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Candidate Profile: Carlos Romero-Barceló

October 19, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Carlos Romero-Barceló has been a fixture of political life in Puerto Rico for over three decades. A central figure in the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP) since its inception in the late 1960’s, he has held major public office for 24 of the past 32 years. He remains the only Puerto Rican to be the Mayor of San Juan (1968-76), the Governor of Puerto Rico (1976-84), and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico (1992-present). He is currently running for a third term as Resident Commissioner, Puerto Rico’s sole representative in the United States Congress.

Romero-Barceló was born in 1932 into a political family in which both his mother and his grandfather — Antonio Barceló, the first president of the Puerto Rican Senate — were prominent public figures. He was educated at Yale and the University of Puerto Rico.

One of the most outspoken proponents of statehood for Puerto Rico, Romero-Barceló has long asserted that permanent union with the U.S. as the 51st state would provide economic benefits far beyond those enjoyed in the current commonwealth arrangement. By making that argument, he has been credited with bringing mass appeal to the statehood movement and cementing the NPP’s role as a lasting force in island politics.

Romero-Barceló’s elected positions have given him ample experience off the island of Puerto Rico. While Mayor of San Juan, he became the first Puerto Rican to be elected President of the National League of Cities. He was Chairman of the Southern Governors Association in 1981, and, from 1989 to ’91, he led the NPP delegation to the U.S. Congress to petition for a resolution of Puerto Rico’s status.

As Resident Commissioner, a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Romero-Barceló has continued to press Congress to define a set of viable options for Puerto Rico to choose a permanent political status. With his support, a bill authorizing a status plebiscite on the island was passed by the House of Representatives in 1998. The bill never came to a vote in the U.S. Senate, where there are no elected representatives from Puerto Rico.

In his role in the U.S. Congress, Romero-Barcelo has pushed for immigration and health reform, as well as improved benefits for veterans and an increase in the minimum wage. He has introduced bills to conserve areas of land and water in Puerto Rico and extend health insurance coverage for children in U.S. territories.

Romero-Barceló was also a member of Governor Rosselló’s Working Group on Vieques, which negotiated with the U.S government to stop the U.S. Navy’s sixty years of military exercises on that island municipality of Puerto Rico. Commenting on the agreement between Rosselló and President Clinton earlier this year, which limits Navy training and, pending the results of a referendum, could lead to the Navy’s departure by 2003, Romero-Barceló has called it "the best thing for Vieques, for Puerto Rico and for everyone concerned."

Throughout his career, Carlos Romero-Barceló has had more than his share of close elections, and this year’s contest is no exception. He is currently engaged in a fiercely-contested race for Resident Commissioner against Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Vice President Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. According to recent polls, the candidates are deadlocked, separated by only a few tenths of a percent.

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