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Johnstown, PA

Puerto Rico Deserves Statehood


January 10, 2004
Copyright ©2004
THE TRIBUNE DEMOCRAT. All rights reserved.

President Bush recently announced the reactivation of a high level panel established by his predecessor to study the future political status of Puerto Rico in hopes of finding a solution to this ongoing debate about statehood, independence and the status quo. This panel is tasked with a tremendous task and my sincere hope is that they will see statehood for Puerto Rico is the best option for all Americans.

Now, the citizens of Puerto Rico have a nonvoting delegate in the House of Representatives and have no representation in the Senate. Despite their limited voice in the legislative branch of the United States government, Puerto Ricans are still required to pay some taxes to the federal government and can be drafted into the military.

The American flag has flown over Puerto Rico for more than 105 years. Its residents have enjoyed U.S. citizenship for more than 86 years. Since 1948, they elect their own governor. But, more than a century after becoming part of our nation, 86 years after serving in World War I, 64 years after serving in World War II, decades after serving in Vietnam, and now that they have helped beat Saddam, it is outrageous that we continue to be called to serve in times of war such as these but are not given the right to vote for the commander in chief in times of peace.

As we raise the American flag in victory and anguish in its setbacks, the United States government does not treat Puerto Ricans equally at home.

Puerto Ricans are proud Americans who pay taxes and proudly serve in our military. But they are being neglected and are being denied their right to vote. This great country was founded on the outcry of "no taxation without representation," everywhere but in Puerto Rico.

Most recently, the United States Census Bureau released numbers that declared that our national population had surpassed 290.8 million and that the largest minority in the United States are Hispanics. But, they failed to include ?3 million Americans who live in Puerto Rico. If our own government is not including us in their numbers then why should we have to pay taxes?

How can we be drafted to war if we are not even looked upon as citizens and have the same rights as those on the mainland?

The treatment of Puerto Rico by the United States government is not unlike Britain’s treatment of the 13 American colonies more than 200 years ago – treatment that sparked a revolution and gave birth to the United States with its system of justice and democracy we all enjoy now.

Statehood would make a world of difference in Puerto Rico. It would mean that the people of Puerto Rico would have a voice and a seat at the table during national debates. We would have two United States senators and six members of Congress based on the current population. We would have the opportunity to be part of the process of selecting our national leaders and determining policy though our voting representatives in Washington.

As Puerto Ricans demonstrate, once again, their loyalty to every principle this nation stands for at this time of uncertainty, the time to allow Puerto Rico to decide its future has come.

Maybe then will the Census Bureau recognize that our nation’s population now surpasses 294.7 million, not 290 million, including your fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.

Kenneth McClintock is Puerto Rico Senate Minority Leader.

©Tribune Democrat 2004

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