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Puerto Rico gov upholds statehood in vote hit by boycott

The referendum was on the 100th anniversary of Puerto Ricans gaining US citizenship, though they can’t vote for president and their lone congressional representative has limited power, and it coincided with with the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.It is under USA military protection and is entitled to federal funding for infrastructure and social programs.The turnout for the nonbinding referendum was 23 percent.Puerto Rico is suffering from about $123 billion in debt and has been battling a recession for the past 10 years. In February 2014, Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds were downgraded to speculative, or non-investment, grade by three ratings agencies.However, not everyone skipped the referendum because they had other things to do and CNN noted that some people planned to actively abstain from voting as part of a boycott.The island’s two main opposition parties boycotted the vote, which gave Puerto Ricans three options: becoming a USA state; remaining a territory; or becoming an independent nation, with or without some continuing political association with the United States. Just 7,600 opted for free association/independence; 6,700 voted to remain a US territory.What’s Puerto Rico’s current status? “I am taking it not just to Congress but to other forums, such as the Organization of American States”.Residents pay social security, Medicare and local taxes, while Puerto Rico receives less federal funding than USA states, but is exempt from the U.S. federal income tax.As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans can simply pack up and move to the mainland U.S. for better job and educational opportunities.The opposition Popular Democratic Party had said “statehood will win by a landslide” because of the boycott by opposition parties, which supported the status quo as a United States territory. “If the advocates for statehood for Puerto Rico want to address the results to the U.S. Congress.then the results may appear weak, particularly when five years ago 834,000 voters supported statehood for the island”.Opponents of statehood are nevertheless concerned that the island will lose its cultural identity and warn that Puerto Rico will struggle even more financially because it will be forced to pay millions of dollars in federal taxes.This was the fifth time in the island’s history it voted on its status with the United States. The governor, Rosselló, has called this a great victory for statehood.He argued that Puerto Ricans are “claiming our equal rights as American citizens”. She said: “As Resident Commissioner I will take this to Congress and defend it”. And Congress, the ultimate arbiter of the island’s bid for statehood, never picked up the matter.For decades the territory enjoyed a USA federal tax exemption that attracted many American companies to set up shop – but those breaks were ended in 2006, prompting firms to leave the island en masse. Should Puerto Rico be admitted to the union if a representative majority of its residents vote for it?The referendum transpired without any major incidents except for the burning of USA flags by independence activists in front of the Election Commission HQ in San Juan after the polls closed and complaints of irregularities at some polling places that authorities called irrelevant to the final outcome.