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Puerto Rican Undergraduates Oppose Proposal of Statehood

By Douglas W. Oman

Several Puerto Rican students at Harvard oppose President Ford's proposal to make Puerto Rico the fifty-first state, and believe that Puerto Rico's commonwealth status will not change.

"People here are overwhelmed with surprise and don't want it," David J. Cortiella '77, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, said yesterday.

Puerto Rico will not become a state because there is too much opposition internationally, he added.

"I hope that the island eventually will become independent," Miguel A. Echavarria '79, a native of Puerto Rico, said yesterday. But he added he preferred a commonwealth to statehood, saying that he did not take Ford's proposal seriously and doubted that anyone else would.

"There is no Puerto Rican mandate for statehood," Jorge I. Diminguez, assistant professor of Government, said yesterday. The recent election won by the prostatehood party was decided on economic issues and the statehood issue was deliberately excluded from the election beforehand by the winners, he said.

Some Puerto Ricans do support statehood because they like the political symbolism of being American citizens, Diminguez said.

A smaller, more influential group supports statehood because it would "close off the dangers of drastic social change" such as communism, he added.

Most Puerto Ricans are apprehensive about statehood because they fear steep federal taxes, and are also afraid that mainland U.S corporations will leave the island, Felix M. Torres '79, a son of Puerto Rican immigrants, said yesterday. The corporations may leave because of a loss of tax incentives and a loss of cheap labor due to an imposition of minimum wage laws, Torres added.

Puerto Rican statehood would help the growing Puerto Rican upper class and hurt U.S. corporations, Cortiella said.

To Show the Cubans

Ford's proposal was a statement of Caribbean policy and would "show the Cubans that we are serious about Puerto Rico," John R. Womack, Professor of History, said yesterday.

Statehood "wouldn't make a big economic difference" he added, "except to be a rationalization of the labor markets in a capitalist sense."

"The whole idea seems a pretty feeble brainstorm," he said.

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