Puerto Rican Voters: Statehood Is 'Our Only Hope'

Statehood wins questioned for Puerto Rico referendum - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

To become a true USA state, to choose independence or to maintain the status quo: Puerto Ricans will on Sunday mull their political future in a non-binding referendum many have vowed to boycott.

Héctor Ferrer, president of the Popular Democratic Party that embraces the island's current status as a territory, also fears that statehood would bring a loss of Puerto Rican identity.

It's the fifth time Puerto Ricans have voted on the matter, but statehood has never won a clear victory.

While President Trump signaled during his presidential campaign that he is open to Puerto Rico officially becoming a state, in April he tweeted his opposition to any bailout of the territory.

"Puerto Rico voted for statehood", said Gov. Pedro Rossello.

"I don't think there is any incentive for this Congress to accept Puerto Rico as the 51st state", said Hector Feliciano, a 27-year-old retail executive. "Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be canceled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay". Chanting "Puerto Rico Not for Sale", people marched in front of their idol, while others called on the U.S. to release of the nation's "political prisoners". Puerto Ricans are getting the chance to tell U.S. Congress on Sunday which.

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Almost half a million votes were cast for statehood. Turnout was the lowest of any vote on the island in over 50 years with nearly eight out of 10 voters not even showing up at the polls.

As that crisis continues to worsen, with cuts to pensions and a high cost of living, Suarez said to expect more Puerto Ricans to move to Florida with the hope of a brighter future.

About 1.3 million Puerto Ricans cast ballots in the last referendum in 2012, which also saw a majority support for statehood.

"From today going forward, the federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico", Rossello said in a statement.

But Sunday's results showed only 23 percent of the island's nearly 2.2 million voters took part in the referendum.

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

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"The bad side of it is that we are not a full part of the United States", he told NPR's Greg Allen and Marisa Peñaloza earlier this year.

Puerto Rico's hazy political status, dating back to its 1898 acquisition by the United States from Spain, has contributed to the economic crisis that pushed it last month into the biggest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

Organizers expected 1.5 million to watch Sunday's event, held the same day as the USA territory holds a referendum on statehood.

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.

But the so-called "Caribbean Greece" found easy relief in U.S. municipal bond markets, where investors could get attractive tax-exempt bonds that provided ready cash but sank the island deeper into debt. That option was then added, but the department said it had not had enough time to review the changes, and asked that the election be postponed.

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