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Puerto Ricans Deserve Self - Determination Vote, Respect Their Desire To Make Changes, Anniversary Fuels Debate Over Island’s Fate, Only Two Choices, Puerto Rico, USA Work Well Together



Puerto Ricans Deserve Self - Determination Vote; Only Congress Can Call A Binding Election Letting Puerto Ricans Choose Their Path


(c) Copyright 2002 San Antonio Express-News. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico needs help from Congress in crafting a clear-cut election that gives the island's 3.8 million citizens self - determination .

Puerto Ricans have lived under U.S. colonial rule since Spain lost the Spanish American War in 1898. While residents are U.S. citizens who get many benefits, they don't have representation in Congress or the right to vote in federal elections.

Three previous plebiscites have been inconclusive as local political figures and parties muddied the waters.

Puerto Rican voters need specific direction from Congress about the consequences of changing their status . The ramifications of choosing statehood , independence or keeping a commonwealth relationship with the United States must be clear.

A forced colonial relationship runs counter to the ideals of American democracy.

President Bush wisely has maintained an administration task force on Puerto Rico 's status created by former President Clinton.

The administration can play an important role by pushing Congress to act in a reasonable amount of time.

Puerto Rican voters deserve a binding election approved by Congress to decide their course for the future. To do less is to snub 3.8 million U.S. citizens who now lack the full rights of this democracy.

Respect Puerto Ricans’ Desire To Make Changes

Nelson Quinonese, Special to The Morning Call - Freelance


Allentown Morning Call

(Copyright 2002)

After 50 years, does Puerto Rico 's commonwealth relationship with the United States still work? This question was posed to readers in the July 21 Morning Call's special report, " Puerto Rico : The Commonwealth Turns 50." But in the last two years, we have seen how the world treats the will of the Puerto Rican people. In the matter of the future of the island of Vieques , used for military exercises by the U. S. Navy, a nearly unanimous vote by the Puerto Rican people requested the Navy to leave. However, the U. S. government ignored the request. Today, military bombing maneuvers continue destroying the island of Vieques .

In the last 50 years, the world has witnessed a less dramatic but no less important movement: the largely ignored will of the Puerto Rican people to move away from commonwealth status and gain greater powers of self government.

Between 1967 and 1998, the vote for commonwealth status went from 60 percent to 1 percent. Around the time of the first referendum in 1967, Ex-Chief Justice of Puerto Rico Jos Tras Monge wrote in his book, " Puerto Rico : Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World," that "The people of Puerto Rico reaffirmed their preference for commonwealth status." He also wrote that the people petitioned for greater powers of self-government in permanent association with the United States. Congress looked the other way.

Then in March 1990, three years before the second referendum, the president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Rubn Berros Martnez, on a document presented before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, stated, a "Commonwealth status with superficial amendments cannot provide a solution to the status problem of Puerto Rico . Commonwealth is the problem."

By 1998, neither independence nor statehood nor the island's current commonwealth status seemed the right way to go. With a 50 percent vote, the Puerto Rican people decided "none of the above." The vote result demonstrated that statehooders, commonwealthers, and independentistas are not happy with the current political situation.

Certainly, commonwealth status has brought Puerto Rico benefits. But, it has no voting representative in Congress. It has no senator. Puerto Ricans are not allowed to vote for the president of the United States. They are subject to military drafts, they pay Social Security; and, they are not allowed foreign trade unless done under the United States policy.

The pattern on each referendum indicated Puerto Ricans ' self- determination to get out of limbo. As a nation, the Puerto Rican vote reflected the people's growing self-determination in relationship with the United States and away from commonwealth status. But the ultimate outcome, whether it be an independent nation, the 51st state, or a new form of commonwealth, will involve United States action based upon the will of the Puerto Rican people.

Now, 104 years after the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, and into the 21st century, the will of the Puerto Rican people continues en la lucha, in the struggle for self-determination.

Tras warned, "Keeping Puerto Rico in a state of subjection does not serve any perceivable United States interest and is seriously out of line with developments in the rest of the world. This is the unique political status between the U. S. and Puerto Rico relations."

The United States needs to take a closer look at its complex political relationship with Puerto Rico by allowing the development of the will of the people. The United States understands that if Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state, it will cost billions of dollars. The island, some 3,500 square miles in area, has a population of a little over 3.9 million, which translates to an additional $3 to $5 billion a year in state benefits.

In his 1989 Inaugural Address, President George H. W. Bush acknowledged, "We know what works: Freedom Works. We know what's right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will, unhampered by the state."

The United States and Puerto Rico are in a unique political position regarding the future of democracy in the 21st century. The Puerto Ricans ' vote in 1998 symbolized a step toward self- determination. At stake is the identity of a nation's sentiment for political freedom.

The Rev. Nelson Quiones is assistant pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Allentown, a native of Puerto Rico and a U.S. citizen.

Anniversary Fuels Debate Over Status, Fate Of Puerto Rico

Enelly Betancourt


Intelligencer Journal Lancaster, PA

(Copyright 2002 Lancaster Newspapers)

After 50 years, Puerto Ricans remain divided about their relationship with the United States.

The anniversary marking adoption of Puerto Rico 's constitution on July 25, 1952, was commemorated and debated, sparking to questions about the island's future and whether it should remain a commonwealth.

The constitution redefined the relationship between the United States and the island, although Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.

Those people living on the island pay Social Security taxes, serve in the military and are subject to the draft. They pay no federal income tax.

Puerto Rico has only one non-voting representative in the House of Representatives and no senators. Island residents do not vote for president of the United States.

The island has a larger population than 25 states in the United States, which would give it a significant congressional representation if it were a state.

"It's a great deal, but we have no power," said Miguel Cosme, 24, who works as a police officer for San Juan, the capital. "We are good enough to fight in a war for the United States, but not good enough to vote for president."

On a recent visit to the island, I observed the financial and government connections, yet people across the political spectrum say the commonwealth is forgotten, misunderstood and there has to be a sense in the United States of what Puerto Rico is.

Puerto Ricans have chosen commonwealth status in two referendums. In 1998, a third plebiscite showed 46 percent choosing statehood while 50.3 percent picked "none of the above." There was no commonwealth option.

The debate over the island's identity was reinvigorated in the weeks leading up to the 50th anniversary celebration and might continue in the months to come.

Among Puerto Ricans in Lancaster, the island's status has taken a back seat to issues of education, housing and employment. But opinions about the island's political future have shown a preference for a commonwealth.

Some would like another vote on statehood , some want a constitution that gives more power to Puerto Rico 's commonwealth and some are pushing to declare the island a sovereign nation. Hardly anyone wants to leave things exactly as they are.

Despite its seemingly ambiguous status , Puerto Rico is essentially Hispanic, and Puerto Ricans everywhere find consensus when they define their Hispanic culture and their American citizenship.

This column appears on alternate Wednesday's and is written by Enelly Betancourt, editor of La Voz Hispana for Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.

August 11, 2002



Only Two Choices For Puerto Rico

The Courant was one of the few newspapers to publish an editorial describing the colonial realities of Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States [July 25, "50 Years Of Commonwealth"].

Against much support for the golden handcuffs of the status quo, The Courant helped to let readers know that it's time for Congress to let island residents decide between the only two choices that permanently resolve this 100- year-old status dilemma: statehood or independence.

- Gene Roman, Bronx, N.Y.

The writer served as Massachusetts regional director for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration from 1994 to 1998.


Puerto Rico, U.S.A. Work Well Together

Carlos J. Espendez



(c) Copyright 2002, News-Press. All Rights Reserved.

On July 25, Puerto Ricans celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Commonwealth's constitution was ratified overwhelmingly by the people of Puerto Rico on March 3, 1952, approved by the U.S. Congress on July 3, and became effective July 25, 1952.

As a result, Puerto Rico became an associate state within the union, which means Puerto Rico residents do not have representation in Congress nor can they vote for the president of the United States while residing in Puerto Rico, but have the same rights as Americans under the U.S. Constitution. Puerto Ricans received the status of United States citizens in 1917, under the Jones Act.

The governments of Puerto Rico and the United States have established a very good relationship where Puerto Ricans practically rule themselves in most facets of life, except for some regulations that call for the president and the U.S. Congress, as well as the Supreme Court to be the final arbiter in matters of law, national defense and commerce.

Ever since Gen. Nelson A. Miles, under orders from President William McKinley, invaded Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898, as a result of the war with Spain, Puerto Ricans have shown a desire to be part of this country and to integrate in a peaceful and productive manner into the mainstream of the American way of life.

During World War I and II, Puerto Rico was a major contributor of manpower to the United States Armed Forces.

During the Korean War, the United States Army's 65th Regiment was made up of Puerto Ricans and it won fame for its soldiers' courage and daring. It also had the highest number of casualties during the war. More Puerto Ricans lost their lives in combat that any other ethnic group in this nation. Thousands of young Puerto Ricans died defending this nation and for the principles of democracy.

With the cooperation of the United States, Puerto Rico has been able to elevate itself far and above all other Caribbean and most South American nations by obtaining a higher standard of living and providing for its citizens a better way of life. Puerto Rico is called "The Shining Star of the Caribbean."

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Puerto Rican Constitution and 104 years of mutual respect and cooperation, both the people of the United States and Puerto Rico must feel a good reason for rejoicing, for together we have shown the entire world that there is no nation on this planet more democratic and willing to care for its citizens than the United States of America. The experiment with Puerto Rico has proven just that.

On July 25, the government of the city of Cape Coral will issue a proclamation honoring Puerto Ricans at the Citizens Advisory Committee for Minority Issues meeting to be held at Council Chambers, City Hall, at 5:30 p.m.

- Carlos J. Espendez is chairman of the Citizen Advisory Committee/Minority Issues in Cape Coral.

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