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Pro-Statehood Puerto Ricans Launch Campaign

by David Briscoe

December 3, 1998
©Copyright 1998. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

WASHINGTON (AP) - Advocates of statehood for Puerto Rico launched a campaign Thursday they hope will open the nation's arms to statehood for the commonwealth after it votes on the issue Dec. 13.

Hernan Padilla, former mayor of San Juan and chairman of the U.S. Council for Puerto Rico Statehood , predicted success in the vote, although it is not binding, either on Puerto Rico or the U.S. Congress.

In the most recent vote, in 1993, 49 percent of voters opted for Puerto Rico to remain a commonwealth, 46 percent for statehood and 5 percent for independence.

"It is imperative that Americans focus now on the political struggle going on in Puerto Rico ," Padilla said at a news conference. Representatives of groups working for Puerto Rico statehood from a dozen states also attended the session.

The Dec. 13 plebiscite gives Puerto Ricans five options: continued commonwealth status , statehood , independence, free association with treaty ties to the United States or "none of the above."

The House approved by one vote this year what would have been a more binding vote, but the legislation failed to come up in the Senate. Statehood supporters hope a favorable vote by Puerto Ricans will help push the issue through Congress next year.

The bill would have set Puerto Rico and its 3.8 million residents on a course towards possible statehood in 10 years or more, subject to several votes by its citizens and Congress.

Padilla said the new council would work to educate Americans about Puerto Rico and its quest to become the 51st state. Island residents are U.S. citizens represented in Congress by a single nonvoting delegate. They cannot vote in presidential elections and pay no federal taxes.

"The debate and struggle in Congress reflects that which the Puerto Rican people have undergone themselves ever since Puerto Rico came under the U.S. flag 100 years ago," Padilla said.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, who favors statehood , called the referendum before the end of the anniversary year after failing to get Congress to set up a more decisive vote.

Click here for statement by Dr. Hernán Padilla.

Click here for related news release on the US Council for Puerto Rico Statehood.

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