24 June 2014

U.N. Decolonization Committee adopts annual resolution on Puerto Rico

23 June 2014
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Special Committee on Decolonization
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)

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, ProELA, 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.