Puerto Rico Sought Statehood in '99
By The Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto
Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's statehood movement got its start when the island's
residents welcomed U.S. troops 100 years ago.
Soon after the
Americans expelled the Spanish, many people here asked to join the union.
statehood idea was pushed aside after the commonwealth arrangement was installed in 1952,
making Puerto Rico, whose people had already been U.S. citizens for 35 years, something between
a U.S. state and a sovereign nation.
Now many Puerto
Ricans and a growing number of representatives in the U.S. Congress, which
ultimate authority over the island, feel it is time to decide.
will address one of the most important issues in our society,'' said Carlos
Puerto Rico's secretary for economic development. He said the island was ``hopefully on its way to
becoming the 51st U.S. state.''
Luis Munoz Marin,
the first Puerto Rican governor and the father of the commonwealth, argued
statehood would bring economic ruin through federal taxes and a loss of tax-exempt privileges to
attract investment. ``Under statehood, Puerto Ricans will die of hunger,'' he said.
The push for
statehood began making a comeback about 30 years ago, when prominent island
leaders began questioning whether commonwealth status was the best idea.
In a first vote,
in 1967, the commonwealth status received 60 percent and statehood got
of the vote. Statehood's share rose to 46 percent in a nonbinding 1993 referendum.
win its first victory in a referendum Sunday, according to polls. But the
on the ballot make an outright majority unlikely.
father of Puerto Rico's statehood aspirations, Jose Celso Barbosa, formed
Republican Party here in 1899, the year after the U.S. takeover. He espoused what many still argue
was a flawed view of the federation.
the United States gave states much more power than the U.S. Constitution
seemingly allows. He promised that Puerto Rico could become ``an autonomous state'' within the
union, a stand that won him the support of independence-minded islanders.
In 1952, Congress
gave the island its current ambiguous status as a Free Associated State,
commonwealth, with tax-exempt privileges.
been pursued with a vengeance by the island leadership since the 1992 election
Pedro Rossello, a pediatrician known mostly for being a tennis champion as a teen-ager.
insisted that statehood would not require Puerto Ricans to abandon Spanish.
says it will grant Puerto Ricans the full democracy they deserve, including votes for the president and
representatives in Congress.
He also argues that statehood would be an economic boon, as it was for Alaska and Hawaii.
investors compare the opportunity of Puerto Rico to the Dominican
Republic or Chile,'' says a pro-statehood brochure. ``Under statehood, Puerto Rico would be
compared to Connecticut, Montana, New Mexico. ... Which sounds better?''
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company