San Antonio Express-News
"Let Puerto Ricans decide"
(Published 12/22/97, Copyright 1997)
Last summer, the U.S. House Interior Committee passed, 43-1, H.R. 856, a bill to allow Puerto Ricans to determine their future. If Congress in 1998 finishes work on this bill, and President Clinton signs it, Puerto Rico will hold a binding referendum. Voters will then choose one of three options: to become the 51st state; to become independent; or to remain as is, a commonwealth of the United States.
H.R. 856 is exciting bipartisan legislation. Its 80-odd co-sponsors range from House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.
A delegation representing Puerto Rico told the Express- News Editorial Board recently that they predict the islanders would choose statehood. However, a plebiscite in 1993 saw voters split evenly between statehood and maintaining current status.
Whatever the predicted outcome, Puerto Rico on July 25, 1998, will have been occupied by the United States for 100 years. America has been a benevolent colonial power, but it is time for Puerto Ricans to have the opportunity to have voting representation in Congress. They do not now.
At the very least, the House should bring H.R. 856 to the floor for a vote and get the process moving.