Puerto Rico's governor says the US territory has overwhelmingly chosen statehood in a non-binding referendum.
Many groups who support the status quo urged a boycott of the vote, while others just didn't turn up because it was a non-binding referendum.
Under the current system, Puerto Rico's 3.5 million American citizens do not pay federal taxes, vote in presidential elections or receive proportionate federal funding on programs like the Medicaid health insurance system for the poor.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Ricans are getting the chance Sunday to tell the U.S. Congress which political status they want for the U.S. territory that is mired in an economic crisis that has triggered an exodus of islanders to the mainland.
"Statehood will solve some problems but we, as a nation, have to. assume responsibility and make decisions, and as we say in our own Puerto Rican way, we need to get our hands in there", resident Jose Alvarez told the Associated Press.
"Supporters of statehood did not seem enthusiastic about this plebiscite as they were five years ago", he said. The opposition had called for a boycott of the referendum.
Those who remain behind have been hit with new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive than the USA mainland and public services are 64 percent more expensive.
Rather than heading to the polls, some 500 Puerto Ricans marched on the streets of San Juan, waving Puerto Rico's flag and chanting in support of independence.
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Almost half a million Puerto Ricans voted for statehood compared to more than 7,600 who voted for free association/independence and almost 6,700 who wanted full independence.
Many Puerto Ricans doubt Congress can be convinced to incorporate the island, especially in the island's current economic condition, The New York Times reported. In a similar referendum in 2012, before the island's financial troubles deepened, 61% voted for statehood.
The next step is for the U.S. Congress to decide-and Suarez isn't holding his breath, citing the ongoing gridlock on domestic issues.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's governor is vowing to turn the US territory into the 51st state after statehood won in a non-binding referendum hit by a boycott and low turnout that raised questions about the vote's legitimacy.
"This plebiscite failed to live up to that standard, and the deck was stacked throughout the process, " she said in a statement.
It also gets USA military protection and receives federal funding from the government for highways and social programs, just not as much as official states receive.
As American citizens, often proudly so, Puerto Ricans can freely enter the United States - but don't have the right to vote for U.S. presidents or elect representatives to Congress, even though USA lawmakers have the ultimate say over the territory's affairs.
Sunday's referendum is the fifth for Puerto Rico.
Those who remain behind have faced new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive than the USA mainland and public services are 64 percent more expensive. Take the last two referendums in 1998 and in 2012 for example.