Puerto Ricans vote for US statehood

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said voters in the economically troubled USA island territory were sending a strong message to Congress.

Lopez Rivera's supporters, including "Hamilton" playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda and other celebrities, view him as a symbol of Puerto Rican nationalism and the campaign to end what they see as the colonial status of the USA territory, acquired by the United States after the Spanish-American War.

This is the fifth time a non-binding referendum has been put before the island's voters.

Under the current system, Puerto Rico's 3.5 million American citizens do not pay federal taxes, vote in presidential elections or receive proportionate federal funding on programs like the Medicaid health insurance system for the poor.

John Bravo, 36, who marched with a pro-independence delegation in black, holding up placards denouncing colonialism, blamed Puerto Rico's crippling debt crisis and poverty on its ambiguous status as a commonwealth, where people have US citizenship but can not vote for Congress or the president.

"I voted for statehood", Armando Abreu, a 74-year-old retiree, said after voting at the Escuela Gabriela Mistral.

Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello claimed victory, even though opposition leaders boycotted the ballot.

Many believe the island's territorial status has contributed to its 10-year economic recession, which was largely sparked by decades of heavy borrowing and the elimination of federal tax incentives.

A non-binding referendum in Puerto Rico asking for the nation's future has had a very firm result: citizens want to become a proper part of the US.

This year's referendum coincides with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting USA citizenship to Puerto Ricans, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers.

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Almost half a million votes were cast for statehood, about 7,600 for free association/independence and almost 6,700 for the current territorial status, according to preliminary results.

Of those who voted, some 97% chose statehood, according to early results released Sunday night.

In the 1998 referendum, the top choice among Puerto Ricans was "none of the above" while in 2012 referendum voted heavily in favor of statehood, with the rest of the ballots left blank.

Puerto Ricans have been USA citizens since a law made them so in 1917.

"This plebiscite failed to live up to that standard, and the deck was stacked throughout the process, " she said in a statement. Even if it did, most analysts say statehood already faced an uphill battle in Washington, where President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress don't appear all that enthusiastic about adding a 51st star to the USA flag.

The 2017 Plebiscite for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico was held on June 11.

The 2017 referendum was called by the government of the island against a background of economic crisis, which some attribute at least partially to Puerto Rico's unusual legal status, halfway between independence and full statehood.

More than 97 percent of voters favoured attempting to join the USA over becoming independent or remaining a self-governing territory.

How would everyday life change if the island became a USA state?

His party also has noted that the U.S. Justice Department has not backed the referendum. The Rossello administration added it and sent the ballot back for review, but the department said it needed more time and asked that the vote be postponed, which it wasn't. Take the last two referendums in 1998 and in 2012 for example.

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