The Florida Times-Union
PUERTO RICO: End Commonwealth Status
August 16, 1998
It's a good idea to let the people of Puerto Rico decide their own fate,
as they ostensibly will do when they cast ballots in a Dec. 13 referendum.
But the vote is likely to solve nothing.
There will be four options: commonwealth, statehood, independence or
independence involving ''free association'' with the United States.
The latter presumably means the United States would continue to have
bases on the island and would protect it militarily - much as was the agreement
with the Philippines when it became independent after World War II.
Puerto Rico has been under U.S. control since it was seized during the
Spanish-American War a century ago. Under the commonwealth agreement, the
island is self-governing and its people are American citizens.
Economically, Puerto Ricans benefit; they receive federal aid and do
not pay taxes on money earned on the island. But they suffer politically,
unable to vote for president and allowed only a nonvoting congressional
Polls show support equally split between commonwealth and statehood,
with independence running third.
Either statehood or independence would be an improvement, although it
is doubtful - for a variety of reasons - that Congress would approve the
But commonwealth status is totally unacceptable. The United States is
not an empire. The colonial era was a blot on American history, and all
vestiges of it should be eliminated.
If Puerto Rico opts for the status quo, there should be another vote
- this one, without the commonwealth option.