Puerto Rico overwhelming votes to become USA state, but likely won't

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Puerto Ricans who voted for US statehood in a non-binding referendum Sunday are "claiming our equal rights as American citizens", Puerto Rico's governor says.

Politics took the front seat at this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade in NY on Sunday, as the traditional batons, floats and marching bands were overshadowed by the inclusion of a militant pro-independence figure and a vote in favor of statehood taking place on the island.

Some see statehood as the best way to pull Puerto Rico out of its economic crisis, others blame the USA for the malaise and would rather seek independence after five centuries of what they call colonial rule.

Decades ago, FALN claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in the USA and Puerto Rico, including a lunchtime blast in 1975 that killed four people at New York's historic Fraunces Tavern.

"According to pro-statehood supporters, Puerto Rico becoming a state will increase investment and stabilize the economy, but as far as I know there is no research to support this and actually this will increase the tax burden for Puerto Ricans and increase the amount of resources that the USA will have to send to Puerto Rico", Cruz-Martinez said.

"More than 480,000 votes were cast for statehood, more than 7,500 for free association/independence and more than 6,500 for independence, with roughly half of polling centers reporting".

Puerto Rico's two main opposition parties boycotted Sunday's vote.

Meantime, right after the credit rating agencies reduced the island's bonds to junk status, vulture funds swooped in to buy up numerous island's heavily discounted bonds, hoping/thinking/planning/expecting to reap a windfall when the USA taxpayers finally bailed out the island and paid off the bonds at face value. Instead, they pay local taxes and for social security while having a non-voting representative in the US Congress.

Puerto Ricans have had US citizenship since 1917 but as residents of a commonwealth territory rather they can not vote for president in the US elections, and have a nonvoting member in the US Congress called a resident commissioner.

After Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy in 2006, the government entered into a process of "debt analysis" and arbitration, directed by a financial control board appointed by President Obama.

"This brings out the worst in the US Congress", said Dr Amilcar Barreto, a specialist in Puerto Rican politics at Northeastern University in Boston.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, it's actually probably the poorest showing that the pro-statehood party has had in about 50 years, because so few people voted. Turnout was just 23 percent.

"The United States of America will have to obey the will of our people!"

The Republican Party has traditionally supported statehood for Puerto Rico, while the Democratic Party said it was ready to support whatever decision Puerto Ricans made through fair, open and democratic elections.

An unincorporated United States territory under American control since 1898, Puerto Rico lacks sovereign powers - an urgent problem as it grapples with public debt of US$73 billion (S$100 billion) and its economy stumbles.

The final decision lies in the hands of the USA congress.

In a previous referendum in 2012, Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly rejected statehood.

The ballot was later changed to include "current territorial status" as an option, but the call for a boycott remained. Puerto Rico voted in favor of statehood, the New York Post reports.

She said the vote is a highly debated topic among Puerto Ricans, and brings feelings of anticipation, uncertainty, division, and hope.

The results of the newest referendum could lead to similar claims, Vargas said.

The statehood option received 502,616 votes, or 97.18 percent of the votes cast.

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