Dole Introduces Bill For Statehood Vote In Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Puerto Rico could hold a referendum on statehood under legislation proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan.
In remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, Dole said the bill calls for the United States to pay for the referendum, which could be held at the direction of Puerto Rico’s governor sometime between Jan. 1, 1989, and Dec. 31, 1994.
″In this year of bicentennial celebration, I can think of no better way to honor the dreams of our founding fathers than to give our citizens in the Caribbean the opportunity to vote on statehood,″ said Dole, who is expected later this year to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
Puerto Rico has been a self-governing commonwealth since 1952 and is represented in Congress by a non-voting resident commissioner. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and can travel to the mainland without immigration restrictions.
Dole said a petition for statehood for Puerto Rico had been submitted to Congress recently with more than 250,000 signatures.
″But the clear majority of Puerto Ricans must speak, must desire statehood, as has been the tradition for all states granted admission to the Union by the Congress,″ Dole said.
Since the country became a commonwealth, nine bills have been introduced to grant statehood to Puerto Rico but none approved.
In 1967, Puerto Ricans voted to remain a commonwealth rather than become a state or an independent country. Dole, however, said that vote was ″distorted″ because some parties boycotted the referendum.
″The right of the people of Puerto Rico to speak on this matter should not be hindered and should not be ignored,″ said Dole.
The GOP presidential hopeful campaigned in Puerto Rico over the weekend and held a fund-raiser.
Walt Riker, a Dole spokesman, said the legislation, if approved by Congress, could set the stage for a statehood-commonwealth debate in next year’s race for the governorship of Puerto Rico.
Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon, whose Popular Democratic Party favors continuation of Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status, won office in 1984 by defeating a two-term incumbent who had promised a plebiscite on statehood.