‘We’re Literally Fighting For Our Lives.’ A New Political Movement Emerges Outside Puerto Rico’s Two-Party System

“For the newer generations, all of their life what they have seen is Puerto Rico in an economic recession,” says Edil Sepúlveda Carl, a lawyer based in the Washington D.C. area who engages with the federal government on issues of Puerto Rican self-determination.

“They have seen the very awful response from the federal government after Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria and the earthquakes…. We’ve had a feeling that there’s some kind of transition happening in Puerto Rico, especially with young people being more anti-statehood.”

While 52% of the island voted in favor of statehood on Nov. 3, turnout was relatively low, with only about 53% of eligible voters participating. The NPP, which spent millions to include the issue on the ballot after Attorney General William Barr refused to appropriate federal funds for the plebiscite, heralded the outcome as a victory for the statehood cause. But many see the referendum simply as a political tool for the party to get supporters to the polls, and question whether the results reflect what most Puerto Ricans actually want to see happen.


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