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  • A protester holding a Puerto Rico

    A protester holding a Puerto Rico's flag takes part in a march in San Juan | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 February 2016

The debt crisis that the island facing has pushed legislators to give up the current political status and become a 51st state of the union.

The Boricua Popular Army, better known as EPB-Macheteros, is criticizing a move by lawmakers two days ago urging their U.S. counterparts to make Puerto Rico the 51st state of the union in a bid to save the island from default.

In a statement released Sunday by local news agency INS, the clandestine group also formally refused to talk with the governing Popular Democratic Party and New Progressive Party, holding them responsible for the social and political crisis.

The EPB also condemned “vague and strange” calls made by pro-independence and leftist sectors for unity. The rebels argue those who advocate to remain a Free Associated State of the United States — Puerto Rico's status since 1952 — are allied with “colonialism.”

“In this moment, which could be decisive for our history, we don't see the protests, nor the struggle that an organized independence movement should be building and coordinating,” the group added in the press release.

Puerto Rican Statehood Movement seeks a full integration to the United States and has been defended mainly by the PNP.

In the latest plebiscite, held Nov. 6, 2012, over 60 percent Puerto Ricans supported the idea of making Puerto Rico the 51st state of the union, rejecting the independence or the sovereignty in free association with the United States. Washington acknowledged the result then, saying it would be up to the Puerto Rican Congress to rule on the matter.

But since Puerto Rico was hit by a strong economic crisis last year, which included a US$72 billion public debt, more people than ever are advocating for statehood.

“Each year Puerto Rico loses out on billions of dollars in federal spending and tax credits that Congress sends to the states," explained Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner to the island's Congress last year in a letter to the New Yorker.

To compensate for the shortfall in federal funding, Puerto Rico’s government has borrowed heavily in the bond market, leading to excessive debt.

On Friday, the Puerto Rican president of the state bank urged U.S. legislators to allocate to the island the financial powers required to restructure the debt, similarly to the other states of the union, in order to solve the “economic and human crisis.”

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