Top Hispanic Organizations Urge Timely Senate Vote on Puerto Rican Self-Determination Bill

Contact: Brent Wilkes, LULAC National Executive Director, (202) 408-0060

Washington, D.C.-- In letters made public today, leaders of a national coalition of six leading U.S. Hispanic organizations urged Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Energy and Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) to move the U.S.-Puerto Rico Status Act (S.472) to the Senate Floor for a vote before the August recess. S.472 and a companion bill, H.R. 856, which passed the House on March 4, 1998, would authorize a referendum allowing the 3.8 million American citizens of Puerto Rico to choose among three status options: statehood, independence, or commonwealth. In the letters to Senator Lott and Senator Murkowski, the Hispanic coalition leaders noted that "At stake is the economic and political stability of a territory held in political limbo for 100 years. At issue are the rights of fellow Americans who do not now have voting representation in either body of the Congress." The letters went on to stress that there is bi-partisan support for the measure in both houses of Congress. "It is time," they stated, "for the Senate to vote on this important national issue."

The coalition letters reflect the strong support among Hispanics for enactment of S.472. Several recent Polls by the Center for research and Public Policy, Univision Television Network and Wirthlin Worldwide have concluded that there is overwhelming support for Puerto Rico self-determination among Hispanic-Americans and U.S. public opinion in general. Rick Dovalina, LULAC National President, speaking on behalf of the Coalition, said, "We think that the Senate should act immediately on this issue now that extensive hearings on this issue have been concluded. Hispanics will be watching how the Republican leadership treats this critical Hispanic issue. The outcome could well determine the future of the Republican Party among the fastest growing segment of the American electorate."

The Coalition leaders plan to step up their lobbying effort at the grass-roots level and in Congress to ensure that the bill be enacted this year in time for the referendum to be held on the 100th anniversary year of Puerto Rico's experience as a U.S. territory. Coalition leaders stressed that delaying the Senate vote on this issue is tantamount to denying justice to 3.8 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

For more information contact Brent Wilkes, LULAC National Executive Director, at (202) 408-0060.

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