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Orlando Sentinel

July 4 Party Will Make A Statement

by Ivan Roman

June 10, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- In what seems like a replay of last year, pro- statehood activists will pull out the stops on July 4 to prove to Washington that, despite some recent rhetoric from the island, Puerto Ricans love and are loyal to the United States.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, the New Progressive Party's president in the capital city, will host an official ceremony and a big party, U.S. flags and all, under the theme "a people that honors its nation."

Of course, by "nation" he means the United States, which puts him in direct conflict with those on the island who refer to Puerto Rico as their nation.

On this island, which during the past 15 years has become increasingly divided ideologically, Fourth of July activities have become political statements rather than celebrations.

Many in the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the current commonwealth status , won't be going to Santini's party, although they profess loyalty and "a partnership" with the United States.

Last year, NPP leadership gathered thousands of people waving U.S. flags on a seaside boulevard to counter pictures of tens of thousands of people who marched for peace in Vieques or of hundreds camped out on Navy grounds to block bombing exercises.

This year's violent clashes with military police in Vieques and the seemingly endless arrests and harsh jailings of protesters make this year's celebration even more urgent, NPP leaders say. "It'll be the best Fourth of July that we've ever celebrated," Santini said.

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