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DATE: January 21, 2004 PHONE: 501-748-3530

Clark Announces Bold New Policy for Puerto Rico

Little Rock — Wes Clark today announced a bold new policy to resolve Puerto Rico’s status issue.

"I have promised a higher standard of leadership for all Americans," Clark said. "Puerto Ricans want a President who will exert leadership to resolve the question of the islands’ ultimate status. My plan will resolve this question, rectify the injustices presented by the current status, and improve the quality of life for Puerto Ricans everywhere — both in the islands and the mainland."

Clark emphasized that he feels a personal connection to the status issue: "Over the years, I have become friends with Puerto Rican service members, who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom and secure peace around the world. In the process, they have sustained higher per capita service-connected disabilities than their fellow Americans on the mainland. In this new millennium, it is deplorable that the Puerto Rican members of our Armed Forces and their families, both of whom are American citizens, have not been given the opportunity to resolve the question of the islands’ ultimate status."

Although the Clinton Administration made progress towards resolving this issue, Clark believes that the Bush Administration has failed to exert leadership in this area by waiting almost three years to activate the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico Status. At the same time, President Bush has not spent the $2.5 million that Congress appropriated to the White House for this purpose. Clark would double the funding and spend it on an objective public information campaign involving constitutionally-viable status options, while advocating that the federal government authorize a referendum and implement the choice of the Puerto Rican people from among these options.

Yosem Companys, General Clark’s Advisor on Hispanic and Latino Issues, added: "The General understands that the Hispanic and Latino agenda in the United States cannot move forward without resolving the Puerto Rico status issue. We must grant Puerto Ricans this opportunity in order to more effectively advocate for and defend the civil rights and liberties of Hispanics and Latinos."

As part of his personal commitment, Clark also emphasized his desire to travel to the island and meet with its leaders. "I spent my honeymoon with Gert in Puerto Rico, and have traveled there regularly over the years," Clark said. "As President of the United States, I hope to sit down with the islands’ political leaders to implement my plan, while having the opportunity of enjoying pernil and arroz con gandules, which I have missed lately."

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