Puerto Ricans vote for Rosselló, statehood

The territory between the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic is making a case for American statehood.

In a 2012 vote that included nearly 80 percent of the voting population, 54 percent of Puerto Rican citizens said that they were dissatisfied with their current territorial status. Among the choices for alternatives, 61 percent said that they would choose statehood according to the Puerto Rican Report.

In this last election, New Progressive Party candidate Ricardo Rosselló won the governorship of Puerto Rico.

“The governor-elect Ricardo Rosselló ran on the basis of pro-statehood,” said Pace University senior Susan Ayala in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “I have been to Puerto Rico every year since I was five years old, and you can tell that Puerto Ricans there are very passionate about Puerto Rico.”

Rosselló won with 39 percent of the votes.

“I’m honored Puerto Rico gave me an opportunity,” said Rosselló, according to the Jamaica Observer. “We will establish a quality of life that will allow (Puerto Ricans) to return to the land where they were born.”

Hundreds of thousands of islanders have left the country during an ongoing economic crisis.

“Most of them are older,” said photojournalist Joseph Rodriguez, who went back to Puerto Rico with a grant from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, in an interview with The New York Times. “There is constant buzz about the hedge fund managers coming in and making things worse as they demand Puerto Rico pay off its debts to them first.

“Meanwhile, these older people have their own debts and basic needs: paying for electricity, food and medicine.”

The hope is that statehood boosts the Puerto Rican economy, which has its pros and cons. Since the termination of certain tax exemptions in 2006, Puerto Rico’s economy has taken a nosedive. If Puerto Rico becomes a state, the United States will absorb their $72 billion debt.

However, a major source of the country’s income, tourism, may diminish greatly were it just another state. Also, the immediate addition of 4 million citizens could put a strain on U.S. government systems, such as welfare, as well.

Regardless, the majority of both Puerto Rican citizens and American politicians would choose statehood. Even President-elect Donald Trump believes Puerto Ricans should decide the future of Puerto Rico, although he has not advocated for statehood as past presidents and even current politicians have, according to the Puerto Rico Report.

“There are 3.7 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico,” said Trump in a statement about statehood in January 2016. “As citizens, they should be entitled to determine for themselves their political status.”

Statehood would also allow Puerto Ricans to vote in U.S. elections and file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.

“Congress should provide Puerto Rico the same authority that states already have to enable severely distressed government entities, including municipalities and public corporations, to restructure their debts under Chapter 9,” said Secretary Hillary Clinton in a statement to Reuters.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Puerto Rico to decide their status, whether they chose statehood, continued territorial status or independent sovereignty, which would mean that the island would be represented by a centralized government.

“I believe Puerto Rico should become a State,” said Ayala. “Puerto Rico has fought in every U.S. war since World War I until the present. (The people) are pro-statehood as well as pro-American.”