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The Providence Journal

Puerto Ricans don't want independence

April 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Providence Journal. All Rights Reserved.

People in Puerto Rico are still talking about your April 18 editorial (Let Puerto Rico Go?).

Your main point is a good one: Our current local administration is really asserting a national government prerogative by trying to prevent military training that the federal government says is essential.

This is especially true because Washington has gone to great lengths to meet local concerns regarding the Navy's Vieques training range.

It has: substantially limited the training; provided for the training to totally end as soon as the range can be replaced if the residents near the range vote for a total end; and required the Navy to give up land it does not need and fund projects to address the residents' concerns.

As you point out, we have a solution that we can exercise if we are really unwilling to accept the federal government's (generous) final compromise on the issue reached after months of negotiations with our local government.

That solution is: seeking separate nationhood.

As your editorial alludes, the problem with that solution is that your fellow citizens in the islands don't want independence. When our people have most recently voted on whether the islands should assume the responsibilities and rights of equal membership in our national political family, remain a territory, or become independent, only 2 percent or so have voted to become a nation.

Because of that, our local administration wants some of the powers of nationhood without giving up the benefits of our U.S. status an impossible hybrid status.

The overwhelming majority of the Puerto Rican people prize their American citizenship. While most want to see training at Vieques end, most also accept the compromise reached last year. The actions of our local administration on the issue are motivated by nothing more than trying to fulfill the campaign commitment to nationalists that the then-candidates made to get themselves elected.

They should, instead, put politics aside and accept their responsibilities as citizens and as officers of the government of a U.S. territory that previously accepted the compromise. I am the Senate leader of a party that is willing to do so and got almost half the vote in the last election.

San Juan

The writer is a senator in Puerto Rico.

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