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Los Angeles Times

Clinton Creates Task Force On Puerto Rico’s Future

December 24, 2000
Copyright © 2000 The Times Mirror Company. All Rights Reserved.

Clinton Creates Task Force On Puerto Rico’s Future

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton created a national task force Saturday to study whether Puerto Rico should become a state, an independent country or continue as a U.S. commonwealth.

The President's Task Force on Puerto Rico 's Status will "ensure official attention to and facilitate action on matters related to proposals for Puerto Rico 's status and the process by which an option can be realized," Clinton said in his executive order.

The president said the task force will keep up an ongoing discussion with Puerto Rico 's governor, political parties and other groups that advocate a change in the island's status . "The dialogue shall seek to clarify the options for Puerto Rico 's future status and enable Puerto Ricans to choose among those options," Clinton said.

"All three of Puerto Rico 's major political parties are based on different visions of what the options for a fully democratic status are and what the best status would be. And all advocate a substantial change in the island's status ," he added.

While those born on the island are American citizens, "questions remain about how U.S. economic and social policies should apply to the citizens of Puerto Rico ," Clinton said in a memorandum accompanying the order.

The task force will be made up of designees of each cabinet department and the co-chairs of the president's Interagency Group on Puerto Rico with the attorney general's designee and one of the Interagency co-chairs leading the task force.

The committee must report back to the president by May 1.

The federal government will work with Puerto Rico and Congress to allow the inhabitants of the territory to choose their future status , including obtaining the necessary transitional legislation to a new status , Clinton said.

Both President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore said during the campaign for president that they supported creation of a task force to study the Puerto Rican issue.

Residents of the island are divided over what status they desire. Statehood was barely rejected by voters in nonbinding referendums in 1993 and 1998. In the December 1998 referendum , 46.5 percent of Puerto Ricans backed statehood while only 2.6 percent voted for independence.

The United States took possession of the Caribbean island as booty at the end of the Spanish-American War.

Puerto Rico 's 3.8 million people are U.S. citizens who can be drafted into the U.S. military but are barred from voting for president and have no voting representation in Congress. They do not pay most federal taxes, though Washington sends down about $13 billion a year, nearly a third of the island's official gross domestic product.

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