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EFE News Service

McClintock Sees Vieques As A Symptom Of A Bigger Problem

By Jose A. Delgado

May 18, 2001
Copyright © 2001 EFE News Service. All Rights Reserved.
Source: World Reporter (TM)

Washington - The controversy over U.S. Navy exercises on Vieques is a symptom of a bigger problem, according to Puerto Rican Sen. Kenneth McClintock, an advocate of U.S. statehood for the Caribbean island.

McClintock, spokesman for the minority New Progressive Party (PNP) in the Puerto Rican Senate, urged the United States to "take the bull by the horns" and resolve a political problem that has existed for almost 103 years.

The senator said the United States must leave complacency behind and devote itself to changing its political relationship with Puerto Rico , which has been a commonwealth since 1952, managing its own internal affairs but without representation in the U.S. federal government.

McClintock insisted it is not fair that U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico should be permanently barred from participating in presidential elections and voting for representatives to the U.S. Congress.

In a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, McClintock expressed hope that President George W. Bush, who has ordered a study by a special working group of the U.S. government, would soon begin the process of clarifying Puerto Rico 's political future.

Bush has given the working group, which has not yet been formed, until Aug. 1 to present a plan to define Puerto Rico 's political future.

McClintock says that Bush will not decide on the alternatives at that time but will try to launch a process of consultation with Congress and Puerto Rico 's political parties.

Meanwhile, the senator said he hoped Puerto Rican Gov. Sila Maria Calderon would shelve plans to form her own commission and instead work with the White House initiative.

The United States has never consulted with Puerto Ricans on status alternatives.

In non-binding referendums, Puerto Ricans have supported the status quo, but the margin of support has been reduced to close to 48 percent, compared with 46 percent for annexation and 4 percent for independence.

McClintock will urge his party, which lost last November's elections after eight years in office, not to support either of the two alternatives proposed in the referendum dealing with the future of military maneuvers on Vieques .

"I think the Navy has been an extremely bad neighbor, but the final decision should be up to the people of Vieques ," McClintock said.

According to White House directives, Vieques ' voters will decide the future of the controversial training exercises on Nov. 6.

Voters will be able to choose between the withdrawal of the Navy by May 2003 or continuation of training exercises without the limitations currently in force, which mandate the use of bombs and shells containing no explosives.

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