Puerto Ricans go to polls on joining US

THE PEOPLE of Puerto Rico were voting in a referendum yesterday on whether their Caribbean island, which fell into American hands 100 years ago as spoils of the Spanish-American War, should seek to become fully integrated into the United States.

As polling came to a close last night the result was too close to call. Ballot papers offered voters five options, including one for independence as a sovereign nation. Only two of the options were expected to win significant support: one to petition the US for full statehood and another to retain the island's current status as a commonwealth of the US.

The issue is emotive for the island, which has a population of 3.8 million. Supporters of statehood argue that, as a commonwealth, Puerto Ricans are second-class citizens who live under American cultural domination without the chance to vote in US elections or affect American politics.

Leading the statehood camp is the Governor, Pedro Rossello. "Keep the political inferiority, keep the economic limitations, keep the social dependency, that's what commonwealth has meant to Puerto Rico as a transitory and territorial status," he said.

But opponents of the campaign believe that, as a commonwealth, the island has the best of all worlds - close association with the US and the benefits of federal funding while at the same time retaining a patina of national identity. Puerto Rico, for instance, has its own Olympic team.

The island was under Spanish rule for 400 years before it was ceded to the US in 1898. The present commonwealth status was conferred on Puerto Rico in 1952. Yesterday's was the third referendum on statehood in 30 years. The last time, in 1993, statehood lost by two percentage points.

Victory for the statehood campaign would mark only the start of a difficult constitutional battle.

To become the 51st state of America, Puerto Rico would have to win the support of the US Congress, a task that would probably not prove easy. Members of Congress may worry, for example, about the impact on the Union of adding to it a state that is entirely Spanish- speaking.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn