Things That Matter

As Puerto Rico Votes To Become The 51st State, Here’s What Happens Next

The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico has long been contentious, ever since the Spanish-American War in 1898. Since then, the Caribbean island has been in a strange limbo position between a ‘U.S. Territory’ and unofficially as the world’s oldest colony.

Although they’re U.S. citizens in name and passport, Puerto Rican’s who live in Puerto Rico cannot vote for president, don’t have voting representation in Congress, and have been saddled with a fiscal oversight board (PROMESA) in order to repay its debts—forcing austerity on residents suffering a 23% unemployment rate and a much higher rate of poverty than the incorporated states.

But this week, on Election Day, Puerto Ricans voted—for the sixth time since 1967—on whether they prefer the ongoing territorial status, or to become a U.S. state and the results are in: it’s pro-statehood.

Last week, Puerto Ricans voted to support U.S. statehood.

As Puerto Ricans voted on Tuesday for their local leaders, there was another decision they had to make: Whether or not the island territory should be admitted as the newest U.S. state. Although it’s a non-binding referendum and not expected to change Puerto Rico’s status anytime soon, it was still seen as a barometer of Puerto Ricans’ appetite for statehood.

So far, with most of the votes counted, residents narrowly favored statehood with 52% of the vote while about 47% of voters were against it, according to the election commission’s website.

Although the U.S. mainland still sees Puerto Rico as a commonwealth, many Puerto Ricans, including the island’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, a Republican, say the island is constantly treated as a colony.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit ironic that the beacon of democracy in the world, which is the United States, is fighting for equality and fighting for democracy and yet you get it in your own backyard — the oldest colony, with more than 120 years without allowing Puerto Rican’s to vote for president, to vote in Congress or to even have federal laws apply equally to American citizens on the island,” said González, who was reelected as commissioner last Tuesday.

But what’s next? There are many obstacles standing in the way.

Even though President-Elect Joe Biden is a backer of statehood, as are top Democrats in the House and Senate and some Florida Republicans, it’s unclear how much of a priority Puerto Rico would be if Democrats take control of both the White House and Congress. The drive is complicated by a separate but often-paired push for statehood for the District of Columbia.

“It is unlikely that the question of Puerto Rico as a state will be taken up by the Congress,” says political scientist and researcher Carlos Vargas Ramos, in an interview with ABC News.

Aside from being a nonbinding referendum, Ramos said voter turnout in this referendum could still be an issue for Congress. As of September 2020, there were around 2.3 million eligible voters on the island, according to the election commission’s website. From those eligible voters, nearly 1.2 million people answered the statehood plebiscite.

“It’s gonna be difficult for advocates of statehood to argue that this is a clear mandate to push for statehood, particularly when you have a Congress that is reluctant to take up the question,” added Vargas Ramos.

Puerto Rican statehood would create consequences far beyond the island.

Credit: Alejandro Granadillo / Getty Images

Although the referendum only dealt with Puerto Rico’s future, it could have ramifications far beyond the territory. Puerto Rican statehood would mean Americans on the island could vote in presidential elections, have quick access to federal aid in crises and gain full representation in Congress.

“Puerto Ricans get treated in many ways like second-class citizens,” U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), who has introduced his own bill setting forth a process of admission for the island, said in an interview with ABC News.

In Congress, statehood for Puerto Rico would result in two new senators and four representatives to the House. If the District of Columbia gains statehood at the same time, that would mean another two senators and one additional House member.

The decision could even have implications for travelers to the island.

Right now, about 95 percent of visitors to Puerto Rico come from the U.S., but many in the tourism industry would like to see more international visitors from Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Currently, citizens of the whole of nearby Latin America and the Caribbean require a visa to enter the U.S., and thus Puerto Rico.

And thanks to the pandemic the island has suffered huge losses in tourism dollars. Thelack of control that Puerto Rico has over its own travel regulations means that the industry will have to wait quite a while to make up for that loss, while the U.S. at large continues to be an undesirable destination for international travelers.

The matter is complicated by the Jones Act of 1920, which requires that all goods come to Puerto Rico through the U.S. If this were finally overturned, it would allow direct trade with other nations and decrease the prices of food and other items sold on the island. Right now, travelers looking to the Caribbean can go to the Dominican Republic much more affordably.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, one thing is clear: things need to change.

The relationship between the U.S. and its Puerto Rican territory has long been one of violence; independence movements and even the flag have been made illegal in the past by the U.S. This reality is often hidden from travelers, but should be acknowledged and respected.

But where the island goes from here is not a cut-and-dry question, as deep ties have developed over the more than 100 years of colonialism that would require years of change, whether sovereignty were won or statehood were decided upon. 

That moment might be coming: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is now trying to push the Puerto Rican Self-Determination Act of 2020, which would form a status convention made up of Puerto Rican voters who would be tasked with deciding upon a long-term solution. In the meantime, travelers should remember that sun, sand, and rum don’t tell the whole story—and that the future of the archipelago should be determined by Puerto Ricans.

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An Alleged Rapist Is Running For Governor In Mexico And Still Has The Support Of President AMLO

Things That Matter

An Alleged Rapist Is Running For Governor In Mexico And Still Has The Support Of President AMLO

Guillermo Gutierrez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For years, Mexicans have been taking to the streets to denounce violence against women and to demand accountability from their leaders. However, much of that messaging doesn’t seem to have reached the very top as President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) continues to support a candidate for governor facing multiple allegations of sexual assault.

A candidate for governor faces multiple sexual assault allegations and still enjoys widespread support.

Félix Salgado Macedonio, a federal senator (currently on leave) is accused of sexually assaulting five women and yet is still in the running for governor of Guerrero.

Despite the accusations he faces, 64-year-old Salgado, has maintained the support of President AMLO, who has claimed that the allegations are politically motivated, and other high-ranking party officials including national party president Mario Delgado. He was considered the frontrunner in the election for governor.

AMLO came to the candidates defense, calling on people to stop politicking and avoid “media lynchings” and asserting that people should trust the party process that was used to select Salgado as candidate.

“We have to have confidence in the people, it’s the people who decide. If polls are taken and and the people say ‘I agree with this colleague [being candidate],’ I think that must be respected. Politics is a matter for everyone, not just the elites,” López Obrador said.

The MORENA party has committed to reselecting its candidate for governor but Salgado is still in the running.

Officials from the MORENA party announced that they would conduct a new selection process to find a contender for the June 6 election. The party’s honesty and justice commission said its members had voted unanimously to order a repeat of the selection process.

While the honesty and justice commission has ordered a new candidate selection process, Salgado was not precluded from participating in it. He indicated in a social media post on Friday night that he planned to seek the party’s backing for a second time.

“Cheer up colleagues! There is [still fight in the] bull,” Salgado wrote on Facebook.

Activists continue to fight back against his candidacy and the president’s support for an alleged rapist.

Women have protested in Mexico City and Guerrero state capital Chilpancingo and the hashtag #NingúnVioladorSeráGobernador (No Rapist Will be Governor) has been used countless times on Twitter.

Yolitzin Jaimes, a member of the feminist collective Las Revueltas, said the withdrawal of Salgado’s candidacy is a positive first step but urged the authorities to continue investigating the rape allegations.

“… He has to go to jail, … he mustn’t return to the Senate and he mustn’t be nominated [for governor] by any political party because … it’s very probable that he’s seeking to go to the Labor Party [a Morena ally],” she said.

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Olympian Laurie Hernandez Is Back And Just Gave A Powerful “Hamilton” Inspired Performance

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Olympian Laurie Hernandez Is Back And Just Gave A Powerful “Hamilton” Inspired Performance

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

She’s back! After an almost five-year hiatus, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez made her big return to competition at Saturday’s 2021 Winter Cup meet with moves to remember — set to some pretty unforgettable music, too.

The 20-year-old gold and silver medalist hit the mat with a “Hamilton”-inspired floor routine.

Laurie Hernandez just gave a stunning floor routine at the 2021 Winter Cup.

Please welcome Laurie Hernandez back to the floor! After a four-and-a-half-year hiatus, the 20-year-old Olympian showed off her strength, proving, like Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, she is inimitable and an original.

“My first priority [at Winter Cup] is to go in and hit clean routines and show that I can be consistent,” Hernandez told NBC News. “But my next one is to enjoy myself.” It sure looks like she accomplished her goal, with nonstop energy and a smile on her face throughout her entire choreography.

As “The Room Where It Happens” played in the background, Hernandez flipped and danced her way to a 12.05 score in the event, good for an 11th-place finish in the floor exercise.

And after the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup in Indianapolis wrapped up, the noted theater fan shared her routine on Twitter and asked for feedback from “Hamilton” creator Lin Manuel Miranda and actor Leslie Odom Jr. — who sang “The Room Where It Happens” as Aaron Burr in the original cast.

This weekend’s performance was her first since stealing hearts during the 2016 Rio games.

Hernandez was part of the Team USA “Final Five” squad that won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But following those games she took a step back from competition, later revealing that former coach Maggie Haney was emotionally and verbally abusive toward her. The gymnast dealt with depression and eating disorders as a result.

Hernandez said it wasn’t until years later that she realized her love of the sport could be separated from the trauma she experienced. “I thought I hated gymnastics, and it wasn’t until mid-2018 I realized that it was the people that made the experience bad, not the sport itself,” she explained on Instagram.

Though she already has a gold medal from the team all-around and a silver medal from her 2016 individual performance on the beam, Hernandez is now ramping up for more challenging competitions over the next several months with the hopes of qualifying for the Olympics this summer. But with a crowded field vying against her for just four roster spots, securing a bid to Tokyo will undoubtedly be an uphill battle.

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