U.S. Hispanic Groups Support Puerto Rican Vote


Dow Jones International News
(9/16/98 Copyright ©1998, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

WASHINGTON (AP)--Scores of Hispanic organizations signed a declaration Wednesday supporting stalled legislation to give Puerto Ricans the right to vote on whether their island should become the 51st state.

The groups were responding to the Senate leadership's refusal so far to take up a House-passed bill that would have set up a referendum on statehood before the end of the year, which is the 100th anniversary of Puerto Rico 's becoming part of the United States.

Such a referendum would allow Puerto Ricans to vote on three choices: statehood , continued U.S. commonwealth status or independence. A congressionally mandated vote would have committed Congress to deal with the results, with a status change possible in as few as 10 years. The House passed the measure by one vote.

After the proposal appeared to be dead in the Senate, Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello called a local, nonbinding vote for Dec. 13. "We are here to tell the Senate how important self -determination is for the 3.8 million U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico and for the entire Hispanic American community,"said Rick Dovalina, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, at a news conference.

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens with some federal benefits. But they do not pay federal income tax, have no vote in presidential elections and elect only one nonvoting delegate to Congress. The island was ceded to the United States by Spain in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War.

See related press conference.

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