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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's governor is pushing ahead with his top campaign promise of trying to convert the U.S. territory into a state, holding a Sunday referendum to let voters send a message to Congress.

His party has launched an aggressive ad campaign urging people to "demand respect" with their vote - to choose statehood so the island can obtain equal treatment from the federal government that some say would ease a 10-year economic recession that has spurred nearly half a million Puerto Ricans to flee to the U.S. mainland.

While Puerto Rico is exempt from the U.S. federal income tax, it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes but receives less federal funding than U.S. states.

Statehood supporters and some economists say this unequal treatment has contributed to the island's deep economic crisis, which was largely driven by heavy borrowing and in part by the elimination of federal tax incentives.

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