Puerto Rico Fi­nally Votes “Yes” to State­hood

Trillions - - In This Issue -

It will not solve the Com­mon­wealth’s cur­rent $123 bil­lion debt prob­lem, and it has no of­fi­cial en­force­ment power on its own. But on June 12, after many failed past at­tempts, Puerto Ri­cans fi­nally voted in fa­vor of be­com­ing a U.S. state.

The vote was a land­mark for a re­gion cur­rently hap­pily not hav­ing to pay U.S. fed­eral taxes. With the crush­ing debt load of $123 bil­lion and the Com­mon­wealth get­ting in deeper fi­nan­cial trou­ble ev­ery day, how­ever, that the vote came out this way was not a sur­prise to some, who claimed it might be the only way out of Puerto Rico’s cur­rent dilemma.

Those who showed up at the polls did vote over­whelm­ingly for state­hood, with 97% of those vot­ing in fa­vor of it. How­ever, the equally his­toric low voter turnout of only 23%, on an is­land where cit­i­zens typ­i­cally queue up with as many as 80% of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers on other is­sues, tends to weaken the “land­slide” na­ture of the re­sult.

De­spite the poor voter turnout, Ri­cardo Ros­selló, the gover­nor of Puerto Rico and a mem­ber of the pro-state­hood-ad­vo­cat­ing New Pro­gres­sive Party, was elated by the out­come. He plans to take the re­sults of the vote to Wash­ing­ton for for­mal ac­tion to be taken.

Those op­pos­ing state­hood in­cluded the Pop­u­lar Demo­cratic Party and its head, Héc­tor Fer­rer. Prior to the vote, he claimed the bal­lot-mea­sure lan­guage was in- ten­tion­ally set up to con­fuse, and he urged vot­ers to boy­cott the elec­tion in­stead of go­ing to the polls to de­cide the is­sue. Af­ter­wards, he even went so far as to claim that the whole vote out­come had been rigged.

Based on the very poor voter turnout, Fer­rer may have re­ceived his wish.

What hap­pens next, other than that Ros­selló will take the re­sults to the U.S. Con­gress, is un­clear. With it be­ing dif­fi­cult to over­look that 77% of Puerto Ri­cans did not even show up to state their pref­er­ence on the is­sue – and with the U.S. Con­gress cur­rently in dis­ar­ray for so many other rea­sons – it is hard to imag­ine that Wash­ing­ton is go­ing to re­spond quickly to what the cur­rent gover­nor of Puerto Rico – and just un­der 23% of the Com­mon­wealth’s vot­ers – wants to have hap­pen.

An­other al­ter­na­tive for Puerto Rico would have been to vote for in­de­pen­dence but that op­tion has long proven to be pop­u­lar with only a small per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion.

Most in­de­pen­dent Caribbean na­tions suf­fer from poverty, cor­rup­tion and crime rates worse than Puerto Rico's cur­rently high rates.

With­out a cul­tural makeover to ad­dress the root causes of Puerto Rico's prob­lems, the sta­tus quo is the mostly likely fu­ture sce­nario.

Photo by Alan Ko­tok, CC

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