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12 June 2017, 03:45 | Floyd Cook
Despite Recent Controversy, Tens Of Thousands Flock To NYC's Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade
SAN JUAN, June 11 Puerto Ricovoted overwhelmingly on Sunday to apply to Congress to become the 51st state, election officials said, although less than a quarter of eligible voters cast ballots in the plebiscite.
"I'm not voting. The government has spent millions of dollars on this campaign hoping that statehood wins, but even if it does, the U.S. Congress won't want to do anything about it", 54-year-old Felix Salasarartold reporters.
The question at the heart of the non-binding referendum has been asked of Puerto Rican voters before - four times, in fact.
Puerto Rico's main opposition party rejected the pro-statehood result.
Either way, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, whose parents hailed from Puerto Rico, cautions the wire service that "Congress won't do anything".
Schatz argues that statehood would help Puerto Rico in its attempt to face down its debt crisis.
"The cost of statehood on the pocketbook of every citizen, every business, every industry will be devastating", Carlos Delegado, secretary of the opposition Popular Democratic Party, told The Associated Press.
Puerto Rico was handed over to the USA at the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898 as a form of war booty. While Puerto Ricans are American citizens and contribute to Social Security and Medicare, they do not vote for the US president, and their single representative in Congress has no vote.
The island's two main opposition parties boycotted the vote, which gave Puerto Ricans three options: becoming a USA state; remaining a territory; or becoming an independent nation, with or without some continuing political association with the United States. But even statehood supporters came out in lower than expected numbers.
But the Rossello government insists statehood is the answer to the financial crisis hanging over the island of 3.4 million, where some 45 percent of the population live in poverty.
Residents pay social security, Medicare and local taxes, while Puerto Rico receives less federal funding than U.S. states, but is exempt from the USA federal income tax.
Almost half of the island's 3.4 million people live in poverty, and unemployment is 12.4 percent, compared with 4.3 percent on the USA mainland. From the sidelines, she said she refuses to back the man who served 35 years in prison for his involvement with a group responsible for bombings that killed and maimed dozens of people.
Puerto Rico's hazy political status, dating back to its 1898 acquisition by the United States from Spain, has contributed to the economic crisis that pushed it last month into the biggest municipal bankruptcy in US history.
Congress has final say over whether to approve the outcome of the referendum that offers voters three choices: statehood, free association/independence or the current territorial status.
People participate in the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade marching up 5th Ave. on Sun., June 11, 2017, in New York City.
It also gets USA military protection and receives federal funding from the government for highways and social programs, just not as much as official states receive.
Those who remain behind have faced new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive than the USA mainland and public services are 64 percent more expensive.
As a territory, the island has very little power and hardly any voice in government.
His party also has noted that the U.S. Justice Department has not backed the referendum.
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