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"No More Creole Referendums," Pesquera Says In New York

August 27, 1999
Copyright © 1999 EFE NEWS SERVICE (U.S.) INC. Source: World Reporter (TM). All Rights Reserved.

New York - The ruling New Progressive Party (PNP) candidate for governor of Puerto Rico, Carlos Pesquera, said Friday that he would only support a referendum on the status of the island that would be binding for the U.S. Congress and would maintain Spanish as the island's official language.

According to Pesquera, "Creole, or home-grown, referendums" conducted on the island have not hurt possible statehood, "but neither have they solved the problem of the status of Puerto Rico, which has been a territory of the United States since 1908, and whose defense, currency and immigration depend on that country."

Pesquera, on his first visit to New York as candidate to governor of Puerto Rico, told EFE that his strategy is a change from the tack by the current governor and former PNP head, Pedro Rossello.

In his six years as governor, Rossello has held two referendums on the island's status without previously having secured the consent of U.S. Congress to implement the plebiscite 's results.

In both instances, the people voted to preserve the status quo. Pesquera said that he had learned that "if you don't have a referendum endorsed by the U.S. Congress, it is useless, because the people realize it will lead nowhere."

He added that perhaps the two plebiscites' only value had been to make people aware that Puerto Rico must find a solution to its political status.

"What we must do now is to clearly define a third, different alternative, but it has to be approved by Congress," said Pesquera, who supports statehood.

However, he maintained his party's position of excluding Puerto Ricans living off of the island from the referendum.

Pesquera said, however, that he was ready to listen to arguments in favor of absentee voting and that if he were convinced, he would not oppose absentee ballots in the referendum.

He promised to work to promote the new referendum but did not set a date for it, since it would depend on a commitment from the U.S. Congress.

"When Congress puts down in writing that it will accept results, there will be a clearer alternative. My commitment is to work toward this end and the date will be set when these conditions are met," the PNP leader said.

He added that he would prepare a working agenda, integrating the Puerto Rican community that lives in the United States and that Spanish would be maintained on the island, as "this is a non-negotiable issue."

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