- - Monday, November 5, 2012

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rican voters will once again ponder the decades-old question over the island’s political future when they go to the polls Tuesday: What kind of relationship do they really want with the United States?

Do they support the status quo? Or would they prefer statehood, independence or “sovereign free association,” a designation that would give the island of nearly 4 million people more autonomy?

Officially, the Caribbean island is the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a semiautonomous extension of the U.S. mainland, its giant neighbor 1,000 miles to the northwest. But in fact it is a territory, lacking both the freedom of an independent country and some of the fundamental rights it would have if it was a U.S. state.

Aimed at resolving the 114-year-old conundrum over Puerto Rico’s status, Tuesday’s referendum marks the fourth time in 45 years that a vote has been held on the island’s future. Past balloting has never given statehood a majority, and independence never garnered more than 5 percent, but debate over the territory’s legal standing remains heated.


The latest vote comes at an especially difficult time for the island as it struggles to recover from an economic crisis and fights a wave of violent crime. Puerto Rico reported a record 1,117 killings last year, and its 13.6 percent unemployment is higher than that of any U.S. state.

HONDURAS

Farmers shot dead over crop dispute

TEGUCIGALPA — Three farmers were fatally shot in a restive area of Honduras plagued by tensions between landless farm workers and land owners switching to higher-earning crops, a farmers group reported Monday.

“Three farm workers were gunned down by heavily armed gunmen, as the farmers waited for a ride alongside a highway” near Tocoa, said a report from the Aguan United Farmers Movement.

More than 80 people have been killed in the past three years in the Aguan Valley.

In 2009, farm workers began squatting illegally on land owned by large landholders, who were switching their crops to African palms for the valuable oil extracted for the cosmetics and processed foods industries. Land owners have hired guards to protect the holdings.

MEXICO

Bankers, finance ministers meeting over global crisis

MEXICO CITY — Finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s leading economies met in Mexico on Sunday amid growing fears over the global impact of Europe’s debt crisis and the stalemate over a fiscal plan in the United States.

The meeting of G-20 financial officials in Mexico City, coming just ahead of U.S. elections, lacked key players such as U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

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