Puerto Rico one step closer to becoming the 51st state in the country

The referendum for statehood passed by 97%
Posted at 6:07 PM, Jun 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-12 18:07:06-04

One day after a referendum for Puerto Rico statehood passed, there are now serious questions about how to move forward and whether there's enough support to make it happen in Washington.

Elizabeth Cuevas-Nuender is the founder of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, she ran against Rick Scott for governor in 2014 and part of her platform was strengthening the economic ties between Florida And Puerto Rico.

"I believe Puerto Ricans want to be a state for the longest time," she says.

Only 23 percent of the population of Puerto Rico turned out to vote, but 97 percent of the votes cast were in favor of statehood.

Cuevas-Nuender believes Florida and Tampa Bay in particular would directly benefit if Puerto Rico became a state.

"Tampa is going to be a mecca in enterprise in the state of Florida because the airport has so much to offer and so does the port," she says.

But the question now is whether there's the political will power in Washington to make it happen because the island is sitting under a crushing 70-billion dollar debt, in fact it's already filed for bankruptcy, and the Trump administration has already signaled it is not willing to bail out the US territory.

So now Puerto Rico's Governor must convince both democrats and republicans in congress that statehood is the answer. A message Cuevas-Nuender plans to deliver personally on capitol hill.

"We're going to go to congress and tell them it is not their views that we are here for, it is the people and a wealth for the United States," she says

Critics of statehood say even if Puerto Rico becomes a state it would mean residents would have to start paying federal income taxes at a time when the economy is so bad because of the debt crisis. But statehood would also lower the price of goods on the island.

But both sides of the debate say the key to any path forward is resolving the debt crisis statehood or no statehood.