ONTD Political

Puerto Rico wants to become the 51st state of the US

5:29 pm - 11/07/2012
Voters in Puerto Rico have supported a non-binding referendum to become a full US state.

The measure will require approval from the US Congress, but President Barack Obama has said he will respect the vote.

The island is currently a US territory, which uses the dollar and whose citizens travel on US passports.

But it does not return senators to the US Congress and is represented in Washington by a non-voting delegate.

Almost 80% of the island's electorate took part in the referendum, the fourth in the past 45 years.

With almost all the votes counted, almost 54% voted to change the island's relationship with the US.

And in reply to a second question on what future they favoured, nearly two-thirds wanted full statehood.

If Congress grants its approval, Puerto Ricans would have the right to vote in all US elections, but would also have to pay federal taxes, something at present they are excused from.

The island came under US control in 1898 when Spain lost the island at the end of the Spanish-American war.

Ties were strengthened in 1917 when Puerto Ricans became US citizens and were allowed to serve in the military.

'No other option'
There are now almost a million more Puerto Ricans in the US than on the island.

Supreme Court judge Sonia Sotomayor, singer Jennifer Lopez and the former jazz musician Tito Puente are all of Puerto Rican descent, though all three were born in New York.

Ties between the island and the mainland are strong and many on the island considered it inevitable that a full union be requested.

A young voter in the capital San Juan, Jerome Lefebre, said: "Puerto Rico has to be a state. There is no other option.

"We're doing okay, but we could do better. We would receive more benefits, a lot more financial help."

But that opinion was rejected by Ramon Lopez de Azua: "Puerto Rico's problem is not its political status.

"I think that the United States is the best country in the world, but I am Puerto Rican first."

The island has been hit hard by the current recession - it has debts of $68bn (£42bn) and unemployment is more than 13%.

President Barack Obama, who visited the island last year, has said he will respect the will of Puerto Ricans if there is a clear majority.

Any change would require approval by the US Congress, but no territory has ever been denied a petition for admission to the States.

tadashee 8th-Nov-2012 12:30 am (UTC)
I don't know go congress will react.
beokitty 8th-Nov-2012 12:32 am (UTC)
What would they lose by becoming an official state? Unless they want sovereignty I think Puerto Ricans should be eligible for the same rights as all Americans. The idea of a territory leaves a bad colonial taste in my mouth.
the_physicist 8th-Nov-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
federal taxes apparently?
beokitty 8th-Nov-2012 12:45 am (UTC)
idk, with the exception of DC no taxation w/o representation so I see that as part of the deal.
cindel 8th-Nov-2012 01:16 am (UTC)
Federal funding.
chaya 8th-Nov-2012 02:06 am (UTC)
Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiles of cash
tabaqui 8th-Nov-2012 12:38 am (UTC)
Interesting. I'll have to ask my Puerto Rican friends in rl what they think.
trivalent 8th-Nov-2012 01:58 am (UTC)
The coworker I asked explained it as the measure was in two parts: 1) do you want things to stay the same or change (the majority was an addition of 'we want independence' and 'we want to become a state' people) and 2) if things change, what do you want it to be (state, independence, or whatever 'freedom of association' means). He said that most people who answered 'stay the same' in 1 didn't answer part 2, and that it's not that a majority who want to be a state, but a majority don't want it to be the same.
tabaqui 8th-Nov-2012 03:12 am (UTC)
Huh. Interesting. Thanks!
schexyschteve 8th-Nov-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
I don't know all the details of what it would mean, but it sounds like a good thing? At the very least, it would be pretty cool to see a new state in my lifetime!
purplerains 8th-Nov-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
Their vote should be respected... but, I cannot see congress approving.
tadashee 8th-Nov-2012 12:43 am (UTC)
Me either. :/. I was shocked that there are more in the US than on tbd island.
mykaa 8th-Nov-2012 04:07 am (UTC)
That's because they don't fit anymore on the island.
fishnet_hamster 8th-Nov-2012 03:14 am (UTC)
I'm not sure why Congress wouldn't approve. Wouldn't a new state mean more economic contributions?
clarice_01 8th-Nov-2012 05:47 am (UTC)
But apparently it would be a dem state, so congress wouldn't approve.
mirhanda 8th-Nov-2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
Are they considered non-white though? I thought there were various races on the island. IDK, I've only ever been to the airport there to change planes.
mykaa 8th-Nov-2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
Every census 90% of the PR population would select white as a race even if it's a largely melting pot of mixed races, and that was when Hispanic was a race option.
bestdaywelived 8th-Nov-2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
Agreed. There is an attitude that Puerto Rico waited too long - when the country was prosperous and they were doing well, they should have done this, not when they are become overrun with serious crime issues and fiscal challenges in order to take federal funding to clean it up.
tell_her_lies 8th-Nov-2012 12:45 am (UTC)
I am somewhat confused as to what is happening but this is the extent of the info that I've found..

"On Nov. 6, Puerto Rico voted for its governor, resident commissioner, mayors and legislators. A separate ballot contained a referendum to select the preferred territorial status in relation to the United States. Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898, essentially war booty from the Spanish-American War. It took 50 years to be allowed to elect our own governor.

Right now we are a “Free Associated State” (FAS) or Commonwealth as it is more commonly translated. As such, we cannot vote for the U.S. President (but can vote for Republican and Democratic Party presidential candidates), do not have voting representation in Congress (but have a Resident Commissioner to lobby for PR), and are subject to the Merchant Marine Act so can only transport goods to and from the island in U.S. ships, the most expensive fleet in the world. Most residents do not pay federal income tax but are subject to other federal taxes. While unlikely in the current political climate, the U.S. Congress can unilaterally change PR’s status and discontinue U.S. citizenship whenever they choose.

The three main political parties on the island have strived to change the current status, to the extent that their very identity is tied to the political status they promote: Popular Democratic Party (PDP, enhanced FAS), New Progressive Party (NPP, statehood), and the Independent Party. Historically the two dominant parties have been the first two.

Puerto Ricans have participated in several plebiscites already, and statehood has never prevailed. This time however, statehood is perceived to have won because of the confusing way the ballot was set up.

Here are the two ballot questions, and the results from the Elections Committee site (at 96% votes counted):

1. Do you agree that Puerto Rico shall continue to have its present form of territorial status?

NO (change it)- 934,238; 53.99%
YES (keep it)- 796,007; 46.01%
TOTAL: 1,730,245

2. Regardless of your selection in the first question, please mark which of the following non-territorial option would you prefer.

Statehood: 802,179; 61.15%
Independence: 72,551; 5.53%
Sovereign Free Associated State*: 436,997; 33.31%
TOTAL: 1,311,727

So, statehood wins, right? Well, not really. The PDP opposed the referendum initiated by the ruling PNP, but once it was going to happen, campaigned to vote YES, meaning to keep the status quo because the Sovereign Free Associated State (SFAS) option wasn’t the one they advocated. They also weirdly marketed the YES vote as a vote against the incumbent governor. The PDP campaigned to leave the second question blank and said that later on they’d make a “better” proposal. This confused many and some decided to vote for the SFAS option anyway for fear of not voting against statehood and the slim possibility of fraud (as in someone choosing whichever option for you since you left things blank- yep, paper ballots).

The end result was that 418,518 (1st question total minus 2nd question total) voters presumably followed the PDP instructions to choose YES and then left the second question blank. If that first question didn’t exist and we only had the second part, and had had a PDP-approved FAS status, then mostly likely those voters would have chosen the FAS option.

418,518 + 796,007 YES, keep-things-the-same voters = 1,214,525

This number easily defeats the statehood votes (802,179) even accounting for voters who were undecided. It’s too big a difference. Therefore, the only inference we can make from this referendum is that there IS a desire to change the current political status in Puerto Rico, but this simply confirms something we already knew.
tell_her_lies 8th-Nov-2012 12:46 am (UTC)
This number easily defeats the statehood votes (802,179) even accounting for voters who were undecided. It’s too big a difference. Therefore, the only inference we can make from this referendum is that there IS a desire to change the current political status in Puerto Rico, but this simply confirms something we already knew.

*The wording on the “Sovereign Free Associated State” choice: Puerto Rico should adopt a status outside of the Territory clause of the Constitution of the United States that recognizes the sovereignty of the People of Puerto Rico. The Sovereign Free Associated State would be based on a free and voluntary political association, the specific terms of which shall be agreed upon between the United States and Puerto Rico as sovereign nations. Such agreement would provide the scope of the jurisdictional powers that the People of Puerto Rico agree to confer to the United States and retain all other jurisdictional powers and authorities."

So they don't want statehood but voted for it due to confusion on the ballot? IDK. via here I've seen various stories to this effect going around on tumblr by Puerto Ricans.
the_physicist 8th-Nov-2012 12:47 am (UTC)
interesting! thanks for posting this. it does sound like there might have been some confusion then :/
ragnor144 8th-Nov-2012 01:44 am (UTC)
This seems to be in line with previous votes that had three choices: no change, statehood, or independence. There was never a majority under these circumstances.
latin_lunatic 8th-Nov-2012 04:04 am (UTC)
The last one had one more option. I remember because it won. It was "None of the Above"
browneyedguuurl 8th-Nov-2012 12:53 am (UTC)
This referendum was a sham perpetuated by the current ruling power to secure the election in their favor, especially since they have done a shitty job of governing for the past 4 years. Since their party supports statehood and they knew everyone here was pissed as hell with the governor and his colleagues, they did this in a last ditch effort to win thinking people would vote down party lines because of it. Sadly, people here don't understand that becoming a state isn't financially viable for the US, especially in these times. Politicians promise these things in an effort to secure extra federal funds so that they can spread them around amongst themselves, donors and friends. I am truly sad about the current state of my country, it is depressing to see. But there is no way in hell Congress will ever approve this, especially since PR is so bankrupt thanks to years of corruption from government officials who have turned their civic duty into a giant ponzy scheme.
blackjedii 8th-Nov-2012 01:28 am (UTC)
If you did I would welcome you to this hot mess! Virginia need new pals anyway I mean we got North Carolina and West Virginia and stuff
ragnor144 8th-Nov-2012 01:48 am (UTC)
Thanks for the background. I would be happy to have a new state, especially one that would likely piss off Republicans. But I believe in self determination done openly and honestly.

edit: oops - meant to post this one level up.

Edited at 2012-11-08 01:49 am (UTC)
browneyedguuurl 8th-Nov-2012 03:18 am (UTC)
No problem! The reaction from the GOP and the radicals have made me so weary about becoming a state. I don't want to be part of a country where half of it hates us for being Hispanics. The comments at HuffPost in the article explaining this made me want to cry.
latin_lunatic 8th-Nov-2012 04:15 am (UTC)
Good God, why did I read those? I wish I had stopped at the first mention of welfare.
browneyedguuurl 8th-Nov-2012 03:17 am (UTC)
Awww! Thanks bb! :)

I'm conflicted. I love the US and living in Miami, but I don't know how I feel about becoming a state.
latin_lunatic 8th-Nov-2012 01:58 am (UTC)
I had a feeling it was something like this. Puerto Rico is so fucked right now. :c

Edited at 2012-11-08 01:58 am (UTC)
browneyedguuurl 8th-Nov-2012 03:26 am (UTC)
It is. It breaks my heart. Politicians have basically stolen so much fucking money it's insane. There are barely any jobs, power bills are through the roof, crime and drugs are rampant. It's a fucking mess.
mykaa 8th-Nov-2012 03:59 am (UTC)
My mother pays over $300 each month by herself and she's only there before going to work and nights. When we visit it jumps to over $500. Ridiculous.
paksenarrion2 8th-Nov-2012 05:45 am (UTC)
If PR truly wanted to become a State, we would welcome you with open arms. Well those of us that weren't bigoted Repugnicant asswipes that is.

And I wish there were a way to fix things for y'all. Sounds like a lot of your elected leaders need to get the heave-ho. Corrupt politicians suck. :(
mirhanda 8th-Nov-2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
mykaa 8th-Nov-2012 04:04 am (UTC)
If I were still living in PR I would have voted for this even if I disagree with everything the PNP stands for. But to me this was always a separate issue unlike my parents generation which directly connected the PNP party with statehood. Current PR generations grow up with so much US influence that this was just a matter of time.

That said PR is crime ridden and a complete and utter mess. I'm trying to convince all my family members to get out while they can.
scarletwool 8th-Nov-2012 04:16 am (UTC)
Either stay a territory or become independent. 50 states is enough.
mary_pickforded 8th-Nov-2012 04:30 am (UTC)
shhh_its_s3cr3t 8th-Nov-2012 04:49 am (UTC)
I honestly don't even see how this is even an issue right now. It seems to me - if I'm reading this right - they want us to absorb their debt gain federal funds and representation - but don't want to pay taxes or be seen as more than Puerto Ricans ie Americans?

Did I get that right?

Plus the GOP won't let anyone less than white play in the pool. I feel like if they had a shot they'd try to disavow Hawaii. :/
shhh_its_s3cr3t 9th-Nov-2012 05:56 am (UTC)
Thanks - i am very uneducated on this topic.
mirhanda 8th-Nov-2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
I don't think they'd get rid of Hawaii. The naval base is too important.
shhh_its_s3cr3t 9th-Nov-2012 05:57 am (UTC)
This is an excellent point. Thank you!
ennifer_jay 8th-Nov-2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised this hasn't received more coverage tbh.

I'm interested to hear what one of my good friends thinks. She identifies as Boricua, supports Young Lords, etc. IIRC she wants PR to become independent.

I already throw this in everyone's face when they use the THIS IS AMERICA SPEAK ENGLISH~~~ argument, but I can't wait to REALLY throw this in everyone's face.

ETA: We discussed this in one of my classes and weren't sure, but what would "sovereignty" mean?

Edited at 2012-11-08 03:04 pm (UTC)
mirhanda 8th-Nov-2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
I'm a bit confused about sovereignty too. Would that mean that all the people in the U.S. currently of Puerto Rican descent would have to leave the U.S.? Because that wouldn't seem fair at all to me. But then again, if they were not U.S. citizens, they'd have to go. It just seems like that could be a huge can of worms!

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