Puerto Ricans don't want to become U.S. state, gov. says

Santander, Spain, Jun 26 (EFE).- Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said here Wednesday that "Puerto Ricans don't want to be a U.S. state."

"We want to continue being Puerto Ricans, since we've voluntarily decided to have a relationship of citizenship and affection with the U.S., but we're not going to stop being Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans," the governor told Efe prior to taking part in the 12th Santander-Latin America Meeting.

Puerto Rico came under Washington's sway in 1898 and island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.

Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy.

Garcia Padilla's PPD party advocates preserving the commonwealth relationship with the United States, albeit with greater flexibility.

The main opposition PNP wants the island to become the 51st U.S. state.

Last November, Puerto Ricans voted 54 percent to 46 percent in a non-binding plebiscite to end the island's current commonwealth relationship with the United States.

Of those opposed to the current status, 61.1 percent voted for U.S. statehood.

"Puerto Ricans don't want to be a U.S. state. We're Puerto Ricans, we're a nation, not a province of another (one) and we want to continue being Puerto Ricans," Garcia Padilla said.