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Wednesday, July 15, 1998 Published at 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK


World: Americas

US Senate opens Puerto Rico referendum hearings


The United States Senate has begun hearings into whether a referendum should be called to decide the political status of Puerto Rico.

In March the House of Representatives approved a bill offering Puerto Ricans a referendum to decide if they wanted to remain a self-governing protectorate, to become America's fifty-first state, or become fully independent.

The latest debate begins as Puerto Rico prepares to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of its transfer from Spanish to US sovereignty in ten days time.

In a non-binding referendum five years ago, Puerto Ricans voted by a narrow majority to remain a US protectorate.

The current status means Puerto Ricans can serve in the US military, but have no voting rights in US presidential or Congressional elections.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service



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