The simple answer is that the people of Puerto Rico don’t seem to want statehood. However, as with most things, that answer ignores a lot of the complexities of the issue. Puerto Rico, which the United States gained in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War, is an “unincorporated territory” of the United States. It is not a state, is not entitled to voting representation in Congress and has other limited status under the US Constitution, but people born in Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States and entitled to protections of the US Constitution. A plebiscite was held in 1967 to determine if the Puerto Rican people wanted to become a US state, to continue as a commonwealth or become independent. The commonwealth option won with 60.4% of the votes, but the pro-statehood parties boycotted the plebiscite claiming it was illegitimate, so that may not have been a true measure of Puerto Ricans’ views on statehood. Other plebiscites held in the 1990s similarly showed no majority support for statehood. However, during the Bush II administration, Puerto Rico’s status was reconsidered. Puerto Rico’s non-voting delegate to congress, Pedro Pierlusi (elected in 2008) has proposed a two-stage plebiscite to be held soon to determine what the people actually want. It is possible that action may be taken regarding Puerto Rico’s political status fairly soon, within the current term of Congress. If a reliable vote of the people is taken and favors statehood, it’s possible that Puerto Rico could become the 51st US State within the decade of the 2010s.
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