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Puerto Rico Statehood Protests To Be Staged Before Congress And White House, Rep. Jose Aponte Says

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Supporters of Alejandro Garcia Padilla, candidate for governor of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party, cheer during his closing campaign rally in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Puerto Rican voters will once again ponder the decades-old question over the island's political future when they go to the polls Tuesday: What kind of relationship do they really want with the United States? Officially, the Caribbean island is the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a semi-autonomous | AP/File

Some Puerto Rican leaders continuing clamoring for statehood.

Rep. José Aponte of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP, in Spanish) said Sunday that he’d lead protests before the U.S. Congress and the White House in March to pressure lawmakers on the issue, El Nuevo Día reports.

To prod supporters to action, Aponte said that U.S. lawmakers historically “respond to situations when there’s pressure,” citing the abolition of slavery, the adoption of women’s suffrage, and the granting of statehood to Tennessee, among other examples, according to El Nuevo Día. “We have to make ourselves felt,” Aponte said.

Aponte picked March 2 for the protest to commemorate the anniversary of the date that Congress extended U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917. Two months later, Congress extended conscription to the island and drafted 20,000 Puerto Ricans to fight in World War I, according to Politico.

It’s not yet clear whether Aponte will be protesting alone or with the backing of his party. The PNP doesn’t plan to organize any pro-statehood activities in Washington at the moment, El Nuevo Día reports.

Puerto Rico voted on its territorial status in a two-part referendum on Nov. 6. First, It asked voters if they wanted to keep their current U.S. commonwealth status. Dissatisfaction emerged victorious with 52 percent of the vote.

The referendum then asked if voters wanted to become a U.S. state, an independent country, or a freely associated state -- a type of independence in close alliance with the United States.

Statehood received 61 percent of the votes from those who answered the second question, but over 470,000 voters intentionally left the second question blank, meaning that only 45 percent of those casting ballots supported statehood.

Statehood advocates, including outgoing governor Luis Fortuño and Rep. Aponte argue that a majority of voters supported statehood, but the creative math has not convinced U.S. lawmakers or the White House.

Meanwhile, nationalist sentiment also remains in Puerto Rico. A bill submitted to the territory's legislature last week aims to penalize raising the American flag on public buildings unless it flies beside a Puerto Rican flag.

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