Puerto Rico votes for statehood

WHAT IT IS

  • June, 2017: Puerto Rico held a non-binding referendum on whether or not to become the 51st state in the U.S.
  • Only a mere 23 percent of the Puerto Rican population voted in the referendum, with 97 percent voting in favor of statehood.
  • Puerto Rico is currently a commonwealth of the U.S., which gives it citizens only some of the benefits full U.S. citizens receive.

WHY IT MATTERS

Puerto Rico is in the midst of an economic recession with an unemployment rate of around 12 percent and a national debt soaring above $70 billion. Becoming a state within the U.S. may give Puerto Rico more access to funding to help reinvigorate their economy, but it also could strain the overall U.S. economy as well.

  • STATEHOOD NOW: “Improve the status quo”

    • Hypocritical:   The U.S. cannot embrace democracy around the world, yet “ignore it in their own backyard”.
    • Program Equality:   Puerto Rico does not have access to certain programs that states do, and those programs would help all the people within Puerto Rico.
    • Post-Colonial:   The territory is basically a colonial possession of the U.S., which still refuses to allow fully into it’s democratic society.
  • ILLEGITIMATE VOTE: “Not the will of the people”

    • People Unspoken For:   Pro-statehood parties controlled the referendum and opposition parties boycotted the vote, thus the vote only represented 23 percent of the Puerto Rican people.
    • No Bail Outs:   President Trump has said prior that he would not “bail out” the state and it’s large debt, so why would he and the Republican majority want to help it as a state?.
    • More Important Issues:   The issues of the everyday Puerto Rican are not statehood; they are employment, shelter and healthcare.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Congress has to decide on whether or not to take up a vote to move forward with the process of granting statehood.
  • Prospects of that are bleak for pro-statehood activists though, as the Republican-controlled Congress has little desire to back it.
  • In the past (such as in 2012) Puerto Rico has voted in favor of statehood but the process has never gotten farther than a non-binding referendum.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Will a Republican Congress be open to the idea of allowing in a territory with extremely high poverty, high unemployment rates and large amounts of debt?
  • Can a vote determined by less than one fourth of the population be counted as the “will of the Puerto Rican people?
  • Would becoming a state really improve the economic recession in Puerto Rico, or only displace the issues elsewhere?