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Puerto Rico Wants out of Territorial Status, Pushes for Statehood 


The national flag bearing 50 stars representing each state could soon need a makeover. Voters in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., are pushing for Congress to recognize 52 states after residents there signaled this week that they wanted statehood.

Puerto Ricans elected Ricardo Rossello, from the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, governor Tuesday with 41.76 percent of the votes. He said Wednesday he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will back statehood for the Caribbean island, the oldest U.S. colony in the world. Puerto Ricans are already U.S. citizens but they can not vote in presidential elections and have no voting powers in Congress unless they become residents of a state.

“Having a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican president, there’s no excuse for not carrying it out,” said Rossello.

Statehood for Puerto Rico is general unpopular in Congress, especially with the island now struggling to pay off $72 billion in debt. The island’s population dropped to 3.47 million in 2015, down 334,000 from 2000, in part because of many residents fleeing to the United States for jobs and other economic opportunities.

Residents in the District of Columbia also want more rights. A majority of Washington residents voted “yes” Tuesday on a referendum that would put a petition before Congress demanding that the District become a state called “New Columbia.”

“This is what I’ve heard from D.C. residents all over the city. … They want to be treated like every American,” Mayor Muriel Bowser told the Washington Post. “We need equality, and the only way to get there is with statehood.”

Washington doesn’t have voting representatives in Congress and residents have only been able to vote in federal elections since 1963.

“We have to keep on keeping on,” said Elinor Hart, project director of New Columbia Vision, a group fighting for statehood. “Every session of Congress, we get more supporters than ever before. I don’t think we’ll become a state this session, so we’ll just keep pushing.”

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