28 June 2018


By Elise Donovan
When the BVI Government decided in 2013 to open it’s office in Asia, it estimated that somewhere in the range of 40 to 60 percent of the BVI’s financial services business originated from China and rest of the Asia Pacific region.
Last year with the publishing of the London-based Capital Economics report, Creating Value: the BVI’s Global Contribution, we were able to concretize that figure to 41 percent specifically. Forty-one percent of the BVI’s financial services business or at least 25 cents out of every dollar of the 60+ percent in revenues going into the BVI’s Treasury to support schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructural development and Government salaries among other things come from China and the rest of Asia.
According to the Capital Economics report, China alone (including Hong Kong and Macau) accounts for 35 percent of the global business coming to the BVI. As a services based economy, that makes China the BVI’s most important trading partner and, to be absolutely clear, China is responsible for the most butter on our bread and roofs over our heads.
It makes sense to align economically with the country offering more opportunities to invigorate, diversify and grow the BVI’s economy. Investing resources in strengthening the BVI/China partnership is not only strategic, but also basic common sense. The benefits accrue to all - they trickle up, down and across the BVI economy.
With few exceptions, countries across the globe have been pivoting to China to get a slice of its growing economic pie. This is with good reason. China is the world’s second largest economy (and according to the IMF, the largest when corrected for purchasing power parity) and has the largest share, and growing, of the globe’s wealthy consumers among its 1.42 billion people.
China in turn has been going global for the last 30 years and has been the driving force behind many large infrastructural projects across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, including in some of our own Caribbean countries. Even the City of London has the China stamp on it.
China’s innovation, sophistication, technological advancement and astuteness of its business leaders is unparalleled by any country in the world. Not to mention that its top tiered cities, high speed railways and airports make its Western counterparts look like mere second and third runner-ups.
According to one of the lead economists, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is now open to any country to participate, is and will continue to be the most important and impactful macro-economic undertaking in the world, for at least the next ten years. Estimates are that funding for the BRI promises to be in the trillions of US dollars and would require mobilising the world’s capital markets.
The BRI provides enormous opportunities to participate for a wide range of businesses, from small and medium-sized enterprises to multinational corporations. Investors everywhere are devising ways to incorporate the strategy into their development plans.
The BRI represents a great opportunity for the BVI’s new micro business companies and for its traditional business companies, which for three decades have proven successful for Chinese investors and corporations doing cross-border trade. According to UNCTAD World Investment Reports, the BVI was the second largest investor in China from 2006 to 2012 for inward foreign direct investment (FDI) and the fifth largest for outward FDI in 2012. Recent statistics from China indicate that the BVI still remains in the top ten for both inward and outward China FDI flows. In simple terms, this means that when Chinese, state and private enterprises, want to do business outside of China, they use BVI companies. And when they want to partner with investors and bring business into China, they also use BVI companies. Other investors going into China also use BVI companies.
While the BVI is in pole position, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. With the increasing fierce competition and threats to BVI business, it was critical for the Premier to spend the last two weeks building confidence in the BVI brand in our largest market as he traveled to five cities, pounding the pavement from early in the morning to late at night, making the BVI’s case to government officials, entrepreneurs and investors in meetings, lunches, dinners and giving 12 speeches and remarks to collectively over 1000 business leaders. The theme of the mission in China and Asia was clear, we’ve been your partner for the last 30 years and we will continue to be your international partner as we move into the digital era.
Some are trying to create jurisdictional arbitrage because of the UK’s recent moves, but the BVI will continue to put emphasis on its most important market while it still explores other emerging markets.
It’s not just the financial services business, but countries are also vying for the Chinese tourism market. China is now the largest tourism source market in the world and accounts for 21 percent of the world’s international tourism spending. According to the World Tourism Organisation, in 2012, China became the world's top spender in international tourism and has remained so ever since. In 2016 Chinese made 135 million trips overseas (including for cruises) and spent US $261 billion on their holidays abroad. The BVI is trying to tap into this front too and has applied for Approved Destination Status to be able to market its tourism product in China. To further demonstrate its commitment, the BVI Government recently approved visa-free access for Chinese travelers to the BVI for tourism and business purposes.
The United Kingdom itself has already ramped up its efforts and China presence, driving its Great Innovation campaign to secure its share of China’s great economic pie in investment, tourism and financial services. At last year’s Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, London and Hong Kong locked horns over which city should be the Belt and Road’s financial hub. Whether London or Hong Kong, BVI’s business companies are positioned to be the vehicles of choice for the BRI cross border transactions. And like the UK, the BVI will continue to shore up its efforts in China.
Why did the Premier prioritize going to China and Asia over going to London? The answer is simple: He clearly knows on which side the BVI’s bread is buttered.
Elise Donovan is the director of BVI House Asia and the Asia Pacific Regional Representative. She has been based in Asia for the last four and a half years.

U.S. unilateral power wants to stop cockfighting in U.S. colonies

The United States Congress has passed a sweeping benefit reform bill that includes a provision to ban cockfighting in Pacific territories.

The practice of setting two roosters against each other in death matches is already banned in all 50 states, but Guam refuses to enact any such measures.

On the US-controlled island, cockfighting is closely tied to religious events and mainly held at village fiestas, with Guam law giving blanket approval for events on church holidays.

The ban is contained in a bill that requires low-income people to work 20-hours a week or enrol in education before they can apply for the federal food stamp programme.

In a statement, Guam's congresswoman Madelleine Bordallo says House Republicans have chosen to force a cockfighting ban on Guam against its will.

She says because US territories are not allowed to vote in Congress, the move is paternalistic and deeply unfair.

However, the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes, with Democrats and some Republicans saying they will vote against it.

26 June 2018


French Polynesia's political parties have spoken out against French reform plans which would cut the number of parliamentary representatives.

The plans by the French government for a more efficient administration also call for limits to the number of terms mayors can serve.

A French Polynesian member of the French Senate representing the ruling Tapura Huiraatira party Lana Tetuanui says the plan amounts to a muzzling of democracy.

She said however she was pleased that the territory's representatives were unanimous in their opposition.

A pro-independence opposition politician Antony Geros said France should not interfere in local politics, referring to the repeated reelection of Oscar Temaru as the mayor of Faaa.

As such a reform would supersede French Polynesian rules for the top job, Edouard Fritch could become eligible to run for the presidency again in 2023.

He had earlier said the current term was his last one.

25 June 2018


united nations press release
22 JUNE 2018

Special Committee on Decolonization Approves 22 Draft Resolutions, Decisions as It Concludes Two-Week Session

The Special Committee on Decolonization concluded its 2018 substantive session today, having approved a total of 22 draft resolutions and decisions on lingering self‑determination questions in Non‑Self‑Governing Territories spanning Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific and beyond for submission to the General Assembly.
Wrapping up its work, the 24‑member panel — 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 — approved draft resolutions on New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.  It also approved a set of draft conclusions and recommendations emanating from its recent Pacific Regional Seminar on the implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism — deciding to annex them to its main report to the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session — and approved a wide‑ranging text on the broader implementation of the Declaration.
By the terms of that text, titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”, the General Assembly would reaffirm its resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960 as well as all other resolutions on decolonization, reiterating that the existence of colonialism in any form or manifestation — including economic exploitation — was incompatible with the Declaration, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It would reaffirm its determination to take all necessary steps to bring about the complete and speedy eradication of colonialism, and support the aspirations of peoples living under colonial rule around the world.  Among other things, the Assembly would call on the administering Powers of the 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to develop and finalize work programmes — on a case‑by‑case basis — to facilitate implementation of all relevant decolonization resolutions.
The case‑by‑case approach took centre stage during the Special Committee’s consideration of the question of French Polynesia, as Carlyle Corbin of the Dependency Studies Project warned that — while useful — that approach must not be misinterpreted as a rationale for legitimizing the political and economic inequality of the dependency status.  A general lack of action, including a dearth of studies, analyses and political education programmes, had resulted in limited decolonization progress over the last three decades, he said, arguing:  “This often relegates the debate to an exchange of differing opinions between those who recognize the true nature of contemporary colonialism and those who have made an accommodation with it, irrespective of its democratic deficiencies.”
Richard Ariihau Tuheiava of the Tavini Huiraatira Group, an elected member of the French Polynesia Assembly, outlined actions that continued to impede that Territory’s independence and sovereignty.  He said the administering Power, France, continued to control its resources and to insist on control over undersea and seabed resources, recalling that the most egregious of its activities had been 30 years of nuclear testing that had impacted the health of native French Polynesians.  Expressing concern that the administering Power refused to provide information on the situation on the ground, he said it also maintained full control over the Territory’s “so‑called elections”, held in May 2018.
A second petitioner, Manuel Terrai of the Délégué aux Affaires Internationales, Européennes et du Pacifique, struck a different tone, citing both economic improvements and rapidly advancing self‑governance in French Polynesia.  The territorial Government had been actively involved in enhancing its autonomy, he said, pointing out that people had elected 57 representatives to the French Polynesia Assembly, who had in turn elected the President.  “Our elections are free and democratic,” he said, stressing that French Polynesia should not be classified as a Territory to be decolonized.  He voiced concern that, despite the people’s free expression, members of the Special Committee continued to insist that French Polynesia was not autonomous.
Also addressing the Special Committee was Faipule Afega Gaualofa, Ulu (Titular Head) of Tokelau, a group of atolls in the South Pacific Ocean.  Emphasizing that the Territory’s people would never give up their aspiration for self‑determination — and that it was “heading in the right direction” — he nevertheless cautioned that more work was required to strengthen Tokelau’s local capacity, infrastructure and economic development.  Referring to the Territory’s warm relationship with the administering Power, New Zealand, he asked the Special Committee to encourage the United Nations system to assist Tokelau and not exclude it from accessing global financing assistance, including climate and environmental assistance.
New Zealand’s representative — the only delegate from an administering Power to formally address the Special Committee during its two‑week session — summarized support provided to Tokelau over the past year, recalling that in 2017, his country had decided to scale up the position of Administrator and appoint someone for whom that role would be the sole focus.  In accordance with its obligations under the United Nations Charter, New Zealand had progressively devolved its administrative powers to Tokelau over the past three decades, supporting the Territory’s development of its own governance institutions.  While the 2006 referendum had narrowly missed the two‑thirds majority needed to change the Territory’s status, he emphasized that New Zealand had taken note of the close results and supported the will of the people to achieve even greater self‑governance.
In other business, Cuba’s representative delivered a summary of the Special Committee’s visiting mission to New Caledonia from 12 to 16 March 2018.
Also addressing the Special Committee today were Roch Wamytan of the Congress of New Caledonia and Mickael Forrest of the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste.
Representatives of Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Ecuador also participated.
Question of New Caledonia
As the Special Committee took up the question of New Caledonia, members had before them a working paper on that item (document A/AC.109/2018/11).
HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), leader of the visiting mission to New Caledonia, introduced the report on the visit (document A/AC./109/2018/20), saying that its objective was to gather first‑hand information on the situation in the Territory in relation to implementation of the 1998 Nouméa Accord.  It had also been agreed that the mission would build on the conclusions and recommendations of the previous mission, in 2014, and assess the current situation on the ground.
The mission comprised four members of the Special Committee — Cuba, Indonesia, Iraq and Papua New Guinea — accompanied by two staff from the Secretariat, he said.  Its programme consisted of 35 meetings in five days, he said, noting that members had met with the High Commissioner, the territorial Government, the president of the Congress, the Customary Senate, and municipal authorities, among many others.  The mission had also visited a number of projects and initiatives, including a public school and a solar power plant, he added.
In its conclusions, the visiting mission observed that the overall security situation in New Caledonia remained calm and peaceful in the lead‑up to the self‑determination referendum, he continued.  All parties concerned had underscored the importance of peace, stability and security.  The mission had also found that preparations for holding the referendum were on track and well under way.  However, many challenges remained, including the need to ensure that the electoral process was acceptable to all parties.
With regard to the referendum’s outcome, many Caledonians remained apprehensive and concerned, he said, emphasizing that all parties must respect the result.  Measured progress in the development of infrastructure, education, health and social services, environmental protection and preservation of cultural heritage had been observed under New Caledonia’s rebalancing policy, although much work was still to be done to eliminate inequalities between and within the Territory’s provinces.
He went on to say that the mission had encouraged all stakeholders to work together to ensure implementation of the Nouméa Accord.  The mission had also encouraged the administering Power and the territorial Government, as well as other relevant stakeholders, to continue raising awareness about the referendum.  Noting that more than 50 per cent of New Caledonia’s population were young people, he said the mission had stressed the importance of taking measures necessary to ensure that adequate education, training and employment opportunities were available for them.  It had also emphasized the need to ensure implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and that no one was left behind.
Ms. RODRIGUEZ (Venezuela) welcomed the mission to New Caledonia, expressing satisfaction that the Territory’s people would soon be able to exercise their right to self‑determination.  She also thanked the delegation of France for its support in that regard.
MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea), echoing the sentiments expressed by the representative of Cuba, said one of the visit’s main achievements had been the speed with which relevant reports had been approved and submitted to the Special Committee.  However, there were discrepancies between the English and French translations of the mission’s report, he said, asking that they be examined.
ROCH WAMYTAN, Congress of New Caledonia, said the people of the Territory would soon hold a milestone vote on their future.  Summarizing New Caledonia’s colonial history, he said thousands of convicts had been unloaded on the archipelago, leading to the near extinction of the native inhabitants.  After the Second World War, the Kanak people had fought for their rights, and later agreed to a political process intended to lead to their self‑determination.  The native inhabitants had opened the Territory up to immigrants, making it a melting pot society, but that did not mean that it had given up the right to future self‑determination, he stressed.  Spotlighting the upcoming self‑determination referendum, he called for a specific visiting mission to help the Territory prepare for the vote.  Objecting to article XI of the 1998 Nouméa Accord — referring to migrants from France — he said the Special Committee should pay special attention to the referendum’s electoral rolls and procedures.  Underlining that New Caledonia could no longer endure any further manipulations, he recalled that the Territory had been removed from the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories in 1987, and later relisted, and he did not wish to see the same thing happen again due to “electoral manipulations and political intrigue” in the referendum.
MICKAEL FORREST, Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), said that the parties to the Nouméa Accord had recently decided the date of the referendum, which would be the first opportunity to be liberated from French colonialism.  “It has been a long, long road,” he added, stressing that the Kanak people must be able to regain their dignity.  The Special Committee had been consistently involved in ensuring respect for decolonialization with its visiting and observer missions to New Caledonia.  Welcoming today’s draft resolution, he said that it fully reflected the situation on the ground, but while real progress had been made, there was still room to improve technical arrangements for the referendum.  Partners who did not support independence had been taking advantage and manipulating the system in a way that was truly threatening the vote, he added, cautioning:  “Such practices are creating doubt among the people.”  French leaders visiting New Caledonia were upsetting the balance by drawing on the old tactics of colonialism.  He also noted the socioeconomic inequalities in New Caledonia, emphasizing that it was essential to provide opportunities for young people.  On economic initiatives and their respective outcomes, both negative and positive, he said the 341 tribes in the Territory must be better informed about the need for independence of Kanaky, New Caledonia.  Generations of men and women had been struggling towards independence, and the time had come to achieve sovereignty, he said, stressing:  “We are absolutely and totally committed.”
Mr. HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea) introduced a draft resolution titled “Question of New Caledonia” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.22) on behalf of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.  Emphasizing that New Caledonia’s self‑determination remained an unfinished agenda in the United Nations, and was a priority for the Group, he voiced solidarity and unity with FLNKS and the people of New Caledonia as they found their own pathway forward, vowing to contribute in ensuring that the Territory’s self-determination process was just, fair, transparent and respected by all parties.  As for the draft resolution before the Special Committee, key elements from the 2017 version remained important and highly relevant, and the current text also laid out new major developments, including the fact that New Caledonia was at a critical phase and the referendum on self‑determination was set for 4 November 2018.  The question to be presented on the ballot would be:  “Do you want New Caledonia to accede to full sovereignty and become independent?”
He went on to note that the draft resolution also recognized the ongoing, serious concerns expressed by the people of New Caledonia, regarding the importance of explaining clearly and in simple terms what the outcome of the referendum would mean.  “This remains unclear and raises anxieties and tensions amongst the peoples of the Territory,” he said.  In addition, the text called on the administering Power to permit international observers for the referendum, including from the United Nations, which would be critical for its credibility.  Much progress had been made since the Nouméa Accord, he said, emphasizing that it would benefit both its people as well as the administering Power to further strengthen collective efforts to facilitate self‑determination and eliminate the indignity and the yoke of colonialism.  However, no matter the referendum’s outcome, New Caledonia must remain on the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, he said, noting that critical challenges remained, including human rights issues and inequalities.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), noting that his delegation was co‑sponsoring the draft resolution, said 2018 was an important year for New Caledonia and the whole Polynesian region.  Echoing the sentiment that it behoved the United Nations to ensure a transparent and credible electoral process in November, he said preparations must also take place in a timely, robust manner that would satisfy all parties on the ground.  Fiji encouraged the administering Power, France, to support the parties in delivering a successful and historic self‑determination referendum, he added.
Mr. KOROMA (Sierra Leone), also noting that his delegation was a co‑sponsor and thanking the administering Power for helping to facilitate the Special Committee’s visiting mission, agreed that “New Caledonia is at a crossroads”.  The Territory’s destiny was in its own hands, and the Special Committee must fully respect its decision while supporting the administering Power in helping to reach a transparent and credible referendum outcome.  Echoing concerns about the issue of French immigration, which had resulted in inequality, he said the referendum would not be the end of the road.  The process must be peaceful and those who felt dissatisfied in any way must be able to access due process.  They should avoid any kind of violence, he emphasized.
INDAH NURIA SAVITRI (Indonesia), noting the highly sensitive nature of the Special Committee’s work, said its efforts were nevertheless critical.  Indonesia welcomed its recent visiting mission to New Caledonia, which had provided updated information about the situation in the Territory in light of the upcoming referendum.  Also welcoming the support provided by the administering Power, she said her delegation would also co‑sponsor the text.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution without vote.
Question of French Polynesia
As the Special Committee took up the question of French Polynesia, members had before them a working paper (document A/AC.109/2018/7) and a related draft resolution titled “Question of French Polynesia” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.24).
MANUEL TERRAI, Délégué aux Affaires Internationales, Européennes et du Pacifique, noted the economic improvements in French Polynesia, including in the business climate and household index.  Tax intake had increased significantly, contributing to alleviation of debt.  Polynesian banks had indicated a boost in their activities, and there had also been growth in tourism and the purchase of new vehicles.  Moreover, French Polynesia’s regional role had seen a boost, he said, noting that it had been officially recognized at the forty‑eighth Pacific Island Forum in Samoa.  The Government had been actively involved in enhancing the Territory’s autonomy, he said, adding that the political rift in French Polynesia had existed for the last 40 years, with the autonomists on one side and the independents on the other.  All citizens had electoral rights and could participate in elections, he continued, adding that the people elected 57 representatives to the French Polynesia Assembly who in turn elected the President.
“Our elections are free and democratic,” he said, adding that the rate of participation was 66 per cent, he said.  Noting that some 49 autonomists and eight independents elected to the Assembly were focused on modernizing society and creating wealth through investments, he emphasized that French Polynesia was indeed a self‑governing territory and should not be classified as a colony to be decolonized.  The people had reconfirmed their will to remain an autonomous territory within the French Republic.  Despite the people’s free expression, however, members of the Special Committee continued to insist that French Polynesia was not autonomous, he said, pointing out that the Special Committee’s principal objective was to listen to the people and familiarize itself with the situation of each Non‑Self‑Governing Territory.  He suggested the deletion of paragraph 6 from the draft resolution, which states that the administering Power had not responded to the request to submit information on French Polynesia.
RICHARD ARIIHAU TUHEIAVA, Tavini Huiraatira Group, speaking as an elected member of the French Polynesia Assembly, said that since 2013, annual statements in the Special Committee consistently pointed to actions that continued to impede French Polynesia’s independence and sovereignty.  Speakers had provided information on the exploitative financial relationship with the administering Power, which continued to control the Territory’s resources.  The French continued to insist on control over undersea and seabed resources as well, the most egregious of which had been the health impact of 30 years of nuclear testing.  Offering to provide a report on that matter, he said the two existing United Nations reports were “grossly insufficient”.  He expressed concern that the administering Power could refuse to provide information on the situation on the ground, saying that it also had full control over elections, including the authority to cancel them.  The administering Power had the power to grant the French Polynesian Assembly bonus seats supporting colonialism.  It was within that framework that so‑called elections had been held last month.  The administering Power held unilateral control over elections in French Polynesia, he reiterated, adding that there was no space for discussion of the option of self‑determination.
CARLYLE G. CORBIN, Senior Fellow, Dependency Studies Project, noted the overall lack of actions relating to draft resolutions on decolonization, such as the conduct of studies, analyses and political education programmes, which had resulted in limited progress over the last three decades.  “This often relegates the debate to an exchange of differing opinions between those who recognize the true nature of contemporary colonialism and those who have made an accommodation with it, irrespective of its democratic deficiencies,” he said.  “This is not supposed to be about opinion,” he added, emphasizing that the decolonization mandate was actually about providing Member States with the opportunity for in‑depth examination of the extent of genuine self‑government in the listed Territories, on the basis of the requisite criteria of full political equality, as established by General Assembly in resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1541 (XV).  Other resolutions mandated that the Special Committee take a case‑by‑case approach to the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, which was a useful strategy, he said, while cautioning that care must be taken to avoid misinterpreting that approach as a rationale for legitimizing the political and economic inequality of the dependency status.
It was therefore critical, he continued, to emphasize that Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV) was not intended to authenticate existing colonial arrangements, but merely to recognize that they were modes of transition, preparatory to the achievement of the full measure of self‑government.  “Colonial legitimization has never been countenanced by the General Assembly,” he stressed.  In the case of French Polynesia, where there had been consistent calls for genuine decolonization, the administering Power’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Committee should not serve as an effective veto of the envisaged programme of work on that item.  Nor should other relevant mandates — such as the implementation of a political education programme and a qualitative report on the effects of 30 years of nuclear testing — be stymied.  He said the long‑standing decolonization mandates under General Assembly resolutions should be specifically reflected in the United Nations budget.  “Otherwise, we will remain in a ‘repetition‑of‑process’” of resolutions adopted without regard for their implementation, he warned.
HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), noting that the existence of colonialism remained incompatible with United Nations principles, recalled that her delegation had served as Chair of the Special Committee in 2013, when French Polynesia had been re‑inscribed on the list of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories after its unilateral delisting in 1963.  That re‑inscription had been pursued due to its continued colonial situation, she stressed, noting that, among other things, the Territory’s people still lacked control over their own resources.  The administering Power must reverse that situation and commit to the Territory’s decolonization.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution titled “Question of French Polynesia” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.24) without a vote.
Question of Tokelau
As the Special Committee took up the question of Tokelau, members had before them a working paper on that item (document A/AC.109/2018/14).
FAIPULE AFEGA GAUALOFA, Ulu (Titular Head) of Tokelau, outlined developments in the Territory over the past year, saying its people would not give up their aspirations for self‑determination.  The question of an autonomous government had been put to a vote in two past referenda, in 2006 and 2007, respectively.  Nevertheless, Tokelau’s relationship with the New Zealand family was not at issue, because the Territory wished to retain the warmth of that relationship.  It was critical that the interests of Tokelau’s people remain at the heart of all efforts, he said, noting that the Territory and the administering Power, New Zealand, continued to work together in a manner that promoted the well‑being and quality of life of Tokelau’s people.  Asking the Special Committee to promote and encourage the United Nations system to assist the Territory and not to exclude it from accessing global financing assistance — including climate and environmental assistance — he reiterated Tokelau’s commitment to self‑determination, while stating that whereas the two referenda had not resulted in a situation of self‑determination, the Territory had nevertheless worked to strengthen and develop its governance systems and the effective management of its public service.
However, much more work was required to strengthen Tokelau’s local capacity, infrastructure and economic development, he said, adding that the Territory was nevertheless determined to move towards self‑determination in the future and was “heading in the right direction”.  Among other things, it had put a National Strategic Plan (2016‑2020) in place and established its own development priorities, setting aspirational yet realistic outcome targets and related budgets.  The Government of New Zealand continued to support those efforts and to provide the confidence needed to make progress, given Tokelau’s small size, vulnerability and geographic remoteness.  Turning to the challenges posed by climate change, he said rising sea levels and catastrophic weather patterns were both real and imminent for Tokelau, threatening its peoples’ livelihoods and encroaching on its land masses.  Climate change had also impacted the Territory’s food security and water stores.  Climate change adaptation and mitigation were costly, and while other Pacific nations were able to access significant funding to cover those expenses, Tokelau was instead included under New Zealand’s allocation.  That country had been generous, but constraints remained.
Thanking the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other partners for their support in that regard, he also outlined national activities aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change as well as preserving Tokelau’s language, culture and traditions.  Such actions would help in building resilience and increasing the Territory’s sustainability, he said, while also spotlighting its focus on good governance, sustainable transport and communications, telecommunications, access to supply chains, and public services.  “Tokelau is still working to determine what it can and should do itself, and what it needs others to assist it with,” he said, describing the Territory’s evolving relationship with the international community.  Also noting that Tokelau had a history of taking care of itself, he said its Intergenerational Trust Fund aimed to provide a buffer for its future children against “any ill winds that may strike Tokelau in the years to come”.
CRAIG J. HAWKE (New Zealand) said that his country’s Government had decided in 2017 to scale up the position of Administrator and to appoint someone for whom that role would be the sole focus.  In accordance with its obligations under the United Nations Charter, New Zealand had progressively devolved its administrative powers to Tokelau over the past three decades, supporting the development of the Territory’s governance institutions.  Outlining various steps that the Government had taken in the past, he said that by the 2000s, Tokelau had attained a substantial degree of self‑government.  The referendum held in 2006 had narrowly missed the two‑thirds majority required for a change of status, he said, adding that New Zealand had taken note that such close results reflected the desire of the Tokelauan people for greater self‑governance.
New Zealand was committed to supporting Tokelau’s efforts to develop its capacity in self‑governance, he continued, encouraging the Territory to consider how best to balance the needs of its individual villages with those of the entire nation.  New Zealand had been focusing on projects relating to transport, telecommunications, fisheries and climate change.  Providing updates on each sector, he pointed out Tokelau’s remoteness, saying that New Zealand was in the process of procuring another vessel for the Territory to be used for search‑and‑rescue work and medical evacuations as well as general transport.  New Zealand was also investing in connecting Tokelau to undersea fibre‑optic cables and had helped to establish a Ministry of Fisheries.  The Government remained committed to supporting Tokelau’s voice on the global stage by including it in its delegations on international climate change negotiations, he said.
Mr. KOROMA (Sierra Leone), noting that his delegation would join the list of co‑sponsors of the draft resolution on Tokelau, expressed support for the positive relationship between that Territory and New Zealand.  Sierra Leone stood beside Tokelau in its quest for self‑determination, which it had undertaken in spite of significant challenges, he said, adding that the Government of New Zealand was doing its best under those circumstances to support Tokelau’s people.
Mr. RAI (Papua New Guinea), introducing the draft resolution titled “Question of Tokelau” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.23) on behalf of his own delegation and that of Fiji, noted the important updates in the text, reflecting developments on the ground.  Applauding New Zealand’s consistent provision of critical information to the Special Committee, he said much of the draft resolution’s contents — the same as those in previous years — remained relevant and important.  Among the new developments outlined in current version were the 2017 introduction of the “Tobacco Free Tokelau 2020” policy; the development of the Territory’s “Living with Change” climate change strategy — by which New Zealand agreed to include Tokelau’s carbon emissions in its national reporting under the Paris Agreement on climate change — and New Zealand’s recent commitment to invest NZ$22.2 million in undersea telecommunications services for Tokelau.
Mr. PRASAD (Fiji), expressing his delegation’s support for the draft resolution as one of its co‑sponsors, said Tokelau was on the front line of the fight against climate change.  Noting that its quest for self‑determination was being pursued against the backdrop of that severe and imminent threat, he welcomed the Territory’s positive relationship with New Zealand and the latter’s continued support.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
Question of Turks and Caicos Islands
The Special Committee then approved a draft resolution titled “Question of the Turks and Caicos Islands” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.20), without a vote.
Question of United States Virgin Islands
The Special Committee also adopted a draft resolution titled “Question of the United States Virgin Islands” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.21), without a vote.
Implementation of Decolonization Declaration
The Special Committee then turned to its next item, a draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.25).
Ms. RODRIGUEZ (Venezuela) said colonialism was an anachronism that was contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.  The Organization must live up to its responsibility to fully eradicate colonialism, which still existed in the remaining 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), she said.  The administering Powers must also shoulder their responsibilities, including under article 73 (e), which obliged them to ensure the well‑being of people under their administration.  Among other things, they were obliged to report on all their activities in the Territories, including economic and military activities, which could impact the lives of their inhabitants.  United Nations specialized agencies and other entities should also speed up the decolonization processes of those Territories, she said.  The Department of Public Information must step up its efforts to disseminate information about decolonization, and all States must commit to supporting vulnerable Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, especially those impacted by recent severe weather events.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
Report of the Pacific Regional Seminar
Acting again without a vote, the Special Committee approved the draft conclusions and recommendations of the recent Pacific Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, held in St. George, Grenada, from 9 to 11 May 2018 (document A/AC.109/2018/CRP.1), and decided to annex it to the Special Committee’s final report to the General Assembly at its seventy‑third session.

21 June 2018


18 JUNE 2018

Special Committee on Decolonization Refers to Post-Hurricane Plight of Puerto Ricans as It Approves Annual Self-Determination Text

Panel Hears Petitioners Describe Rising Poverty, School Closures, Other Woes

Spotlighting the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico’s already serious economic and social challenges — including unemployment, insolvency and poverty — the Special Committee on Decolonization approved a draft resolution today that would call upon the United States to shoulder its responsibility to facilitate the realization of the right of Puerto Ricans to self‑determination.
In addition, more than 40 petitioners from Puerto Rican advocacy groups and international allies addressed the Special Committee, many denouncing the colonial occupation of the Territory by the United States.  They described the situation as one of genocide and “economic terrorism”, characterized by multinational corporations — facilitated by the United States — exploiting Puerto Rico’s resources even as that country’s Government implemented austerity measures that had forced schools to close and pensions to go unpaid.  Others expressed outrage over the Government’s lack of support for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, noting that the world had witnessed the “insulting” and “mocking” scene of President Donald Trump throwing paper towels into a crowd after the storm.
Approving its annual draft resolution on Puerto Rico without a vote, 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 — called on the Government of the United States to expedite a process enabling the people of Puerto Rico to exercise fully their right to self‑determination and independence, and to take decisions in a sovereign manner to address their challenges.  It also noted with concern that, by virtue of the decision by the United States Congress under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act — known as PROMESA — the already weakened area outside which the prevailing regime of political and economic subordination in Puerto Rico operated had been reduced even further.
The Special Committee further expressed deep concern over actions carried out against Puerto Rican independence activists and encouraged investigations into those actions, while also requesting that the General Assembly comprehensively consider the question of Puerto Rico and decide on the issue as soon as possible.
Walter Alomar of the Organization for Culture of Hispanic Origins joined other petitioners in accusing the United States Government of having intentionally failed to support Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in order to displace the island’s population and pave the way for gentrification.  Residents had been denied funding to repair their homes and given relocation vouchers, while hospitals on the island had been instructed not to report deaths to the Department of Health so as to impede an accurate victim count.  “While Trump is tossing out paper towels to my people, mocking their plight and insulting them, we were coming together and rising up,” he said, citing Puerto Ricans and others who had cleared roads, cooked meals and offered medical care to neighbours.
Antonio Camacho of the Latin-X Law Student Association said “economic terrorism” had seen Puerto Rican schools forced to close, taxes raised and the local Government intimidated and manipulated into becoming an instrument of the United States.  He demanded that the Special Committee hold the “Trump regime” accountable for throwing paper towels into a crowd after 4,624 people had died as a result of Hurricane Maria.  “This is a way of disposing [of] our race,” he said, demanding also that, after 120 years of occupation, the United States Government be held accountable.
Darlene Elias, National Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States, said the suffering of Puerto Ricans following the hurricane had been “multiplied tenfold” by the silence of the United States Government and its inability to act.  That Government had only sat back, placing bets on how many lives had been lost, with its President telling Puerto Ricans to “clean up their own mess”.  Recalling that the United States had rejected offers of supplies and other assistance from nations including Cuba and Venezuela, she said the hurricane‑related deaths — twice the number of those resulting from the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks — were a direct consequence of colonialism.
Oscar López Rivera of Fundación OLR Libertá — a Puerto Rican political prisoner held in the United States for more than 35 years and released in 2017 by former President Barack Obama — asked why the General Assembly had not yet taken up the question of eradicating colonialism in Puerto Rico.  Pressing the Special Committee to consider investigating the nefarious activities of the United States over the last 120 years, including its efforts to depopulate the Territory, he said the Puerto Rican economy was dysfunctional as a result of United States policies and the actions of its banking industry.
Judy Sheridan‑González of the New York State Nurses Association, describing the health impacts of Puerto Rico’s colonization, said the Territory had suffered from high indices of morbidity and mortality, diabetes and cardiovascular and pulmonary disease even before Hurricane Maria.  Poisonous detritus from military exercises and water contamination, among other factors, had contributed to cancers, respiratory and endocrine disorders.  The Jones Act, meanwhile, had made importing healthy food unaffordable.  Following the hurricane and the apathetic response of the United States Government, the situation had morphed into a form of genocide.  “We cared for families who suffered the trauma of helplessly watching ill relatives die before their eyes, unable to get to the few functioning hospitals,” she said.
The Special Committee also heard the following petitioners: Colegio de Abogados y Abogados de Puerto Rico; Union de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego; Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico; National Jericho Movement; A Call to Action on Puerto Rico; National Sovereign State of Borinken; Indigenous Womens Knowledge; Mesa de Trabajo por Ana Belen Montes en Puerto Rico; Fuerza de la Revolución; Puerto Rican Independence Party; Committee for Puerto Rico at the United Nations; National Hostos Movement for the Independence of Puerto Rico; New York Cuba Solidarity Project; Movimiento Nin Negron; American Association of Jurists; Comite Pro Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico; Alianza Patria; Movimiento Union Soberanista; Comites de la Resistencia Boricua; Puerto Rican Coalition against Death Penalty; Instituto Puertorriqueno de Relaciones Internacionales; Generacion 51; Puertorriqueños Unidos en Accion; Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico; Socialist Workers Party; Consejo Amplio Unitario de Solidaridad y Acción; Vidas Viequenses Valen; Junte de Mujeres; Partido de Pueblo Trabajador; and Brigada Guarionex.
Also participating were representatives of Venezuela (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement), El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Syria and China.
The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 19 June, to continue its work.
Question of Puerto Rico
OSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA, Fundación OLR Libertá, asked why the General Assembly had not taken up the question of eradicating colonialism in Puerto Rico as promised in resolution 43/47.  He pressed the Special Committee to consider investigating the nefarious activities of the United States over the last 120 years, saying its goal was to depopulate Puerto Rico.  The Territory’s economy was dysfunctional thanks to the policies of the Government of the United States and the banking industry, he said, adding that any capital generated was transferred to banks in the United States, while Puerto Rico’s Government was encouraged to issue bonds to pay its debts and to privatize its most productive public corporations, such as the Puerto Rican Telephone Company and the public hospital system.  The United States‑imposed Fiscal Control Board decided how public funds collected by the territorial Government were spent, but both the United States Governments and the territorial Government had refused to undergo an audit.  More than 500 public schools had been closed and if the Board carried out its plan, education in Puerto Rico would be under threat, forcing Puerto Ricans to emigrate, he said, adding that hedge fund promoters, investors and developers would replace them.  “Puerto Ricans will never give up struggling for an independent and sovereign Puerto Rico” and for their right to self‑determination, he emphasized.
EDGARDO ROMAN-ESPADA, Colegio de Abogados y Abogados de Puerto Rico, said he regretted that the case of Puerto Rico had not been brought to the attention of the General Assembly.  Emphasizing that the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico was one based on subordination, he said today, there was no process of decolonization, and violations of human rights on the Territory continued.  Puerto Rico’s economy faced dangerous stagnation and decline, he said, adding that employment figures were equally concerning, and that precarious employment had doubled from 2000 to 2014.  The public debt could simply not be repaid, he stressed, denouncing the austerity measures adopted by people who were unelected but rather unilaterally appointed by the federal Government.  Recalling the mass destruction caused by last September’s hurricanes Irma and Maria, he said that some 4,000 people had died, citing a recently released Harvard study and warning that more would die unless urgent steps were taken to help them.
ANGEL FIGUEROA, Union de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego, condemned the colonial Government that had imposed fiscal control over unions through a law instituted by a seven‑member board established by the United States Congress.  It had taken away all tax rights in Puerto Rico and measures taken by that board had caused serious harm to the people and economy of Puerto Rico.  “This means we are more politically and economically insubordinate to the United States than ever before,” he said.  Stressing the need to improve access to energy, he warned against the National Electric Power Authority falling into private hands.  Puerto Rico had become extremely vulnerable following last year’s hurricane season, and privatizing basic services could severely worsen the situation.
JOCELYN VELASQUEZ, Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico, said she represented thousands of workers demanding the right to self‑determination.  “The fight is a fight of survival of our people,” she said, stressing that urgent measures were needed to prevent the deaths of thousands more people.  “The international community must hear us and step up because the lives of thousands of people are at stake,” she warned.  The worsening situation in Puerto Rico had made the Government more brutal, and it continued to arrest people who voiced outrage.  “The United States is an impediment to our future,” she added.
JUDY SHERIDAN‑GONZÁLEZ, New York State Nurses Association, discussed the health impacts of the colonization of Puerto Rico, noting that even before the hurricanes had hit Puerto Rico in 2017, nurses had noted higher indices of morbidity and mortality, diabetes as well as cardiovascular and pulmonary disease.  Poisonous detritus from military exercises, water contamination from pharmaceuticals and coal ash deposits, among other factors, had all contributed to cancers and to respiratory and endocrine disorders.  The Jones Act, meanwhile, had made importing healthy food unaffordable, while discriminatory federal funding and the privatization of health services had created an overwhelming lack of access and quality care.  The situation had morphed into a form of genocide after the United States Government’s apathetic response to Hurricane Maria in 2017, she said.  “We cared for families who suffered the trauma of helplessly watching ill relatives die before their eyes, unable to get to the few functioning hospitals.”  The health crisis could only be resolved by cancelling the illegal debt, dismantling the “fiscal junta” and repealing the Jones Act, she declared.
JIHAD ABDULMUMIT, National Jericho Movement, said his organization championed the release of political prisoners at home and abroad.  In the United States, there were political prisoners incarcerated for their efforts to fight against police brutality and State violence, and the impoverishment and exploitation of poor communities, he said.  Describing Puerto Rico as a colony of the United States, he said that since the latter’s victory over Spain and subsequent acquisition of Puerto Rico, hundreds of corporations had been given the freedom to pay little to no taxes.  “Colonizers do not listen to the cries of the colonized people,” he said, adding:  “We witnessed President Trump throwing rolls of paper towels to a crowd of local residents affected by Hurricane Maria during his visit to a disaster relief distribution centre in San Juan.”  Bragging and boasting about the beneficial relationship that the colonizer had cultivated in caring for the colonized had always been plagued with lies and distortions to hide and obscure the reality of the conditions under which most were forced to live, he said.  “Thus, the illusion of prosperity, or hope for prosperity, is perpetrated and many times even believed by the colonized people themselves.”  It came as no surprise that many parts of Puerto Rico still lacked power and that people there were forced to decide whether to live under blue tarps or move to a homeless shelter in New York.
NORMAHIRAM PEREZ, A Call to Action on Puerto Rico, said the imperial fiscal control board and the continuing “clear colonialism” of the United States against Puerto Rico violated the right of the Territory’s people to self‑determination.  The colonial empire continued to ignore the voices of Puerto Ricans in plebiscites and referendums, abuse the environment, apply unequal regulations and suppress the right of Puerto Ricans to freedom of expression and protest.  Teachers were struggling with the closure of schools while health care across the Territory had been privatized.  Demanding the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners and calling for an end to the application of the death penalty — which the vast majority of Puerto Ricans opposed — she expressed concern that Puerto Rico’s resources were controlled by foreigners and it suffered under an economic and financial embargo imposed by the United States.
RAMÓN NENADICH, head of state, National Sovereign State of Borinken, said his was not a political organization but in fact a provisional government, of which there were many precedents in recent history.  Emphasizing that “we are not reinventing the wheel”, he said the National Sovereign State of Borinken had approached several delegations at the United Nations, requesting an observer seat in the General Assembly, but those requests had been denied.  “If you really want to do something to end colonialism in our country, supporting our request is the way to go,” he said, noting that Puerto Rico’s colonizers had actively impeded the Borinken government’s requests as part of their long‑standing subjugation of the Territory.  The United States Government was complicit in genocide against Puerto Ricans, and even the Special Committee was contributing to the problem as it had long failed to stand up to that country.  In that regard, he asked its members to introduce a draft resolution requesting that the National Sovereign State of Borinken to be granted an observer seat at the General Assembly’s upcoming session.
MONIKA PONTON‑ARRINGTON, Indigenous Womens Knowledge, said that the ongoing imposition of restrictive laws and regulations on Puerto Rico by the United States, as well as that country’s careless and cavalier approach to the death and damage occasioned by the recent hurricanes, were continued proof of the colonial relationship between the Territory and the United States.  Puerto Ricans were taxed and regulated by the United States, but not permitted representation within that country’s Government — the very definition of colonialism.  Whether the damage done to the Puerto Rican people was the result of malignant intent or benign neglect was of little consequence to the people who suffered in silence, having neither a voice nor recourse, she said.
MIRIAM MONTES-MOCK, Mesa de Trabajo por Ana Belen Montes en Puerto Rico, noting that those “who do not move don’t notice their chains”, said Puerto Rico continued to suffer under a dictatorial board that responded solely to the whims of corporations at the cost of the people.  “The result is tragic,” she said, citing the desperate exodus of Puerto Ricans to the mainland.  The history of humanity was plagued by enslaved people, she said, adding that Ana Belen was a revolutionary imprisoned in a United States prison.  Given the historical reality of the Puerto Rican people, she demanded:  “Should we be like lambs marching to the slaughter or should we resist and demand a dignified life?”  Turning to the conflicts between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Venezuela, she pointed out that while the United Nations Charter promoted friendship between nations, economic and political superiority had become the law of the land.  Puerto Ricans must choose sovereignty, she emphasized.
WALTER ALOMAR, Organization for Culture of Hispanic Origins, said the United States Government had intentionally failed to provide support to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, resulting in the worst disaster recovery and relief in Puerto Rico’s history, as well as thousands of deaths.  At the same time, the people had been denied funding to repair their homes and relocation vouchers were being provided to disaster victims, paving the way for gentrification, which was directly tied to colonialism.  As far as the United States Government was concerned, Hurricane Maria was the best thing that could have happened, having forced thousands out of Puerto Rico and exacerbated the already rapid migration of islanders to the mainland.  Following the hurricane, hospitals had been told not to report deaths to the Department of Health because the Government did not want an accurate victim count, he said, describing such actions as abusive, intentional and outrageous.  The conversation about ending colonialism must move beyond conference rooms to allow for real change, he emphasized.  “While Trump is tossing out paper towels to my people, mocking their plight and insulting them, we were coming together and rising up,” he said, pointing to those who cleared roads, cooked meals for entire communities and offered medical care to neighbours.  Puerto Rico may have been knocked down, but it was stronger and more determined than ever, he stressed.
RADHAMES MORALES, Fuerza de la Revolución, recalled specific efforts suffered by the Puerto Rican people — living just miles from his own country, the Dominican Republic — to deprive them of their freedom and identity.  While the world had largely turned away from colonialism, the United States continued to imperialistically dominate the Territory, imposing its minority view and denying Puerto Ricans their rights.  The prestige of many multilateral organizations was falling because they had been unable to ensure respect for human rights treaties, he said, citing the inhumane treatment of the Borinken people after the tragedy of Hurricane Maria, emphasizing:  “Justice will prevail, the Puerto Rican people will be free.”
MARIA DE LOURDES SANTIAGO, Puerto Rican Independence Party, said the Financial Oversight and Management Board — which operated shamelessly like a dictatorship in Puerto Rico — was adding even more salt to the wound, attacking the poorest people on the Territory and making them pay for the problems of colonialism with even more colonialism.  FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and other United States agencies had done little to address the urgent needs of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria, and the President’s flagrant disrespect had been witnessed around the world, she noted.  Efforts had long been under way to eradicate the Territory’s colonial system but the results had been unsatisfactory to date.  Voicing support for the draft resolution before the Special Committee today, she called on the United Nations to ensure a swift decolonization process and Puerto Rico’s right to self‑determination.
AURORA MURIENTE, Committee for Puerto Rico at the United Nations, noted that the United Nations decolonization process was not yet complete after more than seven decades of effort.  Citing the imposition by the United States of fiscal control over Puerto Rico and its long‑standing colonization of the Territory, she recalled that the United States Supreme Court had ruled that governance over Puerto Rico lay with the United States Congress.  That faulty decision had been used to halt attempts to bring the case of Puerto Rico before the United Nations, she said, calling for the Organization’s various bodies — as well as Member States themselves — to promptly discharge their decolonization duties.
WILMA REVERON, National Hostos Movement for the Independence of Puerto Rico, said that the colonial situation in Puerto Rico had submitted its people to a huge humanitarian crisis.  More than the devastation of the hurricanes was the crass disregard for the people, which had caused the death of thousands.  The inaction of the colonial Power had prevented the arrival of critical aid from Cuba and Venezuela, he said, noting that, instead, the United States had given priority to its businesses, acting with complete impunity and “wild capitalism”.  Genocide, repression, the plundering of civil and human rights, death and destruction were rampant, she said, demanding that the United States comply with the principles of self‑determination and sovereignty.
FRANCISCO VELGARA, New York Cuba Solidarity Project, said that Cuba and Puerto Rico had a long history of fighting oppression and colonialism in solidarity since the invasion by the Spanish empire.  The United States had been tightening its hold on Puerto Rico since 2016, with its PROMESA [Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act] law and complete disregard for the population in the face of Hurricane Maria.  Turning to individuals imprisoned for their political beliefs, he said Nina Droz Franco and Ana Belen Montes remained behind bars and his organization was part of a building movement to demand their release.  “I ask this Committee, whose member nations fought for their own independence from brutal colonial subjugation, to stand with use once again, pass a resolution calling for the United States to respect the rule of international law as defined in resolution 1514 (XV) for the decolonization of colonial peoples and territories, and to request that the General Assembly take up the case of Puerto Rico,” he said.  “Let us stand on the right side of history.”
PEDRO CRUZ AYALA, Movimiento Nin Negron, said there was little doubt that Puerto Rico was a colony of the United States.  It lacked control over its basic social services, he said, reiterating the need to bring the situation of Puerto Rico to the General Assembly.  Independent nations of the world must condemn the colonial situation in Puerto Rico and the United States must comply with international law and related resolutions, he emphasized.
OSVALDO TOLEDO GARCÍA, American Association of Jurists, said the current United States Administration had failed to deal with the situation in Puerto Rico.  There were still communities lacking electricity and water, and the situation remained precarious.  The link between poverty and political representation was very clear in Puerto Rico, as was the lack of democracy, he said, citing the situation of political prisoners.  Puerto Rico’s case must be considered and reviewed by the General Assembly, he stressed.
EDUARDO VILLANUEVA, Comite Pro Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico, said Puerto Rico was still under the rule of a dictatorial board that determined how many social services would be cut and how many schools closed.  Neoliberal policies were bordering on genocide, he said, adding that Puerto Rico’s debt was illegal.  The United Nations should send representatives to Puerto Rico to document the poverty, labour violations and gentrification.  “Puerto Rico is being depopulated,” he added, expressing concern that the Territory was losing its culture.  “Donald Trump fears us and is trying to build walls,” he added, emphasizing that any resistance to Puerto Rico’s fiscal control board was now being criminalized.
DARLENE ELIAS, National Co‑Chair, Green Party of the United States, paused for 30 seconds in honour of the thousands of Puerto Ricans who had died after Hurricane Maria in 2017, before asking the United Nations and the United States Government to finally recognize that “colonization is extinction”.  She added:  “The tragedy felt by my people with the hurricanes has been multiplied tenfold by the silence of the United States Government and their inability to act accordingly.”  Indeed, that Government had only sat back, placing bets on how many lives had been lost, and its President had thrown paper towels at Puerto Rican crowds telling them to “clean up their own mess”.  Nations including Cuba and Venezuela had offered assistance, including sending supplies and doctors in the wake of the storm, but the United States had not wanted any interference.  “Puerto Rico and people are not to be treated as some political football game,” she emphasized, pointing out that those who had died after Hurricane Maria were twice the number lost in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.  They were a direct consequence of colonialism, and in that context, the United Nations must move forward by any means necessary to demand Puerto Rico’s decolonization and impose sanctions on the United States if it failed to comply.
NINA DIMARIE VALEDON, Alianza Patria, urged the United States to begin a decolonization process in Puerto Rico and the Special Committee to deploy a visiting mission there.  Promises by the United States Government to protect the island and ensure self‑government had turned sour, she said, noting that “the United States has been drowning us in false promises”.  The recently implemented PROMESA programme was cutting pensions, repealing laws protecting workers and increasing public university costs, she said, adding that the oversight Board it had established was allowed to override Puerto Rican laws and policies.  “The General Assembly must re‑open the case of Puerto Rico” and the United States must be subject to scrutiny for its policies on the island, she stressed, describing that country’s policy as “disaster colonialism” through which it had used Hurricane Maria to purposely displace Puerto Rican residents, including by denying them assistance.
MARIA DE LOURDES GUZMAN, President, Movimiento Union Soberanista, said Puerto Rico remained a colony of the world’s most powerful nation, which continued to operate with complete impunity.  For more than 120 years, the United States had denied Puerto Ricans their own wealth and resources, trying to deceive the United Nations in 1952 with the farce that Puerto Rico had its own governance.  Noting that no such self‑governance existed, she said “insult to injury” had arrived with the creation of the Fiscal Control Board, which had further humiliated the Territory by forcing it to pay back exorbitant debt.  Puerto Rico had long looked to the United States for protection, but instead that country had reaped billions of dollars of profit from the Territory even as its poverty levels continued to rise.  Following Hurricane Maria, thousands had been forced to abandon Puerto Rico and the United States Government had even attempted to hide the number of deaths, she said.  Against that backdrop, she demanded that the issue of Puerto Rico’s decolonization be brought before the General Assembly.
MANUEL ENRIQUE MELENDEZ, Comites de la Resistencia Boricua, described a situation of government corruption and a long‑standing war waged against the Puerto Rican people.  Those policies, aimed at dismantling the island, included the closing of schools, the redesign of curricula, the denial of Puerto Rico’s history, kidnappings, harassment, arbitrary arrests and the deployment of mercenary companies such as Blackwater.  However, there was also a rising struggle to resist those tactics, he said, describing efforts to fight back against the “empire of the conservative right”.  In that context, he expressed hope that the Special Committee would continue to focus on Puerto Rico and that, this year, its annual draft resolution on the situation would include recognition of the Puerto Rican people’s right to resistance.
MADELIN COLON PEREZ, Puerto Rican Coalition against Death Penalty, said that since the nineteenth century, major progress had been made towards globally abolishing the death penalty.  The right to life was inherent and must be protected by law, she emphasized.  The United States had adopted a federal law on the death penalty in 1976 and a large number of capital offences had been introduced at the federal level in 1994.  Noting that Puerto Rico had made up 20 per cent of death penalty cases before the federal court between 2012 and 2014, she said such trials were not trials of one’s peers.  “We do not want the death penalty to be imposed on Puerto Rico by another country,” she stressed, urging the Special Committee to condemn capital punishment as another colonial imposition on Puerto Rico.
KEVIN RIVERA MEDINA, Instituto Puertorriqueno de Relaciones Internacionales, said that Puerto Rico had been patient and would remain tenacious like bamboo until it was finally liberated.  Noting that it had been 120 years since the United States had intervened militarily in Puerto Rico, he urged the United Nations to follow up on the Territory’s decolonialization.  Puerto Rico had done all in its power to change its status.  Noting that austerity was crushing all social services, he said the United States had prevented international assistance after the hurricane and, instead of investing in the recovery process, had worked to make its companies rich.  Patience was bitter but its fruit was sweet, he said, calling on the General Assembly to ensure that Puerto Rico would be successful in its efforts.
EDWIN PAGAN, Generacion 51, said the colonial situation of Puerto Rico was shameful, asking:  “What is the difference between the system of discrimination created in South Africa and the unequal system in Puerto Rico in 2018?”  What was preventing the United Nations from discussing the self‑determination of Puerto Rico?  Its people were suffering from a lack of political representation and those who chose not to act affirmatively would be punished by history, he said.
Mr. SUAREZ (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed that group’s support for the Puerto Rican people’s right to self‑determination and independence, in line with General Assembly resolutions.  Calling for their swift implementation, he expressed hope that the Special Committee would once again approve the annual text on Puerto Rico by consensus.  During their recent meeting, he recalled, Non‑Aligned Movement ministers had reaffirmed their belief that the General Assembly should take up the question of Puerto Rico, as well as their understanding that, due to their current political situation, the Puerto Rican people could not make their own decisions.  They had also reaffirmed the need to deliver humanitarian assistance and restructure Puerto Rico’s debt and expressed concern over the decision by the United States to impose the Fiscal Control Board.  They had urged the administering Power to return Vieques and other islands to the Puerto Rican people and called upon its Government to speed up the process of decolonization, leading to the free exercise of the right to self‑determination.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), recalled all the resolutions on Puerto Rico adopted by the Special Committee, stressing that they all remained a major issue of interest to the Community.  Reiterating the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico, she said CELAC member countries remained committed to working together within the framework of international law, particularly General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), to make Latin America and the Caribbean a region free of colonialism.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) recalled that after the devastating hurricanes of 2017, her country had offered Puerto Ricans solidarity and support that had unfortunately been rejected by the colonial Power.  Noting that Puerto Rico was in no way a state of the United States, she emphasized that it was undoubtedly not free.  Instead, it was subject to clear colonial domination, completely subject to the power of Washington, D.C.  “In other words, it is an American possession — a colonial territory,” she added.  In 2017, she recalled, a farcical, alleged “consultation process” on self‑determination options had been held, with only a minority of voters participating.  Moreover, since the 2017 session, Puerto Rico’s economic and political situation had worsened considerably.  Its public debt now stood at $72 billion, which was impossible to repay, and the United States Government had implemented draconian fiscal control measures.  The cash deficit and the slow response of the colonial Government had amplified the crisis following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, she noted.  Poverty levels had jumped from 45 per cent to about 60 per cent of the population, leading to massive migration and seriously affecting the Territory’s efforts to achieve sustainable economic development.  Recalling that Heads of State of CELAC had recently reiterated the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico, she reiterated Cuba’s own unequivocal commitment to its people, saying it was based on a shared history and common struggle.
LUIS MAURICIO ARANCIBIA FERNÁNDEZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, stressed that the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico was absolute.  The Territory must be able to exercise its right to independence, he added, urging the United States to shoulder its responsibility in that regard.  Puerto Rico must be able to make decisions on matters of employment, education, health and economy.  He urged the United States to pay for the clean‑up of areas used for military testing and other purposes.  Noting with concern issues relating to the distribution of resources following hurricanes Irma and Maria, he said continuing colonialism prevented and severely hindered economic and social development.
Mr. ZAMBRANO (Ecuador), associating himself with CELAC, said that hurricanes Irma and Maria had greatly exacerbated the economic crisis of Puerto Rico, leading to rising poverty levels, mass migration and the severe restriction of economic development.  Reiterating that the Puerto Rican people were Latin American and Caribbean in nature, he urged the United States Government to allow them to exercise fully their inalienable rights.  He also reiterated Ecuador’s commitment to working with the international community to ensure that the Latin America and Caribbean region was free of colonialism.
Mr. ESCOTO GONZALEZ (Nicaragua), associating himself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that his country had fought for many years to win its liberation.  Recalling that the economic crisis and recession affecting Puerto Rico had been intensified by last September’s hurricanes, he said a recent Harvard study had concluded that 4,645 people had died due to a lack of basic services following the hurricane.  Emphasizing the Puerto Rican people’s right to self‑determination, he said that for many decades, the Special Committee had called upon the General Assembly to examine the question of Puerto Rico.
MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed his delegation’s solidarity with the Puerto Rican people, noting that on 25 July, they would mark the 120th anniversary of the United States occupation.  All relevant General Assembly resolutions affirmed the Puerto Rican people’s right to self‑determination, he said, adding that the United States must shoulder its responsibility to begin a process allowing their exercise of that right.
SONG LI (China), expressing support for the draft resolution, voiced his delegation’s hope that it would be adopted by consensus.
MANUEL RIVERA, Puertorriqueños Unidos en Accion, said recent events had led to new challenges in the Puerto Rican people’s fight for sovereignty and decolonization, among them three unprecedented hurricanes.  The first had been Irma, the second Maria, which had caused more than 4,000 deaths and destroyed the Territory’s infrastructures.  The third and most devastating had been the imposition of United States austerity measures, which had exacerbated poverty while increasing the wealth of Wall Street.  The United States Government had capped Law 80 — which protected workers’ rights — while slashing the pensions of such public workers as teachers and raising taxes, the cost of such basic services as water and electricity, and closing public schools.  That was not in line with basic international humanitarian law, he stressed, noting that the United States was placing a variety of obstacles in the way of the Puerto Rican people as they attempted to exercise their right to self‑determination, in accordance with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
LYDAEL VEGA OTERO, Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico, said it was disturbing that despite Puerto Rico’s dire situation, the issue had still not been brought before the General Assembly.  The situation was not a crisis but a result of 120 years of colonial oppression, she said, emphasizing that Puerto Ricans were on the verge of social and economic genocide.  Thousands of residents were leaving every year, and 14 per cent of the population was expected to be lost by 2019.  “A country without culture loses its identity,” she stressed, adding that the lack of power was the core challenge.  “We count on you to achieve decolonization of the oldest colony in the world,” she added.
ANTONIO CAMACHO, Latin-X Law Student Association, said Puerto Rico was under terrorist attack and its people were engaged in an epic political and economic battle.  Natalie Jaresko, President of the United States‑appointed Board, earned more than $500,000, funds taken from Puerto Ricans with the aim of influencing Puerto Rico’s Government.  “This is economic terrorism,” he said, pointing out that the Board had closed schools, increased taxes, manipulated the law and intimidated Puerto Rico’s Government into becoming an instrument of the United States.  He demanded that the Special Committee hold the Trump regime accountable for throwing paper towels to more than 4,624 people who had died after Hurricane Maria.  “This is a way of disposing [of] our race,” he said, demanding that, after 120 years of occupation, the United States regime be held accountable for its oppression.
JOHN STUDER, Socialist Workers Party, said he had met recently with workers, unionists, fishermen and students in Yabucoa, Humacao and other areas hit by Hurricane Maria, who were protesting that, nine months after that disaster, tens of thousands still lacked electricity.  Calling the hurricane’s impact a “social catastrophe created by colonial domination and capitalist rule”, he said the United States‑appointed Fiscal Control Board had slashed jobs, closed schools and increased tuition at the University of Puerto Rico.  Emphasizing that the fight for Puerto Rico’s independence from Washington was in the interests of working people in the United States, he said there was a growing understanding among both nations that the social disaster stemmed from the capitalist system, he said, citing Cuba’s socialist revolution as an example to emulate.
GERMAN RAMOS-SANTIAGO, Consejo Amplio Unitario de Solidaridad y Acción, said that for more than 40 years, Puerto Ricans had petitioned the Special Committee, denouncing the illegal colonization of their land.  The United States defined Puerto Rico as a territory belonging to them, using the immoral and illegal claim to full sovereignty over its people.  They used Puerto Rico as a laboratory for their purposes, including military ones, he said, adding that they also continued to discriminate against, torture and kill Puerto Ricans.  The United States aimed to depopulate Puerto Rico and had imposed the Fiscal Control Board which exercised full control over the Territory in the most arbitrary way, he said, citing the drastic slashing of the pensions of elderly people.  The structural, colonial crisis had a viable solution, he said, urging Member States to support Puerto Rico’s right to its own seat at the United Nations.
MYRNA PAGAN‑GOMEZ, Vidas Viequenses Valen, said “we are pawns in a capitalistic system that is killing us”, adding that Vieques was the colony of a colony that had been hit hard by Hurricane Maria.  Calling upon the United Nations to audit the mounting number of hurricane‑related deaths, she denounced the criminal disregard for the rights of Puerto Ricans by the lame duck Government and the United States Navy in cleaning up a contamination site.  “Now is the time to take the case of Puerto Rico to the United Nations General Assembly,” she emphasized.  “Let us work together to bring peace and justice to Borinquen.”
ALEXANDRA LUGARO, Junte de Mujeres, said she had been the independent candidate for Puerto Rico’s governorship during the last election.  Since 1946, she recalled, the Territory had been discussed at the United Nations, with leaders exposing the colonial nature of the archipelago and its consequences time and time again.  Asking whether the United States truly controlled the United Nations — and whether, as some said, its treaties applied to all States except the United States — she declared:  “We simply cannot understand why this [Special] Committee on Decolonization […] has not been able to get the General Assembly to require the United States, the administering authority, to begin the process of decolonization.”  Citing the administering Power’s severe austerity measures and their negative effects on Puerto Rico, she said the seven individuals making up the unelected Financial Oversight and Management Board were now mortgaging the island’s future.  Puerto Ricans had been made to feel as if they were asking the Special Committee for a favour, but they need not petition it as beggars, she emphasized.  Instead, they should come before the Special Committee and the General Assembly full of pride and indignation.
MARIANA NOGALES-MOLINELLI, President, Partido de Pueblo Trabajador, cited the unequivocally colonial nature of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, and said the Board appointed under the PROMESA law was a violation of international law and the dignity of peoples.  That colonial, despotic oligarchy intervened in the archipelago’s environmental, education, economic and other matters, causing its people to suffer and even pay with their lives.  Noting that the Board enjoyed complete control over Puerto Rico’s budget, she said its individual members stood to benefit from its austerity measures.  “The Board either buries us or removes us from our lands.”  The poverty rate was rising sharply and there had been massive closures of schools without applying any objective criteria, which imperilled the economic future, she warned.
JAVIER TORRES, Brigada Guarionex, describing colonialism in all its forms as a crime, asked how it was possible that, in the twenty‑first century, the United States could get away with committing such a blatant crime?  “They take from us more than they give,” he added.  The massive debt was not Puerto Rico’s debt, but in order to pay it, the Fiscal Control Board was closing schools and cutting basic services.  “We need to be free so then we can accept assistance from other countries,” he emphasized, recalling how the United States had prevented aid from other countries from reaching Puerto Rico during the aftermath of the hurricanes.  The Boricua nation had a right to exercise full sovereignty, he stressed, urging the Special Committee to take action to end the colonization of Puerto Rico.
Ms. RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), Chair of the Special Committee, introduced the draft resolution titled “Decision of the Special Committee of 19 June 2017 concerning Puerto Rico” (document A/AC.109/2018/L.7) in her national capacity.  Noting that its co‑sponsors had drafted the annual text in response to the will of the Puerto Rican people.  As witnessed by the entire world, the draft acknowledged that in the context of the significant worsening of Puerto Rico’s fiscal and economic crisis, its population remained unable to take action to meet its own needs or shape its own future.  The text included concerns over the imposition by the United States Congress of a fiscal control board, which gave it authority over Puerto Rico’s civil servants and legislative elected officials, as well as all economic issues.  It also referred to the outcome of the April 2018 Non‑Aligned Movement Summit, which had expressed concern about the Puerto Rican people’s inability to take action in response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, leading to rising poverty and mass migration.  Among other things, the draft also recognized the outcomes of recent CELAC summits, she said, expressing hope that the Special Committee would approve the text by consensus.
The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.
Ms. RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), Special Committee Chair, said it was significant that the resolution had been adopted by consensus, decisive proof of support for Puerto Rico’s cause.  Emphasizing the need to work towards the decolonization of all peoples, she said the text was a well‑deserved tribute to the many people who fought against colonialism.  Cuba would continue to defend the right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination, she reaffirmed.