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THE TAMPA TRIBUNE
Puerto Rico's Still-Cloudy Future
December 29, 1998
©Copyright 1998 The Tampa Tribune
The recent referendum in Puerto Rico was supposed to set the
course for the island's political future. Instead, the vote left
the outlook for the Caribbean island as cloudy as a stormy sky.
Another try should be made to establish whether this U.S. territory
will be a state, a commonwealth or an independent nation.
Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898, and it has
been something of a stepchild ever since. Puerto Ricans are U.S.
citizens and are free to move to any state. They are subject to
all federal laws. But as long as they live in Puerto Rico , they
do not pay federal taxes and do not vote for president or elect
voting members of Congress.
For years a small but determined group of Puerto Ricans has
pushed for independence. But most citizens appear to favor becoming
a state or retaining commonwealth status .
The ballot earlier this month allowed Puerto Ricans to choose
independence, statehood , commonwealth, free association or "none
of the above." In a surprising result, none of the above
won 50.2 percent of the vote. Statehood finished second with 46.5
percent of the vote.
Perhaps part of the unhelpful outcome can be attributed to Congress,
which voted to hold the referendum but refused to make the results
Further, the ballot was so crowded with options and the various
parties ran such negative campaigns, it should not be surprising
that disgusted citizens lodged a protest vote in a contest they
recognized would be meaningless.
The vote leaves Puerto Rico without a voter-mandated course.
Puerto Ricans have been loyal American citizens since 1917. Congress
should approve another referendum , this one binding and including
only viable options. "None of the above" does nothing
to resolve the island's future.