Speakers Call on United States to ‘End Subjugation’, Release Political Prisoners
The Special Committee on Decolonization today called on the United States to again expedite a process that would allow the people of Puerto Rico to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, as well as take decisions, in a sovereign manner, to address their economic and social needs.
By a resolution approved by consensus, the Committee would have the General Assembly urge the United States to complete the return of occupied land and installations on Vieques Island and in Ceiba to Puerto Rico, respect fundamental human rights and cover the costs of decontaminating areas previously used in military exercises.
Also by the text, the Special Committee — formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — would have the Assembly reiterate its request to release Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio. Both individuals were political prisoners serving sentences in the United States for cases relating to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence. The text also expressed concern about the actions carried out against Puerto Rican independence fighters and encouraged an investigation of those actions.
The Assembly, by other terms, would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence, and reiterate that the Puerto Rican people constituted a Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own unequivocal national identity.
Cuba’s representative, introducing the text, said it reflected the international community’s urgent call to end the colonial status of Puerto Rico, which had been unable to exercise its right to self-determination and independence, despite 32 previous resolutions. In addition, he said, Puerto Ricans had rejected the current status of political subordination in November 2012.
Iran’s representative, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, supported the right of Puerto Ricans to self-determination and independence on the basis of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).
Throughout the day, nearly 50 petitioners outlined their views on Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States, which many stressed must change drastically to ensure a better future for the island’s 3.2 million inhabitants.
Several reaffirmed the applicability of resolution 1514 (XV) — the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — and of the Special Committee’s 32 resolutions on Puerto Rico’s situation. The self-determination process did not require United States congressional approval, they said, and that country should cooperate with Puerto Ricans to design a decolonization mechanism.
Many petitioners argued for Puerto Rico’s independence. Wilma E. Reveron Collazo, Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano, said Puerto Rico’s sovereignty had been illegally taken over by the United States. It was a Latin American and Caribbean country that must participate fully in the United Nations. The Legislator had put forward bills to convene a constitutional assembly — an independent body of elected representatives who would draft or adopt a constitution — which would guarantee the start of a self-determination process. People must be educated about their decolonization options, and efforts should be supervised by the Special Committee.
Others pointed to ways that United States corporations had exploited local populations, dislocating neighbourhoods, forcing businesses to close and, in the case of pharmaceutical companies, contaminating the soil. Héctor Cintrón Príncipe, Consejo Nacional Para la Descolonización, said hormone-injected animals and junk food sold by the United States had created serious health problems for Puerto Ricans, who in turn had no choice but to depend on drugs sold by United States pharmaceutical companies.
Another clear example of subjugation, said Evelyn Román Montalvo, Coalición Puertorriqueña contra la Pena de Muerte, was the forced application of capital punishment on Puerto Ricans convicted on federal charges, despite that the island had outlawed that practice in 1929. The text should recognize Puerto Rico as the only place where the death penalty continued to be applied after people had rejected it.
Some speakers took a different view of the United States relationship. John Ross Serrano Sanabria, College Republican Federation of Puerto Rico, said Puerto Rico was not a country, but a United States territory inhabited by American citizens with a particular culture. The island’s Governor was the Head of Government, just as in the other 50 states. He asked the Committee to include Puerto Rico on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories and press the United States Congress to admit it as the fifty-first state. Edwin Pagan, Generación 51, added that resolution 1514 (XV) outlined the parameters for establishing statehood.
Still others called on the Committee to recognize the Taínos people as the only representatives of the Borinquen nation. Evaristo Silva Cintrón, Hermandad Taína, joined others in calling for the Borinquen state to have a seat in the General Assembly. Francis A. Boyle, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, asked the Special Committee to credential the sovereign Borinquen state.
The imprisonment in the United States of pro-independence Puerto Ricans was one concern about which a number of speakers rallied, with many calling for the immediate, unconditional release of Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio. A few asked for a pause in deliberations for 33 seconds, in honour of Mr. López Rivera’s 33-year struggle for justice.
Other petitioners addressing the Special Committee today were representatives of the following organizations: Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, New Progressive Party, Madres contra la Guerra, Comité de Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico, Boricuas por un Nuevo País, Coordinadora Nacional de las Actividades del Cerro de los Mártires, Puerto Rican Committee of the United Nations, Puerto Rican Independence Party, American Association of Jurists, Alianza Comunitaria de Boriken, Puertorriqueños Unidos En Accion, Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico, ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, Unión Nacional de Estudiantes, New York Solidarity with Vieques, Oficina de Asuntos Comunitarios e Indígenas, Juventud Boricua, National Lawyers Guild International Committee, Frente Autonomista, Igualdad, Citizens Movement for Statehood, Socialist Workers Party, Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico, Movimiento Union Soberanista de Puerto Rico, League of United Latin American Citizens, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, High School Republicans of Puerto Rico, New York Coordinator to Free Oscar López Rivera, Puerto Rico No Se Vende, Accion Soberanista, Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico-Movimiento Libertador-Junta Nacional, Renacer Ideologico Estadista, Boricua Ahora Es, Graduate School of Public Health-University of Puerto Rico, Grupo por la Igualdad y la Justicia de Puerto Rico, Frente Patriotico Arecibeño, and the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico.
Also speaking today were representatives of Nicaragua, Venezuela, Syria, Bolivia, Ecuador and Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 24 June to address the Questions of New Caledonia, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to consider a report prepared by the Rapporteur on the Special Committee’s decision of 17 June 2013 concerning Puerto Rico (document A/AC.109/2014/L.13), and a related draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2014/L.6).
Introduction of Draft Resolution
RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), presenting a draft resolution on the Special Committee’s decision of 17 June 2013 concerning Puerto Rico, said that the text reflected the international community’s urgent call to put an end to the colonial status of Puerto Rico, which had not been able to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and independence. Despite 32 previous resolutions, little progress had been made. Puerto Rico had been a Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own identify. The text also reflected the will of Puerto Ricans, who rejected the current state of subordination in November 2012.
Hearing of Petitioners
ANA IRMA RIVERA LASSEN, Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, called for the release of Oscar López Rivera. In the last referendum, the majority of Puerto Ricans had rejected staying in the same situation of colonization. There were various positions to find a mechanism whereby Puerto Ricans could decide their political status without restraints. Her college aimed to clarify, promote and educate people towards working together to change their status. Its 2002 resolution had recommended consultations be held so that Puerto Ricans could express their views on convening a constitutional assembly to determine relations with the United States. It would be subject to referendum. It would meet in an independent manner, establish its own electoral rules, and have a democratic representation for the constitution of a political state. The only way to end Puerto Rico’s colonized status was to start a process for a constitutional assembly.
WILMA E. REVERON COLLAZO, Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano, said her group fought for Puerto Rico’s independence and social justice, citing the case of Oscar López Rivera, who was “the Mandela” of Latin America. Puerto Rico was a Latin American and Caribbean country and it must participate fully in the United Nations. Its sovereignty had been illegally taken over by the United States, and today it suffered from unemployment, crime and poverty. Further, the economy was under siege by United States corporations, which had displaced small shops. The Legislator had put forward bills to convene a constitutional assembly, which would guarantee that a self-determination process could be started. People must be educated about their decolonization options, a process that should be supervised by the Special Committee, and the United States should be required to accept Puerto Ricans’ decisions without congressional approval.
PEDRO PIERLUISI, New Progress Party, said Puerto Ricans were proud of both the Puerto Rico flag and the United States flag. In the November 2012 vote on its political status, 54 per cent had rejected the current political status and 61 per cent had supported the integration into the United States as a state. The United States Government had endorsed a fund of $2.5 million to hold a plebiscite to determine whether Puerto Rico should become a state. The process should be simple, with a “yes” or “no” question, the same process adopted for Alaska and Hawaii.
SONIA SANTIAGO HERNÁNDEZ, Madres contra la Guerra, said that the current colonial situation and the United States’ militarism had caused many problems in Puerto Rico, including a high unemployment rate. United States military recruiters were not telling the truth about the risks involved going to war. Those citizens who had refused to go to war had been imprisoned and a high percentage of those who returned from wars were suffering from trauma. Hospitals treating veterans did not receive enough funding.
EDUARDO VILLANUEVA MUÑOZ, Comit é de Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico, requested that Oscar López Rivera be released, asking why the United States President had denied numerous international calls. History had shown that political prisoners posed no risk to the national security of the United States. Mr. López Rivera was a symbol of resistance for his people and holding him prisoner had not dissuaded those who believed in his ideals. The Special Committee had approved more than 10 resolutions, ratified by the Assembly, which should be considered by the institutions to which they referred. The Committee could play a role in the request to free Mr. López Rivera, and its Chair should meet with the United States Attorney General to update him about the situation of Mr. López Rivera. The Attorney General could then inform the United States President of the support for that Puerto Rican compatriot.
EVARISTO SILVA CINTRÓN, Hermandad Ta ína, recalled the invasion of Puerto Rico by Spanish explorers, saying his people had only grown stronger over more than 100 years, having restored its former government and re-established the national sovereign assembly of the Boricua. Despite brutal aggression by the United States, his people continued to resist. He declared his people’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, stressing that they had never recognized United States control over Puerto Rico. His people had suffered poverty and exploitation under United States imperialism. He called on the Special Committee to recognize his people, the only representatives of the Borinquen nation, and for the Borinquen state to have a seat in the General Assembly. He also urged for the immediate release of Oscar López Rivera.
MARIA VILLENEUVE, Boricuas por un Nuevo País, said that, as a psychologist, educator and mother, the colonial state of Puerto Rico was “slavery” perpetuated by the United States, causing unseen damage to social and economic structures. Such damage was similar to that of rape and child abuse, she stressed, calling for Puerto Rico’s sovereignty as a new country.
FRANCISCO R. JORDÁN GARCÍA, Coordinadora Nacional de las Actividades del Cerro de los Mártires, providing a historic account of the fight against invaders, first against Spanish and later Americans, called for the immediate release of political prisoners. The Special Committee should request the General Assembly to recognize Puerto Rico as a new Member State.
OLGA SANABRIA DAVILA, Puerto Rican Committee of the United Nations, said the committee had worked for more than 40 years on the presentation of Puerto Rico’s case to the Organization. Puerto Rico was a Latin American and Caribbean country with 8 million people, half of whom were in the United States. They had long fought for sovereignty and independence. There were major areas of convergence among her people, including on the peaceful nature of Vieques, on opposition to the death penalty, on sovereignty vis-à-vis sports teams, on the constitutional assembly and on the release of political prisoners, notably Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio. She reaffirmed the applicability of resolution 1514 (XV) and of the Special Committee’s 32 resolutions on Puerto Rico’s situation. The self-determination process must be free. Her people were calling for a change. She pressed the United States to stop holding plebiscites outside the scope of international law and to advance towards a decolonization mechanism.
JUAN DALMAU, Puerto Rican Independence Party, said that while Puerto Ricans had the primary responsibility for bringing about decolonization, the international community also had a fundamental role to play. The draft resolution was the product of decades of work, he said, confirming the applicability of resolution 1514 (XV) on the situation of Puerto Rico and calling on United States to allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their rights. The objective could not be to “jump through legal hoops”; it must be to pressure the United States to meet its obligations and cooperate with Puerto Ricans to design a decolonization process. That goal required an explanation of the colonial case of Puerto Rico to the General Assembly. Today’s resolution referred to paragraphs that had been approved by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in January. That language constituted a call for a programme of political initiatives to end colonialism in the region.
OSVALDO TOLEDO, American Association of Jurists, stressed that Article 73 of the Charter had not been respected regarding non-autonomous status of Puerto Rico. The General Assembly should adhere to its commitment to protect the inalienable right to self-determination of all states. United States President Barack Obama should listen to the voices of Puerto Ricans calling for freedom. He called for releases of political prisoners who had been tortured and mistreated.
LILY CASTRO, Alianza Comunitaria de Boriken, pointed out that illegal occupation by the United States led to a number of problems, including poverty. Puerto Ricans had to emigrate in search of work. They lost their culture and language. Such ills as drug and alcohol addiction and high crime rates were among the problems caused by illegal occupation. A fourth of the entire population had psychological problems. She supported sovereignty that had never ceded to imperialists.
FRANCIS A. BOYLE, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said he represented the national sovereign state of Borinquen. The alleged Doctrine of Discovery did not justify Spain’s occupation of Puerto Rico and the Taínos. In fact, Spain had violated the just war doctrine. The Indians of America were entitled to the restitution of their kingdom, which must include the restoration of destroyed monarchical societies of those lands. That was what the Boricua had done. Spain had devolved self-government powers on Puerto Rico. Yet, under a “bogus” pretext, the United States had illegally conquered the de facto independent state of Puerto Rico and set up a genocidal situation. Since 1898, the United States had been the illegal occupying Power of Puerto Rico. It was beyond time for the United States to evacuate Puerto Rico so that the sovereign state of Borinquen could exercise its right of self-determination. He pressed the Special Committee to credential the sovereign state of Borinquen and the United States to free Oscar López Rivera.
HÉCTOR CINTRÓN PRÍNCIPE, Consejo Nacional Para la Descolonizaci ón, said his people had been forced to work for the enrichment of another nation, asking delegates for the definition of a colony if that was not one. Everything had been done to accommodate the United States. The pharmaceutical industry of the United States had contaminated the soil, and now those companies were leaving. Another aggression had converted his peoples’ health into something to be negotiated with North Americans. Junk food was given to children through commercial propaganda, which had led to health problems, such as obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and cancer. Hormones given to animals had led to early pubescence, unwanted pregnancies and unproductivity. Those conditions had been made so that Puerto Ricans would buy United States pharmaceuticals. Consejo Nacional had been recognized as the only legitimate government of Puerto Rico and it should have a seat in the General Assembly.
MANUEL RIVERA, Puertorriqueños Unidos En Accion, noted that, due to an imperial economic policy, a large number of Puerto Ricans had immigrated, diminishing Puerto Rico’s population over the decades and plunging its economy into recession. The diaspora had resulted in 4.5 million Puerto Ricans currently living overseas. He called for the active participation of the diaspora in the determination of Puerto Rico’s political future, the release of political prisoners, and for the return of land currently occupied by United States military.
DORIS PIZARRO CLAUDIO, Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico, said the Special Committee should facilitate a genuine, democratic and participatory decolonization process, rejecting a unilateral process by the United States. Lack of sovereignty had limited autonomy critical to creating conditions to improve people’s lives, and had resulted in institutionalized poverty and marginalization.
BENJAMIN RAMOS ROSADO, The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, said he was working to secure the freedom of political prisoners and of Puerto Rico. “We are second-class citizens at the mercy of the United States” without representation in Congress. American citizenship had been imposed on them. They had been forcibly relocated to lands and were victims of exploitation. Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio had dared to confront United States colonialism. Mr. López Rivera had served 33 years in prison, where he had been tortured. He had refused clemency because two co-defendants had not been given the same offer. The United States Parole Commission had denied his petition, despite that a range of politicians, actors and artists continued to support his release. Mr. Claudio also had been subjected to unjust treatment, having developed skin cancer and been denied adequate treatment. His health was precarious. He urged immediate action to end colonialism in Puerto Rico and for the release of political prisoners.
EVELYN M. ROMÁN MONTALVO, Coalici ón Puertorriqueña contra la Pena de Muerte, called for an end to the death penalty, saying her people were opposed to its imposition. Puerto Rico had abolished that practice in 1929 and had written a provision to that effect into its Constitution in 1952. Yet, the United States had established the death penalty as a punishment. Fortunately, juries had refused to apply it in cases tried in the Federal Court of the United States for the District of Puerto Rico. Those cases were carried out in a language that was different from Puerto Ricans’ vernacular language, despite that only 10 per cent of the population could understand and communicate in English. She called for including in the resolution language outlining Puerto Rico’s unique situation, adopting a resolution requiring the United States to declare a moratorium on death sentence cases, and referring the case of Puerto Rico to the General Assembly.
ANA CRISTINA CABÁN, Unión Nacional de Estudiantes, said 39 per cent of university students in Puerto Rico had to abandon their studies. Of those who did graduate university, 30,000 left the country annually. The university system must tackle that difficult reality of “brain drain”. It was also the duty of young people to defend their homeland. Education was facing the threat of increasing costs. As a colony, Puerto Rico could not create a self-sufficient economic model. A national state of Borinquen should obtain a provisional or permanent seat in the United Nations.
MARIE CRUZ SOTO, New York Solidarity with Vieques, said that the militarized colonialism imposed on that island had created poverty, illness and marginalization. The current situation was robbing the community of a viable future. Her organization was sponsoring a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, asking the United States Navy to take responsibility for the toxic effect it had had on the island and its population.
CARLALYNE YAREY MELÉNDEZ, Oficina de Asuntos Comunitarios e Ind ígenas, said his peoples had passed “from hand-to-hand”, from the Spanish to the United States. The Treaty of Paris had been signed, but his people had not been consulted, making that document null and void. The indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico did not recognize the United States as the owner of his nation. The United States had established an illegal colonial Government. The Boricua always had fought for their freedom, having defended their lands against the Spanish for centuries. They also had fought for the freedom of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Cuba. He requested help so his people could be free. The United States had not requested its independence from England; nor should the Boricua request their independence. They should declare it. He called for full sovereignty for the nation state of Borinquen.
ORLANDO J. ORTIZ AVILÉS, Juventud Boricua, said his organization supported the national state of Borinquen, which was working to restore its legitimate national council. “Our nation never gave away any sovereign power to any empire,” he said, noting the group was building community structures that met Borinquen needs. He urged recognition of the sovereign state of Borinquen as a United Nations member, noting that Boricua youth had been forced to emigrate due to unemployment at home, a direct result from the Free Association Agreement. Young people also had resorted to crime to survive, which had led to blood-letting. Condemning North American imperialism, he compared the United States-Puerto Rico relationship to Stockholm syndrome. He pressed the Special Committee to urge the unconditional release of Oscar López Rivera.
JAN SUSLER, National Lawyers Guild International Committee, said Oscar López Rivera had served an unprecedented 33 years in United States prisons for his commitment to the independence and self-determination of Puerto Rico. Mr. López Rivera had achieved the unenviable distinction of being the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico’s independence movement. “The calendar is not my friend,” Mr. López Rivera had confided in her. Consonant with the demand of people, it was a propitious moment for this august body to once again urge the President of the United States to release Mr. López Rivera.
JOHN ROSS SERRANO SANABRIA, College Republican Federation of Puerto Rico, said that Puerto Rico was not a country, but a United States territory inhabited by American citizens with a particular culture just like other states had their own culture or traditions. The residents of the island were predominantly of Latin ancestry and spoke mostly Spanish, just like many other Americans in other States. The Head of State was the President of the United States and Head of Government in the island was the Governor, just like the other 50 states. He asked the Special Committee to include Puerto Rico in the list of non-self-governing territories and make an effort to bring the United States Congress to admit Puerto Rico as the fifty-first state.
JOSE R. ORTIZ VELEZ, Frente Autonomista, said it had been a “useless pilgrimage” as Puerto Ricans continued to be under American occupation and its economy was collapsing. The economy was not benefiting from federal programmes. As Puerto Rico had national identity as a Latin and Caribbean country, it was time to reject the United States’ position. The United States should respond to Puerto Rico’s request as colonial status was no longer tolerable. He also called for international support for the unconditional and immediate release of Oscar López.
EDWIN PAGAN, Generación 51, said he was an American citizen and supported Puerto Rico’s decolonization through statehood. It was a colony for more than 400 years under Spain and for more than 100 years under the United States. Passive rights were not rights. In the November 2012 vote, Puerto Ricans voted “no” to colonialism and “yes” to statehood. He wondered why Puerto Rico remained on the agenda of the Special Committee. A report should be produced on the November 2012 plebiscite.
ANNABEL GUILLÉN, Igualdad, said Puerto Ricans had been United States citizens since 1917, yet they did not enjoy many constitutional rights. Their lack of representation and political power had made them second-class citizens, a status prohibited under the United States Constitution. In the 2012 plebiscite, 61 per cent of voters had favoured statehood. Recently, the United States President had signed a budget law allocating $2.5 million for a process on the island to define Puerto Rico’s non-territorial options. She pressed the Special Committee to address the question of Puerto Rico. Independence had not received great support, she said, noting that the Independence Party had not qualified for the 2012 elections. She urged the Special Committee to recognize the results of the 2012 referendum and agree that Puerto Rico was a colony.
GABRIEL ROMÁN, Citizens Movement for Statehood, said his group represented 80,000 in the south of the island who had voted in favour of statehood. Since 1967, Puerto Ricans had carried out electoral processes and, in 1997, had expressed their wish to be a part of the United States. “This is still the case today,” he said, noting that the 2012 plebiscite had seen more than 61 per cent of Puerto Ricans vote in favour of statehood. The self-determination process must be allowed to continue. The Puerto Rican government had hindered the democratic expression of its people, having taken unofficial steps to block discussions and ignore peoples’ claims. “Our desires cannot be undermined by a minority group that does not accept the self-determination of our people,” he asserted.
MARTIN KOPPEL, Socialist Workers Party, said the people of Puerto Rico and working-class people in the United States had a common enemy — the United States Government and the propertied ruling class it defended. “We share a common struggle: to get those exploiters off our backs,” he said. Cuba’s socialist revolution was living proof that when workers and farmers took political power out of the hands of the capitalist minority, they could win genuine independence and begin to reorganize society in the interests of the majority.
ISMAEL MULLER VAZQUEZ, Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico, said he spoke categorically against colonialism by the United States. Although Puerto Rico did not produce drugs and weapons, those were on the land, creating problems. Independence fighters were treated like “terrorists” and there had been fresh arrests of those. All political rights should be handed over to Puerto Ricans after 115 years of exploitation by the Untied States. The question of Puerto Rico should be discussed in the General Assembly.
MARIA DE LOURDES GUZMAN, Movimiento Union Soberanista de Puerto Rico, denounced the situation that had confronted her country for more than 100 years. The United States, she said, had placed Puerto Rico at its service. The colony had been baptized a “free associated state”, ensuring it would be excluded from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Forty-six per cent of the island’s population lived under the poverty line and young Boricuas were being seduced by claims of a better future if they joined United States military. Further, the island of Vieques had been bombarded for 60 years, which had led to a catastrophic health situation, as the United States Navy had refused to clear the toxic material. That country had implemented inefficient laws in Puerto Rico, she said, adding that the interstate clause of the United States’ Constitution was another aggression. That nation did not respect Puerto Ricans’ self-determination right.
JOSE ENRIQUE MELENDEZ ORTIZ, League of United Latin American Citizens, noting that his group was the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States, said calls for independence were an undue interference in the affairs of Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans did not want independence; they were American citizens. In the absence of a clear self-determination process for political status, their desire had always been respected. The island was united with the United States and Puerto Ricans had made their decision in the referendum. Independence was not the only way to achieve full self-government; integration under equal conditions and free-association were other options. Sixty-one per cent of voters had voted for statehood. The island’s political status did not pertain to relations between Latin American countries and the United States.
The Special Committee suspended hearings of petitioners and moved to statements from Committee members regarding the draft resolution presented by the representative of Cuba.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed support for the right of Puerto Ricans to self-determination and independence on the basis of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV). That colonial question had been under consideration by the Special Committee for more than 39 years, with 32 resolutions or decisions already adopted by the Committee. While welcoming the consensus adoption of those texts over the last decade, the Movement called on the United States to expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence and return the occupied land and installations of Vieques Island and at the Roosevelt Road Naval Station to the Puerto Rican people.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the death penalty should not apply to Puerto Rican freedom fighters imprisoned in the United States. Efforts should continue until Puerto Rico became a member of CELAC and the United Nations. Thirty-two resolutions and decisions had been adopted, with many by consensus. He expressed solidarity within the Latin and Caribbean region, which should become one free of colonialism, as it was now the third international decade of eradicating colonialism. With 25 July marking the 116th anniversary of intervention by the United States, it was time to put an end to rooting natural resources and other exploitations.
SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), noting that five decades had passed since the adoption of resolution 1514 (XV), said colonialism had prevented Puerto Rico from building a free society. At the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Havana, Cuba, Venezuela had promoted Puerto Rico’s participation as an observer. The outcome document from that summit emphasized that Puerto Ricans had their own national identity, and that the General Assembly should examine all aspects of the question of Puerto Rico. Latin America and the Caribbean should be free from colonialism. Venezuela supported the release of Oscar López Rivera, who had been held for 33 years, and was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution.
IHAB HAMED (Syria) said 25 July would mark the anniversary of United States intervention in Puerto Rico. Numerous resolutions had reaffirmed Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination, in line with resolution 1514 (XV). The United States must accelerate the process whereby Puerto Ricans could exercise their inalienable right to independence and self-determination. Those who had spoken out had faced violence, intimidation and arrest. Recalling that Syria had always supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement on the matter, he urged the United States to abide by today’s resolution, create conditions conducive to the exercise of Puerto Ricans’ inalienable rights, and release the detainees for defending those rights.
LUIS MAURICIO ARANCIBIA FERNÁNDEZ (Bolivia) stressed the importance of strengthening multilateralism in the context of Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination and independence. He also noted a series of resolutions of the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) on implementing the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples as well as the outcome of the second Summit of CELAC Heads of State. He urged the United States Government to assume its responsibility to expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence and return the occupied land and facilities to the Puerto Rican people.
JOSÉ EDUARDO PROAÑO (Ecuador) said the second Summit by Heads of CELAC in Havana had recognized the Latin and Caribbean nature of Puerto Rico and reaffirmed its commitment to become a region without any colony. The United States Government should comply with General Assembly resolution 1514 and accelerate a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence. He also called for the immediate release of political prisoners, including Oscar López Rivera.
CAROL VIVIANA ARCE ECHEVERRÍA (Costa Rica), speaking for CELAC, said the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico was highlighted in January at the organization’s summit in Havana. The Community was committed to working in the context of international law, particularly resolution 1514 (XV), to free the region from colonialism.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Special Committee then approved by consensus the resolution entitled “Decision of the Special Committee of 17 June 2013 concerning Puerto Rico”.
The representative of Cuba, speaking after action in a general statement, said the links between Cuba and Puerto Rico were rooted in the work of the nations’ most prominent leaders. The shared history had emerged from the Taíno people, whose culture had been extinguished by imperialist interventions, such as slavery. The liberator of Cuba had more than 12,000 Puerto Ricans fighting with him for Cuban independence. In 1948, Fidel Castro had organized the First Latin American Congress of Students to discuss issues, including Puerto Rico’s independence. He cited other examples of shared efforts for independence, calling the outcome of the CELAC summit a “milestone” in Cuba’s relationship with Puerto Rico in the fight for independence and self-determination.
NATASHA LYCIA ORA BANNAN, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said the United States Navy had occupied the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra and used and rented out the sites for bombing and target practice. Viequenses faced a disproportionately higher rate of terminal serious health conditions such as cancer, hypertension, asthma, kidney failure and skin conditions. The environment, including land, sea and ground water, had been seriously contaminated by toxins and heavy metals. Not much had changed over the last 11 years since the United States officially closed the military base, stopped bombing and began a “clean-up” process. But the clean-up fell far short of human rights standards and did not include actual decontamination.
JOSE ERIEL MUNIZ GOMEZ, High School Republicans of Puerto Rico, supported Puerto Rico’s standing as the fifty-first state of the United States. In a non-binding 2012 vote, a second question gave three options — statehood, independence or free association with the United States. The result was overwhelming support for statehood. The General Assembly should submit a resolution requesting the United States to hold a referendum on Puerto Rico’s admission as a union state.
ANA M. LOPEZ, New York Coordinator to Free Oscar L ópez Rivera, said United States communities must play a role in the release of political prisoners. The Puerto Rican diaspora was an “internal colony” within the United States. The jailing of Oscar López Rivera had sent the message that there was a slave-master relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. “This must end now,” she said. Reading out a message from Mr. López Rivera, she said the main problem was the colonial status of the homeland. If Puerto Ricans could unite around forcing the United States Navy out of Vieques, they could unite around resolving the problems of the persistent destructive system. They had the will to create an independent, self-sufficient Puerto Rican nation, despite claims that the island did not have the necessary resources.
JULIO R. ROLON, Puerto Rico No Se Vende, reiterated Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination, recalling that the island was not considered a Non-Self-Governing Territory. The United Nations repeatedly had been asked to change its policy towards Puerto Rico, and the General Assembly had been requested to examine the situation in all its aspects. He urged the United States to start a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to self-determination and independence, in line with resolution 1514 (XV). He also called for the creation of a mechanism allowing Puerto Ricans to participate fully in a decolonization process, including through a constitutional assembly.
JOSE M. UMPIERRE MELLADO, Accion Soberanista, urged Special Committee members to visit his “country” and see how the United States administered it. Upon arriving, they would be told what they could or could not do while there. All television and radio waves were controlled by the federal Government. They may enjoy pure air, but that was not quite pure due to the environmental pollution under the United States administration. They may see beautiful Caribbean shores but they must be careful of explosives left there during military exercises of the United States Navy and its allies. When they visit a national park, they would be told that it was the only tropical forest in the United States.
MIGUEL REYES WALKER, Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico-Movimiento Libertador-Junta Nacional, described how the Puerto Rican economy was faltering. Taxes were increasing while medical services were decreasing. Workers had no collective bargaining power. Multinational corporations offered only part-time jobs with few or no benefits. The best students and educators left Puerto Rico in search of opportunities for professional growth. The United States Congress should recognize those situations. The General Assembly should discuss the question of Puerto Rico in its plenary.
JOSE GIOVANNI OJEDA RODRIGUEZ, Renacer Ideologico Estadista, said annexation offered the best growth and electoral representation for Puerto Rico. In the 2012 referendum, Puerto Ricans had agreed that they no longer wanted to live under a commonwealth arrangement. Since 2009, the Special Committee had introduced draft resolutions to stimulate discussion in the General Assembly, but results had yet to materialize. Rescinding resolution 748 (1953) would be a difficult task, making it imperative to maximize efforts. If the focus of subsequent resolutions differed, his group would be able to use it as a tool to persuade the White House to change its approach. He requested broader discussion on the language to be included in future resolutions, and particularly, that paragraphs 6, 8 and 9 of resolution 1514 (XV) be cited. Texts also should refer to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the context of Vieques clean-up.
RICARDO ROSELLO NEVARES, Boricua Ahora Es, said Puerto Ricans favoured statehood, and urged steps to support their will, as expressed at the polls. His group had filed a complaint to the Civil Rights Commission of Puerto Rico, which named the United States President, among others, as having hindered the desired actions of Puerto Ricans. His group had been endorsed by the Vietnam Veterans of America; it had held a congress on Puerto Rican decolonization and worked in various ways to eliminate the colonial system that controlled Puerto Ricans’ destiny. A multifaceted strategy was needed to create a cohesive agenda. With that, he said Puerto Rico should be the next host of a regional seminar, and both the 1953 report by the Committee that preceded the Special Committee and General Assembly resolution 748 (1953) should be rescinded.
CRUZ MARIA NAZARIO, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Puerto Rico, said cancer occurrences in Vieques were linked to military exercises of the United States and its allies. Food, land and air were contaminated with toxins. Mortality rates were higher there with people more likely to die from heart disease and illness related to hypertension. That was a crime against humanity. In the 2012 vote, she voted “no” to colonialism and did not support statehood because she wanted Puerto Rico to be a free independent country.
HECTOR BERMUDEZ ZENON, Grupo por la Igualdad y la Justicia de Puerto Rico, accused Spain and the United States of colonizing Puerto Rico, which constituted a crime. The United States claimed that the question of Puerto Rico was an internal matter, but it did not tell the truth. An allotment of five minute for each petitioner to speak in this forum once a year was not enough to overcome years of ill-treatment of the Puerto Rican people. The United States should spearhead a process of decolonization around the world.
RICHARD LÓPEZ RODRIGUEZ, Frente Patriotico Arecibeño, denounced “experiments” carried out by the HAARP [High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program] project. Arecibo was also called the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center. One patent for electromagnetic radiation weapons, based on technologies developed by Nicolai Tesla, threatened the survival of Puerto Ricans living in Arecibo as they had been exposed to radiation. The Department of Defense aimed to depopulate Arecibo. Also, an incinerator owned by Energy Answers, which contracted with the Department of Defense, burned garbage, 30 per cent of which was car tire rubber and other processed products that adversely impacted people in Arecibo.
GERARDO LUGO SEGARRA, Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, said his party had fought for Puerto Ricans’ freedom from torture and for a more just society. It did not participate in the election of colonial officials who claimed to serve Puerto Ricans yet held the flag of the United States in their hand. Indeed, the “Yankee colony” was in full economic crisis. “This is a country where the Governor fulfils the needs of the occupying Power,” he said. Nothing belonged to Puerto Ricans, except the debt.