Hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Wednesday launched a new drive to become the 51st US state, with the island’s governor demanding an end to “second-class” treatment of its citizens. Puerto Rico’s more than three million residents are US citizens, with no obstacles to living and working on the mainland. Yet the US commonwealth in the Caribbean has just a non-voting delegation in the US Congress in Washington, and Puerto Rico residents cannot vote for US president. “It is time to end Puerto Ricans’ second-class citizenship, and statehood is the only guarantee for that to happen,” Governor Ricardo Rossello told a press conference in Washington.
In June, Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly to embrace statehood in a non-binding referendum, but turnout was extremely low.
The island, which is grappling with public debt of $73 billion and a stuttering economy, was devastated by Hurricane Maria in mid-September.