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EFE News Service

Acevedo Vila Paints Grim Picture, Exhorts Youth To Lead

25 July 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

San Juan, Jul 25 (EFE).- Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said Monday in an address marking the 53rd anniversary of Puerto Rico's becoming a U.S. Free Associated State that residents of the Caribbean island must face up to reality and rely on the next generation for leadership.

"Our country has a level of unemployment that has not dropped below 10 percent in the last 30 years. Puerto Rico suffers a very high incidence of crime, above all in violent offenses," the governor told a gathering of some 2,000 young people in a park.

"Despite millions of dollars invested in public education in Puerto Rico in the last 20 years," he continued, "the quality of education is simply unacceptable."

Acevedo also pointed to a $1 billion budget deficit, which he blamed on the allegedly spendthrift ways of his predecessors in the governor's mansion.

Given all these challenges, he said, it will have to be Puerto Rico's young people who "exercise a new leadership and reject the lie that stops us achieving prosperity."

The island needs the same kind of young leaders who 53 years ago signed the constitution establishing Puerto Rico as a commonwealth of the United States, according to the governor.

"The type of leaders who invent the future, as was done in its time by the generation of the 1940s, a generation that left us a Puerto Rico much better than the one they encountered," he said.

The governor described his ideal society as one that has "good jobs, with good pay and good conditions; with a new Puerto Rican entrepreneurial class; with an education in model schools where the four-year (high school) diploma means that our students can compete on an equal basis with those of the U.S. and the rest of the world."

Referring to last week's truckers strike that left gas stations dry and substantial economic losses, he blasted the drivers for inflicting harm on ordinary Puerto Ricans to force the government into granting them rate increases. The teamsters only went back to work after officials promised to study the rate question.

Acevedo also touched on the issue of Puerto Rico's status vis-a-vis the United States, saying he would work to resolve "in an harmonious way our profound differences over status" while advancing "our aspiration for autonomous development of our Free Associated State."

The Caribbean island's current identity as a Free Associated State was established in 1952. That arrangement gives Puerto Rico considerable - albeit not complete - domestic autonomy and the right to send a non-voting delegate to Congress while leaving foreign policy in Washington's hands.

Puerto Ricans have ratified commonwealth status in referendums held in 1967, 1993 and 1998.

Acevedo, standard-bearer of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party, triumphed in last November's election by a razor-thin margin over former two-term Gov. Pedro Rossello of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. The small Puerto Rican Independence Party received only 2.67 percent of the vote, below the threshhold needed to remain a registered party.

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