UN backs Puerto Ricos right to self determination

The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization unanimously approved a resolution June 9 calling on the United States to allow the Puerto Rican people to exercise their right to self-determination and independence.

The UN panel called on President George Bush to release all Puerto Rican political prisoners serving sentences for cases relating to the struggle for independence and those jailed for fighting to get the Navy out of Vieques.

The committee also urged the U.S. to complete the return of occupied land and installations on Vieques and in Ceiba, site of a former Navy base; respect the fundamental human rights to health and economic development of their inhabitants; and expedite and cover the costs of decontaminating the areas previously used in military exercises.

Introducing the text, Cuba’s representative said, while the committee and the General Assembly had been adopting resolutions and decisions reaffirming the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence, the U.S., as colonial power, had tried by all means to consolidate its economic, political and social domination over the “brotherly Latin American and Caribbean country.”

Because of its culture, history, traditions and especially its national identity, Puerto Rico would continue to be a Latin American and Caribbean nation, with its own national identity, he said.

After the committee’s adoption of the text, Cuba’s representative said “The adoption of this resolution today is a tribute to the patriotic spirit of the Puerto Rican people and the tradition of struggle led by their heroes, who are also the heroes of Cuba and all the Americas.”

A number of leaders, including from Puerto Rico and the U.S., gave testimony on the future of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila agreed that Puerto Rico had not fulfilled its right to self-determination in 1952 with the establishment of the “Commowealth of Puerto Rico.” He argued for an “expanded Commowealth” status. U.S. legal experts argue such a status is not viable under the U.S. Constitution.

Kenneth McClinton, president of the Puerto Rican Senate, argued that the status of Puerto Rico is an internal matter for the U.S.

Most of the Puerto Ricans giving testimony argued for a process leading to an independent sovereign republic for Puerto Rico and for the implementation of the decolonization UN Resolution 1514.

Ruben Berrios, chairman of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, said “Only the revolutionary government of Cuba and pro independence Puerto Ricans and maybe one or another Latin American country” would testify before the Decolonization Committee but “today those of other ideologies come to speak.”

Berrios noted “The American policies of the past are no longer possible.” He added the U.S. needed a “new policy towards Latin America of recognizing differences but promoting the mutual economic and social interests.” The first step towards a new policy would be recognizing the independence of Puerto Rico as “the clearest proof of a new American policy of respect for Latin America.”

Besides Cuba and Venezuela, who introduced the current resolution, a number of other countries also spoke in favor. These were Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominica, Syria, Iran, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Representatives of the Latin American social-democratic parties also urged a process for Puerto Rican independence as did representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement.