Last month, Puerto Rico voted in favor of United States statehood and becoming the 51st state. According to a government website for the non-binding referendum, 97 percent of voters supported statehood. However, voter turnout was low as only 23 percent of the 2.2 million eligible voters participated in the vote. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello campaigned for statehood because he believes that it is the best avenue to boost future growth for the island. Governor Rossello stated,
From today going forward, the Federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico. It would be highly contradictory for Washington to demand democracy in other parts of the world, and NOT respond to the legitimate right to self-determination that was exercised today in the American territory of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is $70 billion in debt, has a near-insolvent pension and health systems, the poverty rate is 45 percent, and the schools are underperforming. Puerto Rico was forced to seek bankruptcy in May because of its economic woes, which is the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Under the current system, Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but they do not pay federal taxes, they can’t vote in presidential elections, and they can’t receive proportionate federal funding on programs. Opponents of the referendum criticized its timing because according to them, the costly referendum comes at a time when over 400 schools have closed and many Puerto Ricans are struggling to make ends meet. It is unlikely that Congress will grant Puerto Rico statehood because it is a low priority at the moment.
Tags: American Citizens, Bankruptcy, Debt, Federal Funding, Federal Taxes, Governor Ricardo Rossello, Municipal Bankruptcy, Poverty, President, Puerto Rico, Referendum, Schools, Statehood, Vote, Voting