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Island Republicans Want Bush To Back Clinton's Status Plan

Options for Puerto Rico

Statehood Opponents Seeing Red

Island Republicans Want Bush To Back Clinton's Status Plan

July 8, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Republican Party leaders in Puerto Rico will try to convince presidential candidate George Bush to support President Bill Clinton's plan to establish this year a process to solve the island's political status.

National Committeeman Edison Misla Aldarondo said in published reports that the idea is to make sure that the process established by Clinton has continuity during a change in the presidency.

Misla Aldarondo said Bush is a liberal within the Republican Party, who won't reject Clinton's status plan like Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

EDITORIAL - Options for Puerto Rico

July 11, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Ricans continue to live with a century-long experience of taking direction from the United States.

It would add much to this year's political dialogue if

people started talking about the need to let Puerto Ricans decide their own political future.

Tensions in Puerto Rico over United States Navy bomb-training sites on the island of Vieques in recent months have eclipsed an issue of broader concern: the island's status.

Puerto Ricans play out their lives in a kind of political limbo. Their current status -- known as commonwealth -- gives the island a form of self-government as part of the United States. Residents are American citizens, for example, but pay taxes to Puerto Rico's central government.

Some people find that situation ideal, while others grumble that it's not much better than being a colony of the United States. Puerto Ricans can move to the United States and take on all the benefits and duties of American citizenship -- which some find appealing.

But that doesn't offer a solution to Puerto Ricans' inability to choose their own political path. So they continue to live with a century-long experience of taking direction from the United States.

President Bill Clinton managed to get things moving in the right direction recently when he invited leaders from throughout Puerto Rico's political spectrum to the White House.

That was more than just another meeting. It marked the first time that a U.S. president had held such a discussion. And it signaled that Puerto Rico's status belongs on the nation's agenda in this year's political-campaign discussions.

And it does.

If Mr. Clinton gets people talking about various options and the need to let Puerto Ricans decide their own political future, it would contribute greatly to the substance of this year's political dialogue. That's particularly important in states such as Florida that have large Puerto Rican populations, where the issue resonates loudly.

Mr. Clinton has indicated that he will define all status options for Puerto Rico by year's end. That's not an arbitrary deadline. The United States must report to the United Nations' Decolonization Committee by that time about what it's doing to decolonize Puerto Rico.

Defining options presents less of a challenge in the case of Puerto Rico, however, than it does with other territories that would like to determine their own political futures.

Generally, the choices in Puerto Rico have been clear for years -- a tiny majority in favor of keeping things as they are, with the island remaining a U.S. commonwealth; almost as many Puerto Ricans cheering for statehood; and a fragment of folks who desire independence.

Mr. Clinton's effort would be more detailed, outlining four status options -- the three listed above plus one that would maintain the commonwealth but give Puerto Rico additional freedoms.

After that, the nation will have to get moving to give Puerto Ricans a meaningful opportunity to declare their preferences.

Statehood Opponents Seeing Red

July 10, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. Todos los derechos reservados.

BY Iván Román, Corresponsalía en San Juan

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Just one word in President Clinton's letter read during the official July 4 festivities raised a red flag for supporters of the island's commonwealth status .

Fresh from a meeting with leaders of Puerto Rico 's three main political parties on June 28, Clinton pledged to work on clarifying the status options -- which right now include statehood , independence and an "enhanced commonwealth" -- so Puerto Ricans can choose between "realistic" ones.

Commonwealth supporters have long been fielding attacks from critics who say "improvements" to their preferred status option are impossible.

They were quick to say Clinton's words proved his efforts to substantially define options by the end of the year are weighted against them.

"We have to be careful that this process pushed by the [pro- statehood ] New Progressive Party doesn't already have a hidden agenda," said San Juan Mayor Sila Calderon, president of the pro- commonwealth Popular Democratic Party.

But Jeffrey Farrow, co-chairman of the White House Working Group on Puerto Rico , said that's not the case. Clinton says, as many in Puerto Rico do, that an obstacle to solving Puerto Rico 's status problem is varying status definitions -- and what Washington is willing to accept.

"Why would somebody who supports commonwealth be more threatened by the word `realistic' than those who want statehood or independence?" Farrow said. "People are entitled to know what the real options are."

Clinton will tell the leaders in the next few weeks what procedure he proposes to help define the options and continue discussion into the new administration.

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