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Puerto Rican Gubernatorial Candidate Promises Another Statehood Referendum

June 13, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rican gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera says he hopes to call another referendum on U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico, despite rejection of the idea in similar ballots in 1993 and 1998.

Pesquera, the U.S. territory's Secretary of Transportation and Public Works, was quoted as saying in Sunday's El Nuevo Dia newspaper that he also would try to secure a promise from the U.S. Congress to act on the referendum 's results.

"If I am elected I am going to work from Day One to get it," Pesquera said. He said he would use pressure by Puerto Rico's non-voting delegate in Congress and "a strong campaign of lobbyists" to push the idea in Washington.

Pesquera's political mentor, Gov. Pedro Rossello, has said he will step down when his second term ends in December 2000. Pesquera will face San Juan's popular mayor, Sila Calderon, who opposes making Puerto Rico the 51st state.

Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since the United States wrested it from Spain during the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Pesquera, a 42-year-old civil engineer, said if elected he would try to attract new high-tech clinics to Puerto Rico to make the island "the center for health care in the Caribbean." He said he would emphasize trade with other Caribbean islands.

He also said he opposes the U.S. Navy's bombing exercises on Vieques, an island just east of Puerto Rico that is part of the territory. A small group of demonstrators worried about recent accidents at the U.S. military training ground has occupied the bombing range to try to stop war games there.

"I am in agreement that the Navy should stop using Vieques as a target," Pesquera said. "Eventually they should leave Vieques."

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