News / USA

Puerto Rico Approves US Statehood Bid

A pro-statehood New Progressive Party supporter waves his party's flag during their closing campaign rally in San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 3, 2012.
A pro-statehood New Progressive Party supporter waves his party's flag during their closing campaign rally in San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 3, 2012.
VOA News
For the first time, voters in Puerto Rico have advanced a non-binding referendum calling for statehood, a provision that could only be granted by the U.S. Congress.

A majority of voters voiced support for the measure Tuesday which calls for consideration of what would be the 51st U.S. state. Three previous ballot initiatives failed to get a majority of support.

Article IV of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide on state admissions. The last states admitted were Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.

Although Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they cannot vote for presidents. They also have no representation in the Senate and limited representation in the House of Representatives.

Need for change

Justin O'Brien, the head of the U.S. Council for Puerto Rico Statehood, says these are the key reasons the island's status needs to change.

"The ability to participate in the government that passes laws and makes decisions that affect the livelihoods of all citizens, for 114 years, Puerto Ricans have not had that representation," said O'Brien.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he would support the will of the Puerto Rican people on statehood.  O'Brien says statehood is long overdue.

"Puerto Ricans have been citizens since 1917 but the quality of their citizenship has been one that has been dis-equal, or unequal rather," O'Brien added.  "I think Puerto Ricans are clearly tired of that."

O'Brien says he believes the territory will continue to push for statehood although pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuno lost his re-election bid Tuesday to Alejandro Garcia Padilla, a pro-commonwealth lawmaker.

In Tuesday's balloting, voters considered a two-question referendum that first asked if they favored the territory's current status. The second question allowed them to choose from three options, including one on statehood.

The U.S. seized the island from Spain in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
by: Jose Lopez from: Puerto Rico
November 17, 2012 3:35 PM
Dear Partner,


Those who accept colonialism do not believe in justice for all! Now that we know that
the political parties will not solve this problem; I invite you to join the non-violent protest to demand that the United States (US) decolonize Puerto Rico (PR) immediately. It will be on Monday, June 17, 2013 from 8 AM to 5 PM outside the United Nations (UN) visitor’s entrance located on 46th Street and First Avenue in New York City.

The UN has determined that colonialism is a crime against humanity in 1960 under Resolution 1514 (XV). That’s why the UN celebrates every year a hearing about Puerto Rico decolonization. Every year the UN puts forth a resolution asking the US to decolonize PR. Despite 30 of these resolutions, PR is still the oldest and most populated colony in the world! It is obvious by now that the US is not going to decolonize PR just because the UN asks.

Through education, we must create a domestic and international solidarity with this cause to pressure the US to do what historically she has refused to do. This is why we need everyone who also believes that colonialism is a crime against humanity to join the protest to demand compliance to international law!

Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US for 114 years. The US’ intention is to keep PR a colony forever unless we do something about it. It is important to note that: democracy isn’t what a government does. Democracy is what people do!
President John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” These ideas, of course, are the reasons why the United Nations was created after World War II.

It is up to us to defend the fundamental human rights that promote world peace. The tragedy of doing nothing is that we will have the kind of government that we deserve!


José M. López Sierra

For more information:
Compañeros Unidos para la Descolonización de Puerto Rico

by: Lola from: PR
November 10, 2012 5:57 PM
I am sad to hear despective comments about us. No one has mentioned that Puertorriquens soldiers have given their lives to defend the flag and constitution of the US of America. One of them is my son with 3 tours. He does it with proud because he believes in the American dream and for the future of his two kids. We have earned to become state 51 and that additional star in that great flag with the blood of our soldiers and much more. God bless America and Puerto Rico!!!
In Response

by: Tom M. from: Omaha, Nebraska
November 11, 2012 10:23 AM
Thank you for your comments, Lola. Many thanks to your son for his service in the US Military. My answer on whether Puerto Rico should become a state has always been the same: "Only if they want it." Since that referendum shows that you do, I believe you should be granted statehood. You're already part of the US. I worry that some Americans will make bigoted comments. Don't let that dissuade you.

Also, it wasn't clear to me from your comments, if your son is living and serving the US military or if he died in that service. If he is still with us (and I sincerely hope so), please thank him for me. If he died in that service, please accept my condolences.

by: ed mays from: brick nj
November 09, 2012 10:02 PM
This Puerto Rico referendum has been shot down many times before.....why? They don`t pay federal income taxes to my knowlege and the US Govt sends them billions every year for support. State or not let them pay federal taxes like everyone else.
In Response

by: Anthony from: Nashville
November 10, 2012 4:35 PM
Puerto Ricans ARE required to pay (most) federal taxes already. And if they were admitted as a state, they would pay even more. Although the PR government has its own tax laws, Puerto Ricans are ALSO required to pay most U.S. federal taxes, with the major exception being that SOME residents do not have to pay the federal personal income tax. In 2009, Puerto Rico paid $3.742 billion into the US Treasury. Residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security, and are thus eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement. However, they are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the island actually receives a small fraction of the Medicaid funding it would receive if it were a U.S. state. Also, Medicare providers receive less-than-full state-like reimbursements for services rendered to beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, even though the latter paid fully into the system. The federal taxes paid by Puerto Rico residents include import/export taxes, Federal commodity taxes, social security taxes, among others. Residents also pay Federal payroll taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare taxes.

by: DC outsider from: DC
November 09, 2012 5:13 PM
Let them form their own Country. That way they can 100% Representation that they pay for. Nothing in this article mentions that they will need to pay US Federal Income taxes. They will be an additional drag on a Country that can't even take care of itself right now. We don't need any more takers, we need more makers.
In Response

by: Puerto Rican, from: SC
November 10, 2012 11:37 AM
Are you serious? Let them form their own country? You must not know anything about Puerto Rico. They would not survive as an independent country. Only 6% voted for independence. If Puerto Rico has had ties with the United States since before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted why end them now? This is the right thing, Puerto Ricans need statehood.

by: DavidRMartin from: Atlanta, GA
November 09, 2012 11:39 AM
"A majority of voters voiced support for the measure Tuesday which calls for consideration of what would be the 51st U.S. state." - this statement and the title are inaccurate and misleading.

While 61.2% of ballots cast for a PRE-DEFINED status choice selected statehood, only 44.6% of ALL ballots were for statehood. About 480,000 ballots consisted of inscrutable "no answer" and "protest" ballots.

Counting all ballots, 55.4% chose a status OTHER than statehood.

In Response

by: Jose from: South Carolina
November 10, 2012 11:40 AM
Since when do blank votes count? Obama didn't win by blank votes? Blank votes mean they don't want to express their opinion, that being said it doesn't matter if they were protesters, the vote doesn't count because it is blank. 61% voted statehood, while 55.4% voted something else. The 61% still is higher, even if the blank votes do count, 6% more people said statehood and thats all that matters.

by: NA from: PR
November 09, 2012 11:21 AM
There is no way that PR should be allowed to become a USA state. The government in PR is completely incompetent and the infrastructure is inefficient and dysfunctional.
PR should be sold or, if no one wants to buy it, it should be given away.

by: Jacob from: San Buenaventura
November 09, 2012 10:37 AM
It is quite the scandal that they can't vote.
I'm shocked this hasn't been fixed, even if they aren't a state yet.

They should let them vote in presidential elections immediately and then they can take their time figuring out territorial status or statehood.

Seriously, Puerto Rico is far more loyal than Texas or California. What's to be suspicious of?

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