From the Miami Herald:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A majority of Puerto Ricans have opted for the first time to become the 51st U.S. state in what jubilant members of the pro-statehood party call a resounding sign that the island territory is on the road to losing its second-class status.
But Tuesday’s vote comes with an asterisk and an imposing political reality: The island remains bitterly divided over its relationship to the United States and many question the validity of this week’s referendum.
There’s also the fact that voters also ousted the pro-statehood governor, eliminating one of the main advocates for a cause that would need the eventual approval of the U.S. Congress.
“Statehood won a victory without precedent but it’s an artificial victory,” said Angel Israel Rivera Ortiz, a political science professor at the University of Puerto Rico. “It reflects a divided and confused electorate that is not clear on where it’s going.”
President Barack Obama had said he would support the will of the Puerto Rican people on the question of the island’s relationship to the U.S., referred to simply on the island as its “status,” and this week’s referendum was intended to be the barometer.
Politics aside, it’s long past time that Puerto Rico became a state. The current status gives the people of the island the responsibilities — taxes, the draft — of U.S. citizenship — which they have had since 1917 — but lacking some key rights, including being able to vote in a presidential election unless they’re living on the mainland, and no vote in Congress. In short, they’re a colony, and that’s a relic of imperialism that we should have abandoned a hundred years ago.
There will be some push-back from the Republicans, especially the knuckle-draggers who claim that the island should declare English the “official” language before admittance (when English becomes the “official” language here, we can consider it), that the majority of the population is poor and dependent on government services (hello, Mississippi), and that they will all be Democrats and add two more D’s to the Senate. Given the GOP’s current standing with the Latino community, perhaps admitting Puerto Rico would go a long way to mending a fence or two.
By the way, if Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state, here’s what the new American flag could look like:
I like it.