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Puerto Ricans voters back statehood in questioned referendum

Puerto Ricans on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming America's 51st state - at least the ones who bothered going to the polls.

Congress has the final say over whether the territory changes its status, making the vote merely an advisory opinion.

No clear majority emerged in the first three referendums, with voters nearly evenly divided between statehood and the status quo.

Rosello has argued that statehood for Puerto Rico could help the island's economy.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Ricans are getting the chance Sunday to tell the U.S. Congress which political status they want for the U.S. territory that is mired in an economic crisis that has triggered an exodus of islanders to the mainland.

According to the BBC, this reluctance might stem from two reasons: a Republican-led Congress would be wary of admitting a Democratic-leaning electorate like Puerto Rico's, and the debt-troubled island would likely require more federal spending to get back on its feet. "Supporters of statehood did not seem enthusiastic about this plebiscite as they were five years ago".

Boycotters were also angry about the costly referendum at a time when over 400 schools have closed and many Puerto Ricans are struggling to make ends meet.

Its commonwealth status means Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. federal laws, though island residents are exempt from some federal taxes. Puerto Rico has been under the control of the United States since 1898, and certain political parties are pushing for independence from the United States entirely. Puerto Ricans are getting the chance to tell U.S. Congress on Sunday which. Also, Puerto Ricans living on the USA mainland, who outnumber those on the island, tend to be more in favor of independence but could not cast ballots in the referendum.

Hector Ferrer, leader of Popular Democratic Party, said eight out of 10 "stayed home" or "went to the beach" instead of voting.

But the Rossello government insists statehood is the answer to the financial crisis hanging over the island of 3.4 million, where some 45 percent of the population live in poverty.

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Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.

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.

How would everyday life change if the island became a U.S. state?

A government website for the non-binding referendum, Puerto Rico's fifth such plebiscite since 1967, showed 97 percent supported statehood.

Puerto Ricans head to polls Sunday with one question in mind: Should the USA territory seek to become the country's 51st state?

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.

More than 97 percent of voters favoured attempting to join the USA over becoming independent or remaining a self-governing territory.

His party also has noted that the U.S. Justice Department has not backed the referendum.

Still the result is hardly as convincing as Rosselló claims.



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