SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A large majority of voters in Puerto Rico supported U.S. statehood for their island in a referendum on Sunday, according to partial results, but a low turnout and a boycott by several opposition parties called into question the validity of the non-binding vote.
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. The participation rate was nearly 23 percent with roughly 2.26 million registered voters.
US - Congress - Changes - US - Territory
U.S. Congress has final say on any changes to the U.S. territory's political status, regardless of the referendum's final outcome. And three Puerto Rican political parties that favor other options than statehood boycotted the vote, which took place amid an economic crisis that has triggered an exodus of islanders to the U.S. mainland.
Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz vowed to push for statehood anyway.
Congress - Statehood - US - States
"Congress never freely gave away statehood," he said. "U.S. states had to fight for it."
The referendum coincides with the 100th anniversary of the United States granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers.
Puerto - Rico - State - Jose - Alvarez
Among those hoping Puerto Rico will become a state is Jose Alvarez, a 61-year-old businessman.
"Now is the moment to do it," he said. "We've spent a lot of years working on a socioeconomic model that has not necessarily given us the answer."
Island - Status - Recession - Puerto - Ricans
Many believe the island's territorial status has contributed to its 10-year economic recession, which has prompted nearly half a million Puerto Ricans to flee to the U.S. mainland and was largely sparked by decades of heavy borrowing and the elimination of federal tax incentives.
Puerto Rico is exempt from the U.S. federal income tax, but it still pays Social Security...
Wake Up To Breaking News!