People living in the American territory of Puerto Rico have voted to become a U.S. state. However, the vote does not have the force of law.

    Only 23 percent of Puerto Rican voters took part in the referendum.

    Of those who did vote, about 500,000 chose statehood. About 7,500 chose independence and 6,700 voted to remain a territory.

    People who live on the Caribbean island are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in presidential elections. They have one congressional representative to the United States Congress who has limited voting rights.

    The island also has its own legislature with a Senate and a House of Representatives.

    The territory's governor Ricardo Rossello said of the vote, "In any democracy, the expressed will of the majority that participates in the electoral process always prevails."
    该领地总督里卡多·罗塞略(Ricardo Rossello)表示:“在任何一个民主国家,参与选举进程的大多数人表达的意愿总是占据上风。”

    Sunday's vote on the issue of statehood was the fifth of its kind.

    People on the island also voted in 2012 to seek statehood.

    Puerto Rico struggles with its financial problems

    The vote took place as Puerto Rico seeks protection from its creditors who hold its large public debt.

    Peter Hakim is a former president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy research group on the Americas. He said the vote is not too meaningful because of low participation.
    美洲政策研究组织美洲对话前主席彼得·哈基姆(Peter Hakim)表示,因为参与率低下,这次投票没有太大意义。

    He says competing political parties on the island have called for something other than statehood.

    The Popular Democratic Party wants Puerto Rico to remain a territory while the Puerto Rican Independence Party wants the island to become a separate country.

    Hakim says the vote takes place as the island faces a serious crisis.

    "Puerto Rico's in the midst of a severe economic and, in many respects, social crisis with large-scale emigration toward the United States."

    He says poor supervision of the Puerto Rican economy and government is partly to blame for its economic situation.

    He says the island's current status is in, what he calls, the "undefined zone" in which it is neither a state nor a country.

    "My guess in the end (is) that Puerto Rico would probably be better off if it did become a state."

    Puerto Ricans do not pay federal income tax so the territory does not receive as much federal money as states do. But, the people do pay Social Security and some other U.S. taxes. This causes some people to believe that the island would be better off as a state.

    However, Puerto Rico's debt crisis continues to harm its economic growth and ties to the U.S. The economy has been in recession for more than 10 years.

    Puerto Rico says it cannot pay back its more than $70 billion debt. The territory also owes its retirement payment plan, or pension, about $50 billion dollars.

    Last month, Governor Rosello refused to agree to measures demanded by creditors to make payments on the island's bonds. That started a process for Puerto Rico to seek legal protection from its creditors through a form of bankruptcy. However, the territory is barred from the kind of legal bankruptcy that U.S. cities and towns can seek.

    It is unclear how long Puerto Rico's debt negotiations will take.

    I'm Mario Ritter.