UConn News HomeUConn News

Top U.S., Puerto Rican officials to discuss island's self determination (Released: 4/2/98)

by Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications.

Storrs, Conn. -- A symposium featuring President Clinton’s advisor on Puerto Rican issues and two leaders in the island’s push for self determination will be held Thursday, April 2, in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

The conference — Puerto Rico’s Self-Determination at a Crossroads: Statehood, Independence, or Commonwealth? — focuses on an issue that will be aired in the U.S. Senate, beginning that same day. It opens at 4 p.m. in the Konover Auditorium. The session is free and open to the public.

The nearly century-old discussion, which pits proponents of statehood against proponents of maintaining Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status, this year has perhaps its best chance yet of being decided, says Scott Cook, interim director of the Institute for Puerto Rican and Latin American Studies. Early in March, the House of Representatives by a single vote approved a bill that would give Puerto Ricans the opportunity to vote on their political status preferences during an island-wide plebiscite. In talks beginning in the Senate Thursday, a bill similar to that legislation will start working its way through the system.

The movement promises to be contentious. Several Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, are hoping to delay debate on the bill until at least next year.

Symposium guests will be welcomed by Jose Gaztambide, associate director of the Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies. The panel discussion features Jose’ Trias Monge, one of the architects of the 1950s movement to give Puerto Rico Commonwealth status; Jeffrey Farrow, President Clinton’s chief policy maker and advisor regarding Puerto Rican issues; and Kenneth D. McClintock, chairman of the Committee on Governmental and Federal Affairs, one of the two most powerful committees in the Puerto Rican Senate. The program will be held in the Konover Auditorium at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Just prior to the seminar, UConn Chancellor Mark A. Emmert and Dr. Norman Maldonado, president of the University of Puerto Rico, will discuss a wide-ranging partnership that has been forged between UConn and the University of Puerto Rico that could, ultimately, touch virtually every school and college at the two institutions.

The agreement, which will broaden a relationship the schools have had in law, health and social work for much of the 1990s, will give faculty from UPR, the largest Hispanic-serving institution in the United States, a base from which they can conduct a range of research projects important to their constituents in Connecticut and the Northeastern United States. It also allows UPR to upgrade and expand their programming on the mainland, an important move as UPR prepares for the possibility of statehood, says Cook.