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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Puerto Rico Vote was a Message to the Governor
by Lillyana Montanez
January 23, 1999
©Copyright 1999 The Orlando Sentinel
The vote on the status of Puerto Rico was a message that people
there are unhappy with Gov. Pedro Rossello's actions.
That's why 50.2 percent of the recent vote went to ``none of
the above'' during balloting in mid-December. People wanted to
let the governor know that they were unhappy with his actions,
not that they were against his party. During a vacation on the
island, I was able to witness first-hand the much-talked-about
vote on the island's status.
After the votes were counted, the Commonwealth supporters claimed
victory, while Rossello's party said ``none of the above'' was
not a vote for Commonwealth but a yes for statehood. Meanwhile,
people here were scratching their heads.
It boils down to residents' opinions of the twice-elected Rossello.
It is not so much the sale of the Puerto Rico Telephone Co., nor
the money taken from the University of Puerto Rico to sponsor
other teaching initiatives that concern people, but more a question
of the people feeling left out of important decisions and not
being heard by the governor. They wanted dialogue on things they
felt were important, but did not get it.
Labor leaders, teachers, students and employees wanted the
governor to meet with them, but he refused and his attitude was
viewed as arrogant. It led to people voting for ``none of the
Another strike against the governor was the timing of the vote.
After hurricane Georges devastated the island and while so many
are still living in shelters, others without light, water or telephone
service, the people wanted the governor to postpone the vote but
he insisted on forging ahead.
Additionally, the pro-commonwealth party did not like the definition
given in the ballot under commonwealth and campaigned to have
their people vote for ``none of the above.'' Those supporting
commonwealth sought inclusion of an ``enhanced commonwealth''
on the ballot with all the privileges of a state, while remaining
separate and unique and without the burden of federal income tax
on the ballot.
Call it what you will, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United
States and has no voting representation in Congress. The pro-statehood
agenda wants equal representation, full participation in the democratic
process and guaranteed American citizenship with all its responsibilities.
After all is said and done, it is unclear whether the Republican
controlled Congress would have moved forward on the issue if statehood
had carried the day. I think not.
A Puerto Rican state would probably have sent nine Democrats
to Congress. And that's something the Republican majority in Congress
However, as recently reported, they do want the people of Puerto
Rico to begin paying federal income tax. Taxation without representation?
Wasn't that the cry for independence of 13 British colonies -
and the reason for the American Revolution?
Don't worry. For now, ``none of the above'' means business