Divided Puerto Ricans Head To Polls To Vote On U.S. Statehood

By Tracy Rucinski

SAN JUAN (Reuters) – Puerto Ricans headed to the polls on Sunday to decide whether or not they want their economically struggling U.S. territory to become the 51st U.S. state, although a vote in favor would likely face an uphill battle in Congress.

The island has $70 billion in debt, a 45-percent poverty rate, woefully underperforming schools, and near-insolvent pension and health systems.

Puerto Rico?s hazy political status, dating back to its 1898 acquisition by the United States from Spain, has contributed to the economic crisis that pushed it last month into the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

?I?m not voting. The government has spent millions of dollars on this campaign hoping that statehood wins, but even if it does, the U.S. Congress won?t want to do anything about it,? said Felix Salasarar, 54.

Many Puerto Ricans who turned out to vote on Sunday morning were retirees hoping that eventual statehood would finally put the island on equal standing with the 50 U.S. states, giving them more access to federal funds and the right to vote for the U.S. President.

?I voted for statehood,? Armando Abreu, a 74-year-old retiree, said after voting at the Escuela Gabriela Mistral. ?Even if it?s still a long way off in the distance, it?s our only hope.?

Voting took place at deteriorating public schools in makeshift cardboard polling booths draped with brown plastic for privacy.

On the quaint and narrow streets of old San Juan people were divided over the three options they will face on Sunday?s ballot: becoming a U.S. state; remaining a territory; or becoming an independent nation, with or without some continuing political association with the United States.

Under the current system, Puerto Rico?s 3.5 million American citizens do not pay federal taxes, vote for U.S. presidents or receive proportionate federal funding on programs like Medicaid, though the U.S. government oversees policy and financial areas such as infrastructure, defense and trade.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello campaigned last year on holding a referendum.

Rossello?s New Progressive Party (PNP) party, which controls Puerto Rico?s government, is premised on a pro-statehood stance, while the opposition Popular Democratic Party (PPD) supports versions of the current territory status and a third party, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), supports independence.

Puerto Rico?s two other main political parties have called for a boycott, raising concerns about a low voter turnout.

A spokesman for the governor told Reuters he will push Congress to respect a result in favor of statehood, but Puerto Rico is seen as a low priority in Washington.

The status referendum is Puerto Rico?s fifth since 1967. Statehood won in the last referendum in 2012, though PPD leaders instructed constituents to leave blank hundreds of thousands of ballots, calling the result into question.

?Statehood isn?t going to happen and the status quo is a trap,? said 23-year-old engineering and economics student Daniel Montalvo. ?At this point, I think gradual independence is the best option.?

 

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; editing by Dave Gregorio and Grant McCool)

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Protestors Disrupt D.C. Pride Parade, Seek A ‘Different Vision’ For The Event

The Capital Pride Parade was interrupted Saturday evening in Washington by a group of activists demanding organizers address issues of social justice, police brutality and the increasingly corporate nature and sponsorship of the annual event.

A wave of protestors from the group No Justice No Pride attempted to shut down the parade three times, the first near 15th and P streets at about 5:30 p.m., The Washington Post reported. The protestors, shouting chants and holding banners, at one point formed a ?human chain in front of the Lockheed Martin float,? according to Zack Ford, a reporter from Think Progress, who documented the event on his Facebook page.

In a press release sent to HuffPost by No Pride No Justice, the group said that ?DC?s queer and trans community is no longer willing to accept that Pride isn?t possible without support from deeply problematic corporate sponsors.?

The statement said that the Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes the annual parade, ?has consistently demonstrated that it is more interested in accommodating the interests of Metropolitan police and of corporate sponsors than it is in supporting the very communities it supposedly represents.?

A list of demands posted on No Pride No Justice?s website calls on Capital Pride to ?bar corporate entities that inflict harm on historically marginalized LGBTQ2S people from participation in Pride events? and to ?take a strong position against state violence and end its endorsement of MPD and other law enforcement agencies,? among other requests.

The group also posted a petition on its site pushing Capital Pride to ?break ties? with ?police, prisons and pipelines.?

?We deserve to celebrate Pride without being forced alongside the Police who kill us,? Angela Peoples, one of the protest participants, said in the press release sent to HuffPost. ?Pride should be a haven for the entire LGBTQ community. The Capital Pride Board has shown who it?s prioritizing. No Justice No Pride is for everyone who has previously been excluded and for a different vision of what this event could and should be.?

Another protest participant, Emmelia Talarico, said in the press release, ?Corporations that desecrate Native land, manufacture weapons and support private prisons ? and law enforcement agencies that proportionately harass, kill, and arrest queer and trans people of color ? cannot be considered LGBT ?allies? unless you believe that Black, Latinx, Muslim, and indigenous queer, trans and two spirit individuals aren?t actually part of the LGBT community.?

The parade was quickly rerouted and no arrests were made, according to Washington?s Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham.

?We anticipated this. We knew there would be counterprotests,? Newsham told The Washington Post. ?We had planned for an alternative route, and that?s what we used.?

The Capital Pride Alliance sent the following statement to HuffPost on Sunday morning:

?Capital Pride always has and will continue to respect the wide range of diversity ? of people and viewpoints ? within the LGBTQ community. Following the disruption of the parade by protesters, we were able to divert the parade from its scheduled route, thus ensuring that as many people as possible could watch the parade in its entirety. We are troubled by reports that some onlookers responded to the protesters with verbal and physical harassment. We encourage a robust, civil, and healthy conversation within the community about all of the issues that impact us and look forward to having a mutually respectful conversation in the days, weeks, and months ahead. The issues raised are of importance to our entire community, across organizations and to our entire movement. In these challenging times for LGBTQ people Capital Pride will continue to focus on how we can all move forward as a community striving for equal treatment and respect for all.? 

In the wake of Saturday?s parade, the National Equality March is scheduled for Sunday in Washington. The event is meant to ?support, uplift, and bring attention to those in our communities who are targeted due to immigration status, ethnicity, religion, skin color, gender, and disability,? according to its website, and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of participants.

Sister marches in over 60 other cities around the country are also set to take place.

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CNN Called Comey’s Dad, But Comey Picked Up The Phone Instead

When reporters find out their source is dropping out of an interview hours before it?s supposed to happen, it?s usually bad news. That?s what happened to CNN reporter MJ Lee on Saturday, but in the best way possible.

When Lee called James Comey?s father, J. Brien Comey, on Saturday morning for an interview, he agreed but couldn?t at that moment, according to CNN. He was expecting ?company,? Comey senior told Lee, so she should call back in a few hours.

Lee did as he requested and called back that afternoon. But instead of J. Brien Comey, Lee had James Comey ? the ousted FBI director who?s involved in one of the largest political scandals to date ? on the line instead.

According to Lee, Comey junior told her, ?His company is his son, Jim.?

On Thursday, Comey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Donald Trump?s alleged attempts to close an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Bars across the county held viewing parties for the testimony. Trump lashed out against Comey on Twitter the following morning. It was a pretty big deal.

Comey told Lee that his father wouldn?t be giving her an interview, according to CNN. Of course, Lee attempted to keep Comey on the line.

?Sir, while I have you on the phone …? Lee told Comey, according to her tweet.

In Lee?s CNN report, she explained that she asked Comey for his reaction to everything that happened this week.

Comey replied: ?You can ask that, but I?m not going to talk about that.?

Then, Comey wished CNN luck. 

Read CNN?s full report on the accidental phone call to Comey here.

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Man Calls Skateboarding Teen ‘Mexican Piece Of S**t,’ Admits He’s Being Racist

“I’m a racist, at least I’m something!” the man rants in a video..https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/racist-man-video-skateboarding-teen_us_5b3ff048e4b07b827cc07834
��I’m a racist, at least I’m something!” the man rants in a video.