National Geographic : 2003 Mar
pay federal income taxes; they have only nonvoting representation in Congress. The U.S. government takes care of defense and foreign affairs and foots the bill for welfare (for which almost 60 percent of Puerto Ricans qualify). Otherwise, Puerto Rico exercises self government in local affairs. Despite 50 years of the status quo, the elec torate's passionate interest in debating the issue of the island's relationship to the United States has continued undiminished. Turnout on election days remains steady at around 85 per cent (although much of the fervor may come from the fact that thousands of government jobs, which account for one-third of the island's total workforce, can be at stake when one party replaces another). Currently the party favoring the present commonwealth status has a grow ing margin over the party demanding Puerto Rico's admission as the 51st state. Nearly 5 percent champion full independence from the United States. disappearing under concrete as construction spreads.