THE MIAMI HERALD
Presidential Candidates Must Address Puerto Rico's Interests
By RAUL DUANY
June 24, 2004
The recent comprehensive policy toward Puerto Rico outlined by Sen. John Kerry should to be embraced by Puerto Ricans on the island and abroad. Making a historic pledge, Kerry is upholding his 1998 legislation that proposed authorizing Puerto Rico to choose whether it would become an independent country, a sovereign nation in free association with the United States or a state of the Union.
The significance of this statement is that, for the first time, a presidential candidate proposes a plan that would allow Puerto Ricans to choose a status that includes forms of representative democracy and excludes the existing territorial arrangement popularly known as a ''commonwealth,'' which is documented in international law as undemocratic and colonial in nature.
For the four million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, the commonwealth does not allow them voting representation in the federal government that makes their laws. This results in significant disparities for residents on the island, a reason why many Puerto Ricans move stateside.
Democrats have scored a coup among a stateside Puerto Rican community that until now lacked a strong connection with either presidential candidate. Among other proposals, Kerry promises to ensure that Puerto Rico gets as much consideration as a state, restore full-time attention to Puerto Rican issues in the White House and visit the islands.
Kerry's policy statement criticizes President Bush in all of these areas. Republicans need to explain their record on Puerto Rico if they expect to appeal to the more than 650,000 Puerto Ricans in Florida and those nationwide who are watching both camps pursue a Puerto Rican vote that may swing the election.
Raul Duany, board member, Puerto Rican Professional Association of South Florida, Miami