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In Puerto Rico, Young Voters Are Trying To Shake Up Traditional Party Politics

Politicians have spent decades fighting over statehood but many young voters think it’s time to focus on rebuilding a decimated island instead.

In Puerto Rico, Young Voters Are Trying To Shake Up Traditional Party Politics

Enlarge this image toggle caption Carlos Giusti/AP Carlos Giusti/AP

Alondra Llompart was 8 years old when Puerto Rico entered the economic recession from which it is still struggling to emerge. She’s 22 now, so for most of her life she’s watched the island’s infrastructure crumble and endured an unending string of goodbyes to people leaving the island in search of work.

“Most of my family, unfortunately — to Florida, or Texas,” Llompart said. “So you’re just kind of trying to hold on to the few people that do stay, and hope that they never leave. And it just is really sad.”

The sources of Puerto Rico’s economic and social troubles are many, but prominent among them, Llompart believes, is a system in which the island’s two main political parties have spent decades fighting over one major issue – whether Puerto Rico should remain a commonwealth territory of the United States, or seek statehood.

“We haven’t become a state in all these decades,” she said. “We have to solve our own problems first before we can do something bigger.”

When she goes to the polls to vote for a new governor on Tuesday, Llompart said she’ll vote for neither Pedro Pierluisi, the candidate for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, nor for Carlos Delgado from the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party.

‘There is a possibility for change’

Though one of those two men is widely expected to win, Llompart is part of a growing tide of young Puerto Ricans eschewing the island’s two dominant parties in favor of alternative candidates trying to loosen the grip those parties have had on power since the U.S. allowed Puerto Ricans to elect their own leaders seven decades ago.

Llompart said she’ll split her ballot. For governor, she’s supporting the candidate who supports Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States, and for downticket offices she’ll support candidates from a new party, Movimiento Victoria…

Adrian Florido

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