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Puerto Rico to hold referendum on statehood in November

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Puerto Rico will hold a non-binding referendum to decide the issue of Puerto Rico’s statehood, the governor announced.

The referendum will be held in November and will ask a single, simple question: Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted as a U.S. state?

“Our people will have the opportunity once and for all to define our future,” Vázquez said. “It’s never too late to be treated as equals.”

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and, while its residents are U.S. citizens, they cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections. Though the island is exempt from the U.S. federal income tax, it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes and receives less federal funding than U.S. states.

Puerto Rico has struggled in recent years to obtain federal funds for a series of disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic.

Even if citizens vote for statehood, it would still be an uphill battle as the U.S. Congress would need to approve Puerto Rico’s admission. Still, the governor’s pro-statehood party is confident that the referendum will pass.

“Everything important in life carries some risk,” said former Puerto Rico Gov. Carlos Romero Barceló, a member of the Progressive New Party.

The question has outraged the island’s small group of independence supporters and members of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party, which supports the status quo. Roberto Prats, a former Puerto Rico senator and member of the Popular Democratic Party, said in a phone interview that the upcoming referendum will be an exercise in futility like the five previous ones.

“The only thing they’ve done is take away credibility from the statehood movement,” he said, adding that Puerto Rico has eroded the federal government’s trust with its decades of corruption and mismanagement and that any referendum should first have support from Congress. “If we’re going to make a decision regarding our relationship with the U.S., the U.S. has to be involved in that discussion.”

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