, compared with 55% in last November's gubernatorial election won by the PNP candidate Ricardo Rosselló.

Congress will have to approve the outcome of Sunday's referendum.

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 USA history.

The 2017 Plebiscite for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico was held on June 11. She said: "As Resident Commissioner I will take this to Congress and defend it".

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. The Partido Popular Democrático, which broadly advocates the continuation of the current colonial arrangement whereby the island's 3.4 million people have USA citizenship but can not vote in federal elections, said the ballot was flawed from the outset.

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.

The current territorial status option received 6,821 votes, or 1.32 percent.

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