Supporters of the idea of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st U.S. state on Wednesday launched a campaign to mobilize Puerto Ricans and the Hispanic population in general.
"Whether it be statehood or independence, we have to change the current system, because colonialism has already demonstrated that it doesn't work," Ricky Rossello, the son of one of the most popular governors in the island's history and the promoter of this initiative, told Efe on Wednesday.
Rossello said that the problem with the island's current U.S. commonwealth status is that it prevents Puerto Rico from "influencing Washington's decisions and having sufficient resources to solve its problems."
Therefore, the "Boricua ahora es" organization, in collaboration with other groups, has pushed for the running of an advertisement highlighting the inequalities suffered by Puerto Rican veterans compared with others in the United States.
The ad, which will be broadcast by television stations in U.S. cities where there are large concentrations of Puerto Ricans, notes that since World War I, more than 200,000 Puerto Rican soldiers have died serving the United States.
"We'll continue with other messages because the idea is to create awareness of these inequalities among Puerto Ricans that live in the U.S. and among the Hispanic population in general so that they help get Washington to deal with ... the status question," Rossello said.
This campaign also coincides with the release on Wednesday of a message by Puerto Rico's non-voting delegate to Congress, Pedro Pierluisi, on the first anniversary of the referendum in which, for the first time in history, a majority of voters on the island said they wanted to change their status.
"The majority of voters, 54 percent, asked for a change of status; they said they didn't want Puerto Rico to continue being a mere U.S. territory," according to Pierluisi, leader of the pro-statehood PNP, currently in opposition.
The non-binding referendum consisted of two questions.
Sixty-one percent of those who answered the second question favored statehood over the other two choices: current status or independence.
But more than 460,000 Puerto Ricans who voted on the first status question did not respond to the second question.
July 25 marked the 115th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War.
Island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.
Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy. EFE