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Puerto Ricans to Vote Again on Statehood

July 26, 2001|From Associated Press

HUMACAO, Puerto Rico — Speaking to thousands celebrating the island's commonwealth status, Puerto Rico's governor said Wednesday that residents will be given another opportunity to vote on whether they want independence, statehood or the status quo.

Sila M. Calderon, elected last year on an anti-statehood platform, said the vote will likely take place next year as part of the 50th anniversary of the island's becoming an American commonwealth. The measure would be nonbinding without congressional approval.

A series of nonbinding votes, the latest in 1998, has failed to attract enough supporters to upgrade ties to full statehood.

A small minority of Puerto Ricans supports independence, but the majority has always voted to keep the island's commonwealth status.

Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship, pay into Social Security and serve in the American military. The 4 million islanders do not pay federal taxes, cannot vote for president and have only one representative in the U.S. Congress, who cannot vote.

"Let us not wait for others to do it for us," Calderon said in Humacao, about 35 miles southeast of San Juan.

During Wednesday's rally, Calderon also urged Vieques inhabitants to vote in Sunday's nonbinding referendum on whether the U.S. Navy should continue using the Puerto Rican island as a bombing range.

Also Wednesday, New York City politicians Fernando Ferrer and Roberto Ramirez met with those jailed for trespassing during protests against Navy bombing on Vieques, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

They visited Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, New York labor leader Dennis Rivera and Puerto Rico Sen. Norma Burgos at the federal detention center in San Juan.

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