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Puerto Rico: Possibilites for statehood

By Rosa Duarte, Reporter, RDuarte@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 16 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 16 2012 10:48:01 PM CST

The possibility of Puerto Rico joining the U.S. as the 51st state came after voters on the island were asked in a referendum whether they wanted change in their current status as a territory and what kind of status they would prefer, an apparent majority voted for statehood.

The possibility of Puerto Rico joining the U.S. as the 51st state came after voters on the island were asked in a referendum whether they wanted change in their current status as a territory and what kind of status they would prefer, an apparent majority voted for statehood.

“Basically the U.S. congress would have to authorize statehood and they would do this by a simple majority vote, there's Article 4 in the U.S. constitution that authorizes both houses of congress to pass that,” said Cathy Marie Ouellette, an assistant professor of history at Muhlenberg College.

The last time a state was admitted was in 1959 when Alaska entered into the picture, Hawaii soon followed later that same year.

As for Puerto Rico, this past referendum wasn't the first time the island questioned its status.

According to Ouellette, the last referendum was in 1993 and prior to that in 1972 when another surge towards independence took place in the voting booth.

“In 1972, 50 percent of the population rejected all three of the options that were proposed, in 1993 there was a similar outcome which it became obvious that Puerto Ricans were optimistic about change but it wasn't clear what that change might be,” said Ouellette.

So what would be the benefits?

According to Ouellette, for the millions of Puerto Ricans who still live on the island they would gain representation in the U.S. Congress as well as the right to vote.

Even though the United States already collects taxes and tariffs in trade with Puerto Rico, the change would allow the U.S. to collect federal taxes.

Regardless of the benefits, Ouellette says the likelihood of Puerto Rico joining the union is fairly low thanks to politics.

“The ballot was prepared by the new progressive party which is the outgoing party and secondly the phrasing of the referendum has left critics I think somewhat confused about why that choice was made,” said Ouellette.