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PUERTO RICO
New pro-statehood governor
Latinamerica Press
11/16/2016
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Ricardo Rosselló, of the New Progressive Party, is in favor of the island becoming a US state.

Puerto Rico turned out to vote on Nov. 8, the same day that the next president of the United States, republican magnate Donald Trump, was elected. Some 2.9 million Puerto Ricans were called to elect the new governor, their representative in Washington (with no voting rights), local legislators and mayors for a four-year term, but only 55 percent went to the polls.

Ricardo Rosselló, of the New Progressive Party (NPP), which favors statehood, or annexation, obtained 42 percent of the vote. In second place came David Bernier, of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), which supports maintaining the current Associated Free State status, with 39 percent of the vote.

Rosselló, the son of Pedro Rosselló who governed the island between 1993 and 2001, defends the incorporation of Puerto Rico as one more state of the United States. He will replace Alejandro García Padilla, of the PDP, who did not run for reelection.

“Today was the beginning of the road to the transition to obtain full equality that only statehood can provide us,” Rosselló said when thanking the voters for his victory.

Besides Rosselló and Benier, other four candidates participated in the elections: Maria Lourdes Santiago, of the Puerto Rican Independence Party; Rafael Bernabé, of the Working People’s Party of Puerto Rico, and the independents Alexandra Lúgaro and Manuel Cidre.

The elections took place amidst an economic crisis that includes a public debt that surpasses US$70 billion. In the opinion of experts, the origin of the debt is the category of Associated Free State that the island has had since 1952, something that does not allow it to have economic autonomy.

On June 30, US President Barack Obama approved the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA Act, which, according to García Padilla, provides “the necessary legal framework to restructure the public debt, stabilize its tax situation and protect Puerto Ricans from lawsuits from creditors.”

The Act includes a fiscal oversight board named by President Obama and whose seven members were not chosen nor recommended by the Puerto Rican people, they have legal immunity, have the power to veto laws approved by the Puerto Rican government, and have the power to impose a fiscal plan, among other attributions.

Restricted vote
Puerto Rico has been a US territory since 1898 under the Associated Free State status. It has its own Constitution and while it has certain degree of autonomy, it is dependent of the federal government on aspects such as defense, currency, migration and customs, among others.

Although a law of 1917 granted US citizenship to Puerto Ricans, it established that the US Congress acts over the Legislative Branch of Puerto Rico and excluded them from voting for president and legislators.

Trump’s victory, the candidate who will be sworn in as president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017, is a question mark for Puerto Rico. Despite the US magnate having declared in May to the press that if winning the election he would not provide an economic bailout to the island, Roselló announced that in his first 100 days as governor he would develop a more effective and efficient economic plan that allows “setting the tone to once again enter the markets and develop our economy and be able to guarantee investment in Puerto Rico.”

“We want a government for all Puerto Ricans,” Rosselló said, adding that “the Republican Party platform in terms of Puerto Rico is very favorable. It is now up to Trump to comply with his government plan that includes validating the transition of Puerto Rico towards becoming the 51st state of the United States.”

“Having a Republican House of Representatives, a Republican Senate and a Republican Presidency, there is no excuse to not comply with the government plan of the Republican Party,” Rosselló added.

Trump said during the campaign that Puerto Rico has to have the right to elect its own political status and pledged to guarantee that the will of the people be respected, including statehood.

In a non-binding referendum held on Nov. 7, 2012, 61 percent of the electorate was in favor of statehood.

For Rosselló, preventing the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans residents of the island from voting for president and for them not to be represented in the US Congress prevents them from exercising their rights. — Latinamerica Press.


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