Peter Lee Published on 04 January 2013
Category: English in the News
So nothing seemed amiss when students entering a classroom at Capital Community College in Hartford were greeted with a prompt on the blackboard: "In a recent vote, Puerto Ricans favored U.S. statehood. Please write down your opinion: Should Puerto Rico be a state, an independent country, or stay as is?"
Like many residents of Hartford, the Capital Community College students in the mock vote were mostly either born in Puerto Rico or of Puerto Rican descent. However, their opinions were strikingly different from the results of the Puerto Rican referendum reported in the news. Very few expressed the opinion that Puerto Rico should be a state, and by far the most popular opinion was that "Puerto Rico should stay exactly as it is."
"Stay exactly as it is," was not a direct alternative to statehood on the Puerto Rican ballot, partly because the United Nations does not recognize Puerto Rico's commonwealth status as legitimate. However, the status quo remains a popular option, the favorite of a sizeable chunk of Puerto Ricans who went to the polls. About 472,000 cast blank ballots to protest not having that position fairly represented. Factoring in those blank ballots, the pro-statehood numbers slip from 61 percent to 45 percent, according to Juan Gonzalez, the highest profile journalist to contradict the victory-for-statehood gospel. Gonzalez is a reporter for the New York Daily News, a Pacifica Radio host and author of a history of Latin America, Harvest of Empire.
Quite simply, if Puerto Rico's pro-statehood party can't capitalize on this latest vote to stir up irresistible momentum in the U.S. for a 51st state, the chance may be lost forever.
This most recent vote in Puerto Rico, drawn up by the pro-statehood party and structured to allow a 45 percent vote for statehood to look like 61 percent, may be the closest statehood will ever come to a two-thirds majority. "It used to be that [the popularity of the idea of] statehood was growing," said Juan Gonzalez. "Now it's not growing. It has stagnated at about 45 or 46 percent." The pro-statehood governor was just voted out of office, and by the time his party regains control, viable alternatives to statehood may have gained in popularity.
The U.S. government, of course, has the final say in whether or not statehood will happen, and would have to oversee another vote that would be taken as binding. In all likelihood, at some point in the process, Americans are bound to balk at the cost of Puerto Rican statehood.
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