Status Quo in Puerto Rico


December 16, 1998
©Copyright 1998. Boston Herald

Last Sunday's referendum in Puerto Rico revealed no basic change in a divided public opinion on statehood , no matter how Gov. Pedro J. Rossello tries to spin it.

The governor argues that statehood , with 46.5 percent of the vote, was the winning option since that percentage was far more than anything racked up by the other definite alternatives: independence, the status quo or a form of independence linked by treaties to the United States.

But the main supporter of the status quo, the Popular Democratic Party, campaigned for "None of the above" since it didn't like the way the governor's New Progressive Party had drafted the questions. That made "None of the above" with 50.2 percent a clear mandate for continuing on the present course.

We continue to oppose statehood . The Union would be strained with its by-far poorest member overwhemingly speaking another language, as would be the case if Puerto Rico were admitted. Either the present "commonwealth" or independence (favored by a declining share of voters, now only one in 40) is preferable.

But Puerto Ricans have been American citizens for so long, and their connections with the mainland so close, statehood ought not to be refused if a large majority votes for it.

Congress has neglected the issue for too long. It should pass a law providing for a vote by the islanders on their status at regular but spacious intervals, with statehood a possibility only if a substantial majority, not just 50.1 percent or a mere plurality, favors it.

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