Puerto Rico’s Long Road to US Statehood

PuertoRicoPuerto Rico has been an American territory for almost 116 years. On 11th June 2017, Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly voted to become America’s 51st state, but they shouldn’t celebrate yet. Only the US Congress can make Puerto Rico a state. Is Congress enthusiastic about that idea? No. Their focus right now is the massive debt and bankruptcy eating away at the island’s economy. The US is not ready to take on the Island’s massive debt currently at $70 billion dollars. In Africa, that’s pocket change considering Kenya just dipped herself with China owing hundreds of billions of dollars in the country’s infrastructural development. Congress is more apprehensive about Puerto Rico’s huge bankruptcy. President Trump bluntly said that he “will not bail the island out.”

But the Island’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló called the just concluded election a “historical event.” He said “Today, we the people of Puerto Rico, are sending a strong and clear message to the world claiming our equal rights as American citizens,” Isn’t it a little bit too early to celebrate? Rosselló chooses to be optimistic as he left for Washington to try and persuade Congress to approve t the Island’s inclusion into statehood. We can all agree that it’s going to be an uphill task with the Island’s economy’s bad shape, really, bad for the US to take on its immense mess.

With all eyes on Puerto Rico, it’s even more annoying to keep hearing the same rhetoric. Financial experts analyzing the Island’s situation also disagree with the Statehood issue. Marc Joffe, a fund’s expert and director of policy research in California (CPC) said, “There’s not going to be a big appetite to bring in a bankrupt state,” Besides the overemphasized debt, the Island has been in an economic slump for nearly ten years with unemployment rate currently at 11.5% (US unemployment rate is just 4.3%).

A man waves a national flag as protesters march through San Juan

What motivates the urgency of US statehood?

  •  A direct move to the larger island for jobs and education opportunities
  • Currently, there’s a massive transit of educated Puerto Ric ans already living and working in the US.
  • Once approved into statehood, the Island will receive government funding and medical assistance.
  • Cheaper commodities from the US mainly cars, which cost about 40% more than they cost in America.

But inclusivity won’t directly solve the deep financial problems. They must first get in line just like everybody else. How?

Here’s how:

  1. Puerto Rico citizens would need to pay federal taxes. Most folks can’t afford to pay a dime in the initial stages of statehood if Congress approves.
  2. It won’t expunge the Island’s current debt. The Island has already filed for bankruptcy. A resolution must be made between its creditors and the US to pay back some, if not all of the debt.
  3. recorded vote includes 23% of the citizen’s voice. Over 95 % voted for inclusion. Voter turnout was extremely low, a mere 23%. Not a good sign to appease Congress in the US.

Many Puerto Ric ans have validity for inclusion besides the economic gain. An Army veteran Edwin Alicea recently explained, “I pray to God that before I die, I see Puerto Rico as the 51st state. We don’t have representation in Congress, we don’t vote for the president, but they all come here for fundraisers, take our money, they send us to war.” In 2015, nearly 1,200 Puerto Ric an youth enlisted in the US military, according to records from the Department of Defense. That’s below 1% of the island’s population, not a unique scenario compared to other states enlisting in the military every year. Puerto Rico seeks to push for equality, that’s what the move for inclusivity is all about.



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