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Puerto Rico Backs Statehood in Referendum Boycotted by Opposition Groups

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Tens of thousands turned out Sunday for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade here in New York. The parade came on the same day when Puerto Rico held a controversial referendum on political status. Ninety-seven percent of those who cast ballots voted in favor of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state, but just 23 percent of eligible voters took part. Many Puerto Rican opposition parties called for a boycott of the vote.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands turned out Sunday for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade here in New York. The parade came on the same day when Puerto Rico held a controversial referendum on political status. Ninety-seven percent of those who cast ballots voted in favor of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state, but just 23 percent of eligible voters took part. Many Puerto Rican opposition groups boycotted the vote. Juan, you have followed this extremely closely. Talk about what happened. The governor, Rosselló, has called this a great victory for statehood.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, it’s actually probably the poorest showing that the pro-statehood party has had in about 50 years, because so few people voted. You have to understand, in Puerto Rico, it’s normal for 78 to 80 percent of the people to vote in a normal election or plebiscite. You’re talking 23 percent. So the statehood party got a little over 500,000 votes. Back in 2012, during the last plebiscite, statehood got 834,000 votes. So they got 300,000 fewer votes than they did in the 2012 plebiscite. The reality is that with the economic crisis that Puerto Rico is facing right now, the last thing on the minds of the people of Puerto Rico is a vote over statehood that Congress—they know that Congress cannot or will not grant.

So what the governor has said is that he’s going to now—based on this 97 percent vote in favor of statehood, will now elect two United States senators and five congressmen and send them to Congress and demand admission as a state. This is a tactic that Tennessee used in the 19th century to pressure Congress to admit Tennessee as a state. So they’re now going to go through an election of two senators and five congressmen, which will again be boycotted by the other parties, so only the statehood people will vote. And the reality is that the economic crisis of Puerto Rico at this point cannot be resolved just through a statehood process. There has to be a process of real self-determination for the island of Puerto Rico that has not happened yet.

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