November 26, 2012

Regarding Mark Plotkin’s Nov. 25 Local Opinions commentary, “A good deal for the District — and Puerto Rico”:

The flawed, two-part referendum in Puerto Rico this month risks perpetuating the confusion that has vexed the debate on the island’s status for more than a century. Of all voters participating in the plebiscite, only 44.6 percent selected statehood, not the 61 percent Mr. Plotkin cited. That’s because more than 490,000 ballots were cast blank or as protest votes.

But President Obama can use the opportunity to settle — once and for all — the question of Puerto Rican statehood. Mr. Obama should propose an “Offering Statehood to Puerto Rico Act.” This law could grant statehood if, and only if, a simple majority of Puerto Rican voters approve it. Other status alternatives can be addressed later, but a decision on statehood should be decided first.

To ensure maximum participation, it should be clear that the statehood offer will not be made again. The bill should specify exactly the terms of admission for Puerto Rico. In particular, the bill must inform Puerto Ricans whether the new state’s government would be conducted in English or Spanish. It must also specify whether Puerto Rico would retain its right to independently participate in international competitions. (The latter alone may be a deal-breaker.)

Puerto Rico would learn the answers to basic questions that heretofore have been left to speculation regarding statehood. Such a vote would fabulously concentrate our minds.

David R. Martin, Atlanta

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