Puerto Rico votes for US statehood, but to little avail
To be or not be seemed to be the question that Puerto Ricans were trying to answer. But instead of being a matter of life and death, it seems to be one of what kind of existence that they see for themselves.
The residents of smaller islands that along with the main island of Puerto Rico form an archipelago in the Carribean, are trying to make clear whether they want to maintain the status-quo when it comes to their relationship with the US or to become a part of it like any other of its state.
Puerto Rico is not an independent country and has been a US territory since 1898 after the country acquired the island from Spain following the Spanish-American War.
On Sunday, they voted on their choice, for the fifth time in 50 years as a part of a plebiscite, on whether to become the 51st state of the United States or not.
The vote and the conditions surrounding it though seem to be less than ideal when it comes to making a vote of this kind. As on top of the vote is non-binding, it has witnessed a mass boycott from major political parties, which lead to the voter turnout to be extremely low.
As according to the latest reports, the turnout was at 23 per cent, with 97 per cent of those who voted, doing so in favour of full statehood as a part of the US. These numbers though mean little as it is not binding on the US Congress, which is the decision-making body on the issue.
Following the four previous votes on the issue, the latest one saw Puerto Ricans choose from the three options of statehood, independence and remaining a territory. In the last such vote held in 2012, the island had voted in favour for statehood but the results were not taken into account and no action based on it was initiated. And so it continues to be a colonial territory of the US.
The current vote though comes in very different circumstances as compared to the previous such attempts as Puerto Rico is currently in the midst of a recession and finds itself in a debt of more than 120 billion dollars which include those accumulated by public sector companies and money owed to pension funds.
The US through laws enacted allows a governor for the territory to be elected and the current Governor, Ricardo Rossello while campaigning for his election had promised a referendum in the event of his win. He has argued that the if statehood is achieved, it would help the attempts of Puerto Rico to handle its debt crisis.
But other parties such as the Popular Democratic Party and the Puerto Rican Independence Party have supported the choice of continuing with the current territory status or of complete independence respectively. But no matter how the vote would have turned out the chance of the Congress acting on it, remain slim at best.
According to BBC, such a decision may be due to two factors. The first being that the US Congress, which has a majority of Republicans would not want to admit a voter constituency which favours its opponent, the Democratic Party. And secondly, the US would also have to, in all probability, spend considerable resources in order to start the debt-ridden economy of the island.