Amid an utterly chaotic fiscal situation and extremely low voter turnout, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico voted overwhelmingly to become the 51st U.S. state on Saturday.
Puerto Rico is a territorial possession of the United States of America.
Its fifth referendum on U.S. statehood, the last occurring as recently as 2012, the plebiscite took place on the 100th anniversary of Puerto Ricans gaining U.S. citizenship and coincided with the National Puerto Rican Day parade in New York City.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, of which a mere 23 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, an astounding 97 percent voted in favor of statehood. Voters backing “free association” or full independence for Puerto Rico earned 1.5 percent. 1.3 percent voted to remain a territorial possession.
“Puerto Rico voted for statehood. In any democracy, the expressed will of the majority that participates in the electoral processes always prevails. 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,” said former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello.
Despite the low turnout, the non-binding measure was also marred by boycotts organized by opposition parties which stated the motion would not result in any change for Puerto Ricans.
Both leading opposition parties, Partido Popular Democrático, which favors remaining a U.S. possession, and the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, which supports outright independence from the U.S., called on its members to boycott the referendum.
Although Puerto Rico boasts 2.3 million eligible voters, approximately 500,000 turned out to vote Saturday.
Remaining optimistic despite low turnout, Luis Rivera Marin, a top official of the Progressive National Party, which champions statehood said Saturday’s referendum should be taken seriously.
“This result is more than enough to take to Washington and urge Congress to do the right thing. In the democratic process there is no such thing as a boycott. In this system, if you don’t vote you don’t count,” Marin said.
An act of Congress is required for Puerto Rico to be admitted into the Union.
In a speech on Sunday, Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced a commission will be created and charged with lobbying America’s legislative body to grant Puerto Rico statehood.
“The United States of America will have to obey the will of our people!” the governor shouted at a jubilant crowd gathered to celebrate the vote.
[The Guardian] [VOA News] [AP] [Photo courtesy AP via ABC News]