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Calderon Asks Presidential Candidates To Watch Out For Clinton

Status Again Splits Puerto Rico

Calderon Asks Presidential Candidates To Watch Out For Clinton

July 27, 2000
Copyright © 2000 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Sila Calderon on Thursday asked the two U.S. presidential candidates to watch out for President Bill Clinton's intentions to start a process that would solve Puerto Rico's status issue prior to his leaving office.

Calderon sent a letter Thursday to Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush noting that the process should originate in the island with the consent of Puerto Rico's three political party leaders.

The also San Juan mayor and PDP gubernatorial candidate said the status issue should be considered by the next president and not prior to the November elections.

Calderon's letter follows Clinton's letter to Gov. Pedro Rossello in which he expressed his hope that the island's status issue will be well on its way to a solution by next year. Clinton's letter was broadcast during the Puerto Rico's Commonwealth Constitution 48th anniversary celebration Tuesday.

Recently, Clinton met with the three local political party leaders to start a process that would seek a solution to Puerto Rico's political status issue. This process is meant to continue after Clinton steps out of office.

Status Again Splits Puerto Rico

By Iván Román

July 31, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- July 25.

It`s a date that provokes much emotion in Puerto Rico.

The nationalists march in the southwestern town of Guanica shouting angrily to lament the day in 1898 when U.S. militia descended on the bay there to take over the island.

Pro-independence activists cry with indignation as they lay wreaths at a communications tower at Cerro Maravilla in the hills of Villalba where in 1978, police ambushed and shot two young militants while handcuffed and on their knees.

And supporters of the current Commonwealth status dance and cheer to celebrate when it all started -- that day in 1952 when the Puerto Rico Constitution was ratified, bringing with it lots of hope.

The feelings behind this year`s pro-Commonwealth rally were not that much different. But the current siege on the island`s political status gave the cheers an added urgency. Armed with a federal judge`s decision denigrating the Commonwealth and affirming that Puerto Ricans on the island can vote for president this November, pro-statehood politicians are bucking conventional wisdom and moving to make that happen.

Gov. Pedro Rossello plans to call a special legislative session in August to consider a bill enabling Puerto Ricans to vote for George W. Bush or Al Gore, and even creating an Electoral College with the 10 or so votes the island would have if it were a state.

"I`m hopeful that this bill can be analyzed, discussed and approved so that the people of Puerto Rico can vote for president Nov. 7, Rossello said, after the government`s official ceremony used more as a forum to criticize than to commemorate the Commonwealth status, which critics call a colony.

"It`s a farce, a lie to the people of Puerto Rico aimed at diverting attention once again from the issues we need to worry about here like the corruption we`re all seeing in their government," said San Juan Mayor Sila Calderon, the pro-Commonwealth Popular Democratic Party`s gubernatorial candidate.

Since the U.S. Constitution says that states, not individuals, elect the president through the Electoral College, constitutional experts have said they believe the decision would be revoked by the courts or that the U.S. Senate would not count electoral votes from the island.

Even some of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party`s own leaders acknowledge the problem. Sen. Sergio Pena Clos warned his colleagues not to mislead the people. Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo said that as a lawyer, he thought the judge`s decision would be revoked. "But as a politician, I like the decision and wish it could be implemented."

As he said that during an NPP rally July 27, two days after the pro-Commonwealth one, federal judges in Hato Rey provoked more cheers and tears. Another handful of pro-independence activists who have spent up to a month in jail for trespassing onto the U.S. Navy`s restricted grounds in Vieques were sentenced and released.

Almost 70 are now out, but another 50 or so are still in the federal jail in Guaynabo. For friends and relatives outside waving signs and balloons, mindful of the statehooders` cheers across town, it was also an emotional week.

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