Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens for 100 years, but they’ve never had statehood. On Sunday, they head to the polls to vote on the issue for the fifth time.
As CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports, this time they are voting amid an unprecedented financial crisis.
Puerto Rican voters are being asked yet again to decide their political future. Their choices are independence, statehood or keeping the status quo as a commonwealth of the United States.
Four previous ballots on the island’s status have come and gone over the past 50 years, and none resulted in either a clear majority call for statehood or any action by the U.S. government to change Puerto Rico’s political standing.
Originally, the local government wanted Puerto Ricans to pick between just two choices: statehood and independence. However, Washington intervened and demanded inclusion of current territorial status as well.
The main political parties opposed to statehood are boycotting the vote and hoping low turnout will render a “yes statehood” outcome invalid.
The current island administration strongly favors Puerto Rico joining the union. It looks to Sunday’s vote to deliver a solid majority for statehood, and a strong mandate to the U.S. Congress.
The critical backdrop to the ballot: is $70 billion of debt, a shrinking population and unemployment near 12 percent. Statehood supporters blame the island’s territorial status for its economic meltdown, and argue statehood is the best path out. Perhaps the bigger question, however, is whether the outcome of a non-binding referendum will result in any change at all.