The Post recently published two stories -- "In the Light of Lady Liberty's Torch" Style, June 29 and "The Poisoning of Christian City" front page, June 30 -- which contain inaccurate information regarding Puerto Rico and reflect a surprising lack of knowledge about Puerto Rico.
In the first story, Puerto Ricans are bunched together with immigrant groups of foreign origin such as Poles and Vietnamese, as if Puerto Ricans were aliens and not citizens of the United States, as we have been since 1917. Moreover, the story also belies the fact that the island became part of the United States in 1898. As Mary Ann Knauss of the Department of Commerce aptly put it in a recent congressional hearing, Puerto Rico is part of the whole although separate and distinct from the states.
In the second story, about Christian City's mercury contamination, reporter Michael Weisskopf mistakenly asserts that "Puerto Rico is governed by federal law." Although many federal laws apply, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is largely ruled by its own constitution, adopted in 1952 as part of the compact entered into with the United States, and by its own legal structure anchored in the Spanish Civil Code and a centuries-old juridical tradition.
Another statement in the story about Christian City leads the reader to believe that former governor Carlos Romero lost the last election because of the contamination problem. This is not so. The issue played a very minor role in the campaign. Mr. Romero was defeated because of the pervasive corruption of his administration and also as a direct consequence of the cover-up by his administration of the murders in the Cerro Maravilla case, an infamous incident in our history that has already been covered by "60 Minutes," Life magazine and a recent book by a mainland journalist. The Romero administration was very negligent in dealing with the Christian City poisoning while the new government of Rafael Hernandez Colon has moved expeditiously to solve this problem. But this matter surely was not a central issue in the 1984 elections.
It is quite surprising to compare the extensive coverage of this issue with the lack of coverage of Puerto Rico's efforts to revitalize the Caribbean Basin Initiative and provide a new engine for development in neighboring countries. The Reagan administration, the House of Representatives and the Senate have all embraced these efforts. The Post has hardly been aware of them.