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The Associated Press

Clinton Invites Puerto Ricans To Status Summit

June 22, 2000
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Clinton has invited Puerto Rican leaders to the White House on Wednesday to talk about the future political status of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island.

More than a century after the United States acquired Puerto Rico, its ``ultimate status has not been determined and its residents have no vote in the government that makes their national laws,'' Clinton said in a letter sent Thursday to Carlos Romero Barcelo, the island's sole and nonvoting representative in Congress, and others.

Relations between Puerto Rico and Washington have been strained by a nearly one-year battle to force the U.S. Navy out of its bombing range on the outlying island of Vieques. After stray bombs accidentally killed a civilian security guard in April, the range was occupied by protesters, including members of the island's pro-independence minority.

Puerto Rico has operated as a commonwealth since the 1950s. Its 3.8 million residents cannot vote for president. They serve in the U.S. military and receive $11 billion a year in federal aid, but do not pay U.S. income tax.

A December 1998 vote asked islanders to choose between independence, U.S. statehood or the continuation of the existing commonwealth. Supporters of the status quo won.

``As I have often stated, I have no preference among the options and I am committed to a Puerto Rican choice,'' Clinton wrote. ``I look forward to working with you to finally resolve the islands' fundamental question.''

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