Why are Puerto Ricans considered US citizens?

In a referendum in Puerto Rico, almost all participants voted in favor of the US territory being recognized as an equal state of the United States. According to the result announced on Sunday, 97.2 percent voted in favor of giving the Caribbean island 51st state status - but only 23 percent of those eligible to vote took part in the survey. So far, the former Spanish colony is only an associated Free State of the USA. However, the referendum is not binding, as this decision can only be made by Congress in Washington. The governor of Puerto Rico announced that he would fight for the implementation of the result.

Puerto Rico came under the sovereignty of the United States in a US invasion in 1898 and is a US outer territory. The US government granted Puerto Ricans US citizenship exactly 100 years ago. However, they are not allowed to vote in the presidential election and only have one MP with limited voting rights in Washington.

In the referendum on Sunday, more than three quarters of those entitled to vote showed no interest - or followed the opposition's call to boycott. Of the participants, 1.5 percent were in favor of independence from the USA, while 1.3 percent voted in favor of maintaining the current status.

Governor Ricky Rosselló, who has been in office since January, strongly advocated the referendum. The 38-year-old wants to overcome the "colonial status" of the island area east of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. Puerto Ricans wanted to have "the same rights" as US citizens, which the "colonial system" does not allow, Rosselló said when casting his vote in San Juan.

It's also about money: Puerto Rico is practically broke. As a US state, the island could declare itself insolvent under US bankruptcy law, as the city of Detroit did.