Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Monday that being annexed by the United States would destroy the island's economy.

"There is not a single economic study that does not show that reality," said the governor after participating in a meeting with legislators from his party, the Popular Democratic Party, or PPD.

Garcia Padilla's remarks came after an interview broadcast Monday by CNN en Español in the United States in which he said that if Puerto Rico were to become a full-fledged U.S. state it would be transformed into a "Latin American ghetto."

The governor said that the island - presently a U.S. commonwealth - would lose its ability to attract investment from multinational companies through incentives such as tax exemptions, which would cease to exist if the island became a U.S. state.

"I believe in the development of the Free Associated State," Garcia Padilla said. "I don't believe in annexation. It would be disastrous for Puerto Rico's economy. It would convert Puerto Rico into a ghetto, a whole country transformed into a Latin American ghetto and we cannot allow that."

"Puerto Rico is different because it has a distinct contributory condition and it's not a state. If that advantage is eliminated, it would impoverish Puerto Rico," he said.

In addition, he emphasized that a future referendum on the island's status must include the option for it to remain a commonwealth, along with becoming independent and being annexed.

Last November in a referendum on the island's political relationship with the United States, 54 percent of Puerto Ricans said "no" to the concept of a Free Associated State, which allows a high level of autonomy but allows Washington authority to act in areas such as defense, foreign relations and border security.

A total of 61.1 percent of Puerto Ricans voted for annexation to the United States, versus 33.3 percent who selected a Sovereign Free Associated State, understood as a relationship among equals, while just 5.5 percent opted for independence. EFE