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Puerto Rico Celebrates 50th Anniversary as US Commonwealth - 2002-07-25

Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of Puerto Rico as a U.S. commonwealth.

The Associated Press reports thousands of people marked the day by crowding outside the seaside capitol building in San Juan, carrying Puerto Rican and U.S. flags.

Governor Sila Calderon addressed the crowd and talked about her pro-commonwealth party's desire for greater autonomy. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose city has a large Puerto Rican population, then read a message from President Bush.

As the government and its supporters gathered, promoters of independence held an anti-commonwealth rally in Guanica, a small municipality on the southwest coast where U.S. troops landed in 1898 to seize Puerto Rico from Spain.

The island's status as commonwealth remains a thorny issue that is split among three camps: those who support the status quo, those who would like the island to be incorporated as a U.S. state and those who favor full sovereignty.

The Associated Press also reports on Wednesday, nearly a dozen hooded youths demonstrated outside a U.S. army recruiting station in suburban San Juan, forcing it to close.