Divided over its political future and a simmering labor dispute, Puerto Rico marked the Fourth of July with protests and a plea by the governor for statehood for the U.S. commonwealth.
Gov. Pedro Rossello said Saturday that it is time for the United States to make Puerto Rico a full partner. In three weeks, the island will mark the 100th anniversary of the landing of U.S. troops on its soil."There still remains a territory, a colony of the nation, that has not had a real opportunity to exercise self-determination and has not reached full self-government," said Rossello at a restored Spanish colonial army barracks.
The ceremony in Old San Juan was closed to the public and protected by extra security.
Tensions were higher than usual as employees of the Puerto Rico Telephone Co. began their 16th day on strike Saturday to protest Rossello's plans to sell a controlling interest in the government-owned company.
Dozens of unions plan to undertake a 48-hour strike starting Tuesday to protest the government's privatization policy.
While Rossello was calling for statehood, protesters gathered in front of U.S. military bases to call for independence and to criticize the U.S. military's control of two-thirds of the small offshore island of Vieques.
Two groups organized a protest by taking their boats into restricted areas between Vieques and the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base on the main island of Puerto Rico.