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EFE NEWS SERVICE
White House To Hold Forum This Summer On Puerto Ricos Status
May 30, 2000
Washington, May 30 (EFE).- President Bill Clinton plans to convene Puerto Rican political leaders and U.S. legislators to the White House in two months' time to implement a new plan aimed at defining the political future of the U.S. commonwealth.
Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello made the announcement Tuesday at at press conference in the nation's capital, where he said that the controversy regarding U.S. military maneuvers on the island of Vieques is a reflection of " Puerto Rico 's lack of political clout."
"President Clinton will extend his invitation without any prior conditionality," he said, indicating that he would attend the meeting expecting that it would result in a referendum, a constitutional assembly or a presidential commission to decide the island's status.
According to the governor, leader of the Progressive New Party (PNP), which favors statehood, the meeting with Clinton will pave the way for a process that will define the political alternatives for Puerto Rico , currently a commonwealth of the United States.
Over the past 11 years, Congress has sidelined two processes that were headed toward referendums on Puerto Rico 's status - giving Puerto Ricans options for independence, statehood, commonwealth or an autonomous association.
Rossello said that he is convinced that if the Democrats regain control of the House and keep control of the White House, it will be much easier to advance the process to determine Puerto Rico 's political future, given the Republicans' reticence to address the issue.
The governor will broach the subject Wednesday in a meeting with the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Cesar Gaviria, and Tuesday evening with ambassadors from the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).
Rossello said that he spoke briefly on Monday with President Clinton regarding the president's order to continue military maneuvers on the island just off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico .
Although Rossello has supported Clinton's orders, and maneuvers have symbolically restarted, he intends for the island's residents to have their say and believes the U.S. Navy will withdraw from Vieques within the next three years.
A binding referendum on U.S. Navy maneuvers on Vieques is scheduled by February 2002, although it may be held as early as this August.
"I think the outcome of the referendum will be one that will support, in a very solid manner, the termination of the presence of the Navy in Vieques ," something that he would personally prefer, Rossello said, although he stressed that he would not launch a campaign to win the support of the 6,000-odd residents there for this stance.
"This is a decision that has to come from the people of Vieques ," he said.
Rossello added that he could neither confirm nor deny that the U.S. Navy intends to renew its formal training in June, saying only that information regarding military maneuvers on the island "is confidential."
The U.S. Congress must still debate two key components of Clinton's orders on Vieques : the return to the people of Vieques of some 3,500 hectares on the western end of the island now used by the Navy, and 40 million dollars to spur economic development and research the impact Navy maneuvers have had on the island's ecology and the health of its residents.