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THE SAN JUAN STAR
Puerto Rico Has Opportunity Now to Seize its Future
by Luiso Rosselló Nevares
October 11, 1998
©Copyright 1998 San Juan Star
There comes a time in the history of a people when they are called upon
to decide their own destiny and the future of their children. For the South
African Black Majority, the time came in 1994 when after decades of Apartheid
rule, Nelson Mandela was elected president of a new South Africa in the
country's first truly democratic elections. For the French peasantry, after
centuries of tyrannical monarchs, their time to assert their right to self-determination
came with the French Revolution on July 14, 1789. And for 13 lowly colonies
on the eastern seaboard of the North American continent such a time came
on July 4, 1776. On that day, they stood up against their colonial yoke
and rose to become a beacon of freedom, hope and democracy for many other
peoples whose time in history would later come.
After 500 years of colonial rule, the time has now come for Puerto Ricans
to decide their future as a people. It is time for us to determine whether
the political status of our island will finally be resolved or whether we
will languish in the quagmire of colonialism that keeps us divided as well
as socially, politically and economically impoverished. The time has come
because, as the 20th century comes to a close and a new millennium begins,
Puerto Rico remains the oldest colony in the world.
A wave of freedom and democracy has enveloped the entire world as dictatorial
regimens fall throughout Eastern Europe and South America. Borders and trade
barriers are slowly disappearing as countries come together to form new
political and economic entities. Puerto Ricans, on the other hand, continue
to live in a political reality where we have little say over the election
of those who control our destiny. It is imperative that the question of
our political status be put to rest once and for all. This is so, not just
for the reasons stated above, but also so that we may begin to effectively
address the larger problems that Puerto Ricans face on a daily basis. Throughout
Puerto Rico's history, the issue of our political status has polarized our
people in a way no other issue has come close to achieve. Our political
parties are almost exclusively defined by this one issue. Division and mistrust
arising out of the decades of this endless debate have often prevented us
from coming together to deal with the problems that affect families every
day. Undoubtedly, much progress has been made recently in addressing the
needs of our people. Most notably, in the areas of health care, education,
law and order and job creation. But if these steps in the right direction
have brought about significant change for the better, imagine what we could
accomplish together when we are no longer divided by this ideological debate.
Also, because of the colonial condition of our island, we are not the
masters of our own destiny but are forced to look elsewhere to others whom
we have no control over to lead the way. This reality, together with other
social ills, creates a culture of negativism of no se puede, which
only recently has begun to be reversed.
To this end, the Legislature this year adopted Law Number 249 calling
for a plebiscite to be held on December 13, 1998, so the status question
may be answered. Under this law, the ballot for this event will present
four different status options to choose from: Independence, Associated Republic,
Territorial status and Statehood. I write today because it is imperative
that all of us become involved in this process and truly take an opportunity
to deliberate on the options that we have available to us. This is especially
true of Puerto Rico's young people, for the outcome of this process will
define the Puerto Rico that we will live in, raise our families, and the
one which we will leave to our posterity. As such, I especially call upon
my generation to take part in the procession during the months ahead, deliberate
on the different alternatives and make your voice be heard.
In the weeks ahead, as the moment to render the decision draws near,
we will hear numerous claims and arguments in favor of one option or another.
I am convinced that a permanent union, in full partnership with the 50 states,
offers the best possible future for our people. Statehood presents the most
effective way to ensure greater economic prosperity, dignity and social
justice for our people; to give them the political power to decide their
own destiny; and to permanently guarantee our American citizenship. However,
if we as a people are to shed our colonial condition and prepare ourselves
for the next millennium, it is up to you to examine all the options and
deliberate on which one truly holds the best possible future for our people.
We are at a turning point in the history of this island, and it is the
responsibility of all of us as Puerto Ricans to take part in the process
and stop letting others decide our future for us; to break free from the
antiquated models of the past; and to prepare our people for the 21st century.
Also, because of the importance of this decision, it is incumbent on all
of us to make this decision based on serious deliberation on the available
alternatives and not on the blind passions that predictably arise when this
issue is debated. For our people the time has come.
Luiso Rosselló Nevares is a graduate of the law school at Georgetown
University and the son of Gov. Rosselló.