15 June 2006

Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Calling on United States to Expedite Puerto Rican Self-Determination Process

Draft Resolution Urges Probe of Pro-Independence Leader's Killing, Human Rights Abuses; Calls for Clean-up, Decontamination of Vieques

(Issued on 13 June 2006.)

NEW YORK, 12 June (UN Headquarters) -- Acting without a vote today, the Special Committee on decolonization approved a draft resolution that calls on the United States to expedite the process to allow Puerto Ricans to exercise fully their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, and return all occupied land and facilities on both Vieques island and Ceiba.

By other terms of that text, sponsored by Cuba, the Committee also expressed its deep concern over the intimidation, repression and other violent acts committed in the last few months against Puerto Rican pro-independence leaders and encourages an investigation into such acts.

After a day-long hearing of petitioners on the Puerto Rico question, the Special Committee approved the text by which the General Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence in line with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and Puerto Rico's status as a part of Latin America with its own national identity.  The Assembly would call on the United States to respect fundamental human rights in Puerto Rico, pay for the clean-up and decontamination of areas of the island affected by United States military activities, and address the ensuing serious environmental and health consequences.

As in previous years, the text before the Special Committee called on the President of the United States to release Puerto Rican political prisoners serving prison sentences for more than 25 years for cases relating to the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico, as well as those serving sentences for cases relating to the Vieques island peace struggle.

Introducing the draft resolution, Cuba's representative said it was increasingly urgent for the General Assembly to carry out a comprehensive review of Puerto Rico's status, adding that the large turnout of petitioners for today's meeting was evidence of great interest in the island's future.  The Non-Aligned Movement had repeatedly expressed its solidarity with the Puerto Rican people and had made an important statement to that effect during its ministerial meeting last May in Malaysia.

Many petitioners speaking supported the text, saying that Puerto Rico's current relationship with the United States was deeply flawed and had stunted the island's socio-economic development and allowed the exploitation of its natural resources by American companies and the United States Navy.  Petitioner after petitioner condemned the assassination of Mr. Ojeda Rios by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

However, several petitioners also endorsed a statement by Juan Mari Bras which found fault with the draft resolution, who said on behalf of the Causa Común Independentista and El Comité Puerto Rico en las Naciones Unidas that the text should not merely express concern over the Mr. Ojeda Rios' murder, but condemn it.  Furthermore, its mention of a December 2005 report by the United States Inter-agency Task Force on Puerto Rico's status, in which the United States claimed Puerto Rico as a Territory under United States congressional authority, should be deleted because that report did not exist.  It was an affront to the national dignity of all Puerto Ricans that their country should continue to be the property of the United States and subjected to the plenary powers of its Congress, which could decide unilaterally to cede Puerto Rico to another foreign country.

Other petitioners -- among them, Julio Fontanet Maldonado of the Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, Angel Ortiz-Guzman of the Pro Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, Aleida Centeno Rodriguez of Puertorriqueñas en Defensa del Patrimonio Nacional, and Ivan Rivera of the Colectivo Autonomista Puertorriqueño -- asked the Special Committee to send a visiting mission to Puerto Rico and hold hearings on the island so as to evaluate the general situation, prevent violations of international law, and guarantee Puerto Rico's transition to independence.

Petitioners participating in the meeting this morning also included representatives of the Partido Independista Puertorriqueño; Movimiento Autonomista Socialdemocrata de Puerto Rico; MINH Zona de Mayagüez; Conferencia Permanente de Partidos Políticos de América Latina y el Caribe; Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Socialist International; American Association of Jurists; Puerto Rican Nationalist Party; Coordinadora Nacional Rompiendo el Perímetro; ProLibertad Freedom Campaign; and Vieques, Si!.

Speakers this afternoon included petitioners representing:  U.S. Citizens from Puerto Rico, Inc.; Gran Oriente Nacional de Puerto Rico; United for Vieques, Puerto Rico, Inc.; Vieques Support Campaign; Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH); Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration; Consejo Nacional para la Descolonización; Socialist Workers Party; Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico; Popular Democratic Party; Asociación Estudiantes Hostosianos por La Independencia; Puertorriqueños Antes la Onu, Inc.; Centro Literario Anacona; Acción Civil para el Status de Puerto Rico, Inc.; Fundación Acción Democrática Puertorriqueña; Nacional Advancement for Puerto Rican Cultures; and Ithaca Catholic Worker Vieques Support Group.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Cuba, Iran and Venezuela.

The Special Committee on decolonization will meet again tomorrow, 13 June, to continue hear more petitioners on the question of Puerto Rico.


The Special Committee on decolonization had before it a report (document A/AC.109/2006/L.3) that highlights Puerto Rico's general constitutional and political status, reviews recent political, economic and military developments in the Territory, and outlines previous action taken by the United Nations, including by the Special Committee.

Also before it was a draft resolution on the Special Committee decision of 13 June 2005 concerning Puerto Rico (document A/AC.109/2006/L.7), by which the Committee would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence, and call upon the United States to expedite a process that would allow the full exercise of that right.

Further by that text, the Committee would express serious concern regarding actions carried out against Puerto Rican independence fighters in the last few months, and encourage an investigation of those actions.  It would urge the United States to return the occupied land and installations on Vieques Island and in Ceiba to Puerto Rico; respect fundamental human rights; assume responsibility for the costs of cleaning up and decontaminating the impact areas previously used in military exercises; and address the serious consequences of its military activity for the health of the inhabitants of Vieques and the environment.

The draft would further have the Committee request the President of the United States to release all Puerto Rican political prisoners serving sentences of over 25 years for cases relating to the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico, as well as those serving sentences for cases relating to the Vieques Island peace struggle.

Introductory Remarks by Chairman

Special Committee Chairman JULIAN R. HUNTE (Saint Lucia) said 40 requests for hearing had been received, double the number heard last year, and the Special Committee had, thus far, adopted 24 resolutions and decisions on the question of Puerto Rico.  That indicated the Special Committee's sustained interest in Puerto Rico's constitutional and political evolution process.

He said the Special Committee had studied the White House Task Force Report on Puerto Rico released last December, which presented certain perspectives on Puerto Rico's evolution and future options.  It had also reviewed the June 2005 report of the United States Congressional Research Service, Political Status of Puerto Rico:  Background, Options and Issues.  Recently, the Committee had reviewed several bills before the United States House of Representatives on the Territory's political evolution and had noted with interest the views expressed during the April hearings of the House of Representatives Committee on Resources.

Over the years, the Special Committee had benefited from hearing the enlightening views and perspectives of various political parties, as well as civil society and other groups, he said, and looked forward to hearing the petitioners' updates on Puerto Rico's present situation.  Such updates would help Member States better understand the situation on the ground and make appropriate recommendations on the way forward.

Petitioners' Statements

JULIO E. FONTANET MALDONADO, Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, said he was once again appearing before the Special Committee to denounce the colonial situation in Puerto Rico.  Last year, he had asked the Special Committee to refer the case to the General Assembly and stressed the need to use a constitutional assembly as the mechanism for decolonization.  Today, it was more necessary than ever to repeat that request.  The United States had demonstrated a lack of will in dealing with the issue.  In a December 2005 White House report on Puerto Rico's status, the only coherent conclusion was that Puerto Rico was still a Territory, which constituted a recognition of the false representation that the United States had made before the United Nations, resulting in Puerto Rico's exclusion from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories in 1953.  The report recommended a plebiscite, authorized by the Federal Government, whereby people would be asked if they wished to follow a constitutional avenue in determining their status.

He said that did not comply with United Nations resolutions because it would start in Congress, rather than with the people of Puerto Rico.  If any programmes came up, the congressional bill would also have federal courts deal with any issues, not Puerto Rican tribunals.  Self-sufficiency was also recognized as belonging to the Government, rather than the people of Puerto Rico.  In recent months, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had infringed on the rights of the Puerto Rican people.  On 23 February 2005, members of that Bureau had shot and killed 72-year-old activist Filiberto Ojeda Rios, and all attempts to identify those involved had been prevented by the Federal Government.

It was important to restate the urgent need for the case of Puerto Rico to be brought to the General Assembly plenary and to promote a constitutional assembly as an ideal process for decolonization, he said.  There was also a need for a mission to visit Puerto Rico.  "We are tired and fed up with the situation.  It is shameful for the international community."

ANGEL ORTIZ-GUZMAN, Pro Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (PROELA), said that, despite the Special Committee's 24 resolutions on the status of Puerto Rico, there had been no movement on the part of the United States to advance the decolonization process.  It was time to invoke the United Nations Charter and have the United States take the necessary action.  The Special Committee should conduct a visiting mission to Puerto Rico and hold hearings on the island, as it had done last year in Bermuda.  It should do the same in Puerto Rico in order to get a real sense of the Territory's status.  The PROELA supported a constitutional assembly on Puerto Rico's status, rejected all forms of colonialism and solutions that did not comply with international law, supported the right to self-determination and sovereignty, and defended free association as a formula to achieve that sovereignty.

Puerto Rico's socio-economic situation was very precarious, he continued, noting that the United States was preventing it from achieving sustainable development by forbidding the Territory from becoming an observer in international organizations.  In his June 2003 letter, then Deputy Secretary of State James Swigert had opposed Puerto Rico's intention to join the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) as an associate member.  Note verbale 871 of 20 May 2003, sent by the United States Embassy in Panama to all members of the Central American Integration System (SICA), called on all embassies to recognize the United States Government as being solely responsible for Puerto Rican affairs and stated that any visits of high-level Puerto Rican officials should not be considered as visits by Heads of State.  The note verbale further said that it was not appropriate to allow Puerto Rico to become a member or observer of an international organization where members and observers were sovereign States.  The 22 December 2005 report of the Inter-agency Work Group clearly demonstrated that the United States continued to give Puerto Rico colonial and territorial treatment 54 years after its establishment.

Calling for action, he said Puerto Rico's national dignity and economical survival depended on the case being taken to the General Assembly and reiterated the right of Puerto Ricans to review a request that examined their future statues.  The United States Government should be obliged to initiate and support the exercise by Puerto Ricans of their inalienable rights.

FERNANDO J. MARTIN-GARCIA, Partido Independista Puertorriqueño, said the independence of Puerto Rico was the one remaining part of the independence congress convened by Simon Bolivar in 1836 that had yet to be addressed.  The Bolivarian ideal of Puerto Rican independence was an issue for Latin American principles, going far beyond any electoral issues, and United States politicians should not be expressing preferences regarding the people of Puerto Rico.

He said the White House inter-agency report of December 2005 said Puerto Rico continued to be a territorial possession subject to the plenary power of Congress, in other words, a colony.  The fact that the Puerto Rican people favoured decolonization was not in doubt.  There was a need to recognize that Puerto Rico was still a colony, and that there was a trend for Latin American nations to discover their solidarity and resent the colonialism governing Puerto Rico.

Repudiating the constitution that the governing party was defending, he said it refused to define Puerto Rico's status as "colonial".  It was outrageous that they had come to the Special Committee to defend colonization.  Colonialism in Puerto Rico was not just a fundamental violation of human rights; it was also an economic straitjacket perpetuating underdevelopment and marginalizing Puerto Ricans.

ALEIDA CENTENO RODRIGUEZ, Puertorriqueñas en Defensa del Patrimonio Nacional, denounced the United States for using Puerto Rico as a military base to avoid its responsibility under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Also, although the United Nations had stated that two thirds of the world population would not have access to potable water by 2025, the United States had enacted a series of laws allegedly to protect Puerto Rico's water resources, including the Caribbean National Forest Wild and Scenic River Act, which gave the United States first rights to the water in that area, and the Caribbean National Forest Wilderness Act.  Both acts were opposed by the Puerto Rican people.  Further, the United States had used the Revised Land and Resource Management Plan to authorize use of the land and resources, which had resulted in the dumping of residue and equipment, as well as chemical and biological changes.

Other United States laws permitted the entry of the National Nuclear Security Administration and created exclusivity in its favour for research, she said.  They also authorized the installation of nuclear production facilities by the United States Department of Energy.  Those laws violated Puerto Rico's right to decide whether to accept those facilities on its Territory.  Furthermore, the United States Senate had before it a bill that would allow it to claim rights to all rivers in northern Puerto Rico under the Puerto Rico Karst Conservation Act.  The Special Committee should also scrutinize the degrading, inhuman treatment of Puerto Ricans by the United States, whose presence on the island was part of its imperialist expansion begun in 1898.  The Special Committee should send a visiting mission to evaluate such activities, prevent violations of international law, and guarantee Puerto Rico's transition to independence.

IVAN RIVERA, Colectivo Autonomista Puertorriqueño, said different groups had come before the Special Committee to offer various points of view on the Puerto Rican situation.  Despite the different ideological perspectives of each one, the common theme was the hope for the creation of a nation and for a clear process of self-determination.  Puerto Rico's lack of political and economic independence must be addressed, as its people had not been able to make their right to self-determination a reality.  In the United States, there had been attempts to take over the debate on the issue, as well as projects designed to redirect the will of the Puerto Rican people.

He said the inter-agency working group named at the end of 2005, far from fulfilling the responsibilities of the United States Government, could be used to impose whatever the United States wished, including the possibility of ceding Puerto Rico to any other country.  The ongoing silence of the United States Government was such that the few cases during which it had been broken had been used tacitly to establish its dominance over Puerto Rico.  The United States was denying millions of Puerto Rican nationals the right to determine their political future and also put them at risk of losing their human rights.  Given its juridical ambiguity, the issue of Puerto Rico should be raised to the plenary level of the General Assembly.  Hearings should also be held in Puerto Rico.

GUSTAVO CARVAJAL, Conferencia Permanente de Partidos Políticos de América Latina y el Caribe (COPPAL), said that, although colonization had been extinguished in most parts of the world, some 4 million citizens of Puerto Rico did not enjoy their right to self-determination.  During the twentieth century, the United States had used Puerto Rico as a political bastion to protect its access to the Panama Canal and did not view Puerto Rican independence as being in its geopolitical interests.  But Puerto Ricans spoke Spanish and were part of Latin America.  The Puerto Rican independence movement was proof of the population's firmness and determination.  The time was ripe for decolonization, particularly since the island's strategic importance for the United States had disappeared after the end of the cold war and since the Panama Canal was now under Panamanian control.

He asked the Special Committee to take note of last December's report by the United States Inter-agency Task Force, which marked the first time that the Executive Branch had formally recognized Puerto Rico as a non-incorporated territory and that such status was transitory.  Further, the report proposed a vote for the Puerto Rican people to express their determination to end their political subordination.  The report had led to a number of bipartisan measures in the United States Congress.  It was incumbent upon the Puerto Rican people to exercise their own right to self-determination under General Assembly resolution 1514, but the international community also had a responsibility to facilitate the exercise of that right.  The Special Committee must restate the need for the General Assembly to take up the case of Puerto Rico.  In 1953, the United States Government had requested that the United Nations exclude Puerto Rico from the list of countries under colonial rule.  Mexico had opposed that request.  The COPPAL urged the Special Committee to adopt a resolution mandating the General Assembly to reassess Puerto Rico's status and reaffirm its independence, as well as the United States' obligations.

RAUL ALFANSIN, Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Socialist International, said Puerto Rico was a Latin American nation whose independence had been on the Latin American agenda since the beginning of the nineteenth century.  Speaking as an Argentine and as a firm defender of democracy, he demanded Puerto Rico's independence with the same fervour with which he claimed the undeniable right of Argentina to the Malvinas.  Colonialism, by any definition, was a violation of democracy whose fundamental principle was the right of people to participate in the governments and agencies that governed their lives.  A foreign congress dictated the laws that governed Puerto Rico.

He said he was satisfied that steps were being taken in the United States to deal with the Puerto Rico issue.  It had formally been acknowledged that Puerto Rico was a Non-Self-Governing Territory, and steps should be taken to do away with that status.  Bills had been introduced in the United States House of Representatives and Senate to achieve those goals.  There were differences over what Puerto Rico's ultimate status should be, but the Socialist International acknowledged that that decision was incumbent on the Puerto Rican people, and supported independence for Puerto Rico, following more than a century of United States colonialism.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba), introducing the draft resolution on the Special Committee decision of 13 June 2005 concerning Puerto Rico (document A/AC.109/2006/L.7), said that today's large turnout was evidence of the great interest in Puerto Rico's future.  The people of Puerto Rico still could not exercise their legitimate right to self-determination because the United States continued its attempts to reaffirm its economic, political and social domination over the Territory.  The United Nations had stated clearly in its 24 resolutions over the past years, which reaffirmed General Assembly resolution 1514, that the United States must honour the process of allowing the Puerto Rican people to exercise their inalienable rights.  Puerto Rico was and would continue to be a Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own national identity.

He said the draft resolution urged the United States to give back all land occupied on the Vieques island and facilities in both Vieques and Ceiba, to pay for and undertake the cost of cleaning up and decontaminating the affected areas, and to be accountable for the serious environmental and health consequences there resulting from its military activity.  The Non-aligned Movement had repeatedly expressed its solidarity with the Puerto Rican people, and, in that context, the draft noted the important statements made during the final document of the Non-Aligned Movements Ministerial Meeting held last May in Malaysia.

The draft resolution expressed the Special Committee's deep concern for the violent acts, including intimidation and repression, that had been committed in the last few months against Puerto Rican pro-independence representatives, he said.  It urged an investigation into those acts, including the 23 September assassination of pro-independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios in an operation executed by FBI agents.  The 75-year-old had been wounded and left to bleed to death.  The raid on him and countless other pro-independence leaders carried out by federal agents had sparked a wave of repudiation by the Puerto Rican people.  As in previous years, this year's draft asked the United States President to release Puerto Rican political prisoners who had been serving prison sentences during the last 25 years due to their call for Puerto Rican independence and their protests of the United States presence in Vieques.

The need for the General Assembly to comprehensively review the situation was increasingly urgent, he said, expressing the hope that the Special Committee could submit the Puerto Rico case directly to the General Assembly. While the delegations of Cuba and Venezuela would have preferred changes and additions to some of the text, the draft did include important new elements, nonetheless.  In the interest of consensus, those delegations had agreed to the text in its current form.

Continuation of Petitioners' Statements

VANESSA RAMOS, American Association of Jurists, said the group was firmly committed to eradicating colonialism, and expressed the hope that the General Assembly would include the issue of Puerto Rico on its agenda.  The United States should stop the bombardment and war exercises on Vieques, and also take on the full cost of cleaning and decontaminating the island's water of the toxic materials that were causing significant health problems.  All lands in Vieques should be returned in such a way that they benefited the people of Puerto Rico, not transnational corporations.

She said recent police actions pointed to the colonial nature of Puerto Rico.  The Untied States had systematically persecuted members of independence groups, and the recent attack on Filiberto Ojeda Rios involving more than 100 people was a military action, not police activity.  It was clear that the FBI's objective had not been to arrest, but to kill. The association energetically repudiated that crime and requested the arrest and trial of those responsible.  It also called on the President of the United States to make a humanitarian gesture by freeing Puerto Rican prisoners in American prisons.

JUAN MARI BRAS, Causa Común Independentista and El Comité Puerto Rico en las Naciones Unidas (COPRONU), said that the Causa Común's first education project had begun in 1989 and involved monitoring discussion of the colonial case of Puerto Rico in the United Nations for more than 30 years.  A group of Puerto Rican international law students, who were attending the Special Committee for the first time, had examined the draft of 6 June 2006 and proposed three amendments to the document.  They felt preambular paragraph 7 should be deleted because it was not correct to say that the Inter-agency Task Force on Puerto Rico's status "designated by the President of the United States which submitted the report of  22 of December 2005 affirmed that Puerto Rico was a Territory subjected to United States congressional authority", because no such report existed.  The United States President's spokespeople had publicly acknowledged that he had not even read the report mentioned in the draft resolution.  That was proof of manipulation by the most colonialist sector in Washington.

He said it was an offence to the national dignity of all Puerto Ricans that their country should continue to be the property of the United States and subject to the plenary powers of Congress, so much so that that body could unilaterally decide to cede Puerto Rico to another foreign country.  That outrageous statement should not be in the Special Committee's draft resolution, nor should the Special Committee recognize the United States report.  The draft resolution should condemn the assassination of Filiberto Ojeda Rios and not merely state its serious concern over it.  The COPRONU proposed "expresses the urgency" rather than "reiterates again the hope of the General Assembly", to examine the case of Puerto Rico.  After 34 years, the Puerto Rican people's right to self-determination was absolutely urgent.

JOSE CASTILLO, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, said the group had appeared in the past to denounce colonialism in Puerto Rico and hoped the Special Committee would show its commitment to the island's struggle for self-determination, so that it could join the United Nations in its own right.  The Special Committee and its resolutions on Puerto Rico were indispensable instruments.

He called upon the United States Government to assure the Puerto Rican people of their right to self-determination and human rights and immediately cease the persecution, arrests, and murders perpetrated against independence fighters.  Vieques peace activists must be freed immediately, and the FBI's electronic surveillance and continued harassment of independence fighters must be stopped.  The United States must also end its actions against basic human rights while fully implementing the United Nations resolution calling for a constituent assembly to begin decolonization.

Puerto Rico had its own national identity, he said, adding that, since its 1898 invasion, the United States had tried to destroy the nationality of Puerto Rican people.  It kept Puerto Rico in isolation, maintaining it as private corporation from which it earned billions a year.  That exploitation had made foreigners richer and the Puerto Rican people poorer.  The fact that Puerto Rico was the last territory in the world could not be hidden.  Violation of rights there would cease only once it was a free and independent nation.  The United States must provide compensation for what it had done to Puerto Rico's land and people.

NESTOR DUPREY SALGADO, Movimiento Autonomista Socialdemocrata de Puerto Rico, said the group had outlined 10 principles for a new pact of free association between Puerto Rico and the United states, taking into account General Assembly resolution 1514 and the 12 September 1978 resolution of the Special Committee, as well as the constitutional experience of the United States and the historical aspirations for Puerto Rican autonomy.  That called for negotiating a new pact or association treaty between the United States, and Puerto Rico which could only be amended with the consent of both sides.  It also called for giving Puerto Rico full sovereignty rights except in areas that the pact had authorized for the United States.  The pact, among other things, would also require that the United States provide economic and technical support to help Puerto Rico develop economically and achieve self-sufficiency.

He said that the December 2005 Inter-agency Committee created by the United States President to review the issue of Puerto Rico had made statements that culminated in an attitude of scorn towards the Puerto Rican people and their call for changes to their island's status.  Resolution 748 (1953) showed the growing influence of the United States in Puerto Rico.  The non-compliance of the United States of the 1967, 1975 and 1995 calls for development of the free associated State and the fact that the Special Committee continued to maintain jurisdiction over the case of Puerto Rico had made the United States-Puerto Rican relationship a colonial one, which must end.  The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico and the United States Congress had yet to see legislation that would give the Puerto Rican people a vote and voice that would determine their future.  Although it was incumbent on Puerto Ricans to decide their future status, the international community could not be absent from that debate.  The General Assembly should examine the cases, and the Committee, with the support of most Latin American and European Governments, should back that demand.  The 1950 step towards decolonization was insufficient and inconclusive.

EDGARDO OJEDA SERRANO, MINH Zona de Mayaguez, saying that he represented the family of Filiberto Ojeda Rios and others who had suffered the violent assassination of a man who had led the independence movement -- his beloved father -- said he appeared before the Special Committee to denounce one of the clearest acts that a colony could suffer:  an extrajudicial, immensely barbarous murder.  Without a doubt, the execution of Ojeda Rios had been ordered at the highest levels of the United States Government.  Unable to receive medical or legal aid, he had been allowed to bleed to death, and a journalist who had witnessed the whole thing had been told to deny it.

The assassination had uncovered a vicious cycle of State terrorism by the United States Government, and in the months since the death of Ojeda Rios, no investigations had reached any official conclusion, he said.  The federal prosecutor and the FBI had recently said that documents in the case could not be disseminated under the Freedom of Information Act.

He said he had not come to cry over the dead, but to demand justice and the right of a nation to freedom and control of its economy, diplomacy and culture, as well as to demand that United States Homeland Security cease its constant persecution of him.  There was no reason why he should require authorization from Washington, D.C., in order to travel since he was not a terrorist, but the proud son of a martyr.  "Filiberto lives.  Long live a free and sovereign Puerto Rico."

MIGUEL SANCHEZ RIVERA, Coordinadora Nacional Rompiendo El Perimetro, said that he was a shoemaker who represented a regional group formed following the 23 September assassination by FBI agents of Filiberto Ojeda Rios.  The general in charge of the Boricua Popular Army-Los Macheteros had formed it to denounce the assassination, to call for a full investigation and to alert independence activists to political repression.  Three of the four nationals jailed for attacks against the United States Congress were from the western part of Puerto Rico, which had been the seat of much intense activism and subsequent political oppression by United States authorities.  The group's objective was to exhaust all available resources to reject and end that oppression, and many of its members were in United States prisons serving extreme sentences that were offensive.  One such comrade, Antonio Camacho, was being drugged in prison to prevent him from understanding the physical and psychological abuse to which he was being subjected.  Such abuse of prisoners was unjustifiable under United States and international law.

Following the murder of Mr. Ojeda Rios, independence fighters had been subjected to intimidation and interrogations, he said.  The message to them was clear:  independence was considered a danger and something to be kept under control.  Such actions created a climate of insecurity.  There must be a full transfer of power and a total withdrawal of the FBI and other repressive forces from Puerto Rico.  The Department of Justice had not cooperated in the investigation of the murder, and, without providing any evidence, the FBI had stated that its investigation of independence fighters was intended to uncover a complex terrorist plan against public and private property.  The independence fighters were not terrorists, but they continued to be harassed and, with little support from the Puerto Rican authorities, were left with no other alternative than to firmly denounce the United States Government's criminal acts.  The General Assembly should take up the matter and call for an end to such repression and for the eradication of colonialism.

BENJAMIN RAMOS ROSADO, ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, said the group was working to secure the freedom of Puerto Rican political prisoners and the decolonization of Puerto Rico.  Imprisonment of people for their political convictions as part of an ongoing independence struggle was an international human rights violation and an act of repression.  Puerto Ricans were second class citizens who could not vote in presidential elections and who had no representation in the United States Congress.  American citizenship had been imposed on them, but Puerto Ricans were denied the basic rights that early Americans had fought a revolutionary war to possess.  Puerto Rico's current fiscal crisis was deeply rooted in the United States Government's manipulation of its economy and business.  When Puerto Ricans became too much of a threat to the status quo, they were either assassinated or incarcerated.

Making the case for the remaining five Puerto Rican political prisoners, three of whom had been incarcerated for 25 years, he said the prisoners were community activists, professionals, mothers, fathers and grandparents who found Puerto Rico's colonial reality intolerable and unacceptable.  As international citizens, they had the right to confront the United States Government.  When they had been captured in April 1980, they had invoked prisoner-of-war status and argued that United States courts had no jurisdiction.  They had petitioned to go before an impartial international court, but the United States had not recognized the request and had tried them anyway, imposing punitive and excessive sentences.  While in prison, the prisoners had been tortured, raped, denied medical treatment, held in solitary confinement and denied counsel, all in direct violation of international norms.

The United States considered itself a bastion of democracy and freedom, yet it was currently occupying Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Afghanistan and several other countries, he said.  It was ironic that a country that had fought for its independence and self-determination against a colonizing Power would use the same methods of repression against other peoples.  The United Nations must take immediate action to end the colonial occupation of Puerto Rico, meet the demands of the people of Vieques, and set forth the unconditional release of all the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners.

ISMAEL GUADALUPE ORTIZ, Vieques, Si!, said that, although the United States Navy had left Vieques on 1 May 2003, no court in Puerto Rico was able to attend to the thousands of abuses against Puerto Ricans, claiming it was beyond their jurisdiction.  Just as pathetic was Puerto Rico's colonial legislature.  No agency, government branch or government department could force the United States Navy to comply.  Moreover, the Navy's presence was still felt in the thousands of bomb craters, in the toxic materials dumped on land and in the sea and in the skin diseases, cancers and respiratory problems.  The Navy also controlled the clean-up process, and the Restoration Advisory Board that was supposed to include room for public participation was led by the military, which had decision power over its more fundamental aspects, over which the Puerto Rican Government had little control.  The Navy was detonating bombs as part of the clean-up process despite the Board's objections, but the Navy refused to use alternative, less toxic methods.  From August 2005 to June 2006, a total of 66 detonations had taken place, totalling 20 tons of explosives that had increased the level of pollutants in the atmosphere.  People were not being well informed about that.

Furthermore, the Navy's measures to avoid accidents among fisherman were not sufficient, he said.  The United States Coast Guard did not give fishermen sufficient warning of its denotations and the Navy notified the Federal Aviation Administration, the environmental regulatory agencies and the municipal government only three days ahead of time, and refused to put up warning notices in the public areas of Vieques, fearing that civil disobedience might paralyse the detonations.  The Navy was not interested in doing any more environmental clean-up and looked to spend the least money possible on decontamination.  The colonial Government's Department of Health had been slow to conduct a civil study to determine levels of contamination, and neither the Navy nor the Department of Health had set up treatment for sick people or acquired equipment for special medical conditions, such as dialysis.  There were no education programmes on the health impact on Vieques or epidemiological monitoring programmes in the community.  The cancer rate in Vieques was 50 per cent higher than that in other parts of Puerto Rico.  The Special Committee should reiterate its resolutions regarding the need for a clean-up of the environment in Vieques, to turn over remaining lands, to give medical treatment to the sick, and to free political prisoners.

MIRIAM RAMIREZ, U.S. Citizens from Puerto Rico, Inc., said it was totally wrong to say Puerto Rico was self-governing, while the reality was that the United States Congress ruled Puerto Rico and applied its laws at its whim.  Out of more than 500 proposed bills during the current Congress that included Puerto Rico, not once had Puerto Rico been asked for its consent.  At least the executive branch of the United States Government understood the issue and had suggested corrective actions.  The President's Task Force had made appropriate recommendations regarding the political problems facing Puerto Rico, and the Executive Branch was on record as supporting congressionally sanctioned referendums aimed at ending Puerto Rico's territorial status and asking Puerto Ricans if they wished to end their territorial status or remain under the unilateral control of Congress.

She said Congress would not take action owing to lobbying on behalf of multinational companies that were in Puerto Rico to do tax-free business.  They would do anything to ensure that their congressionally mandated tropical tax haven remained intact, so they spent millions on lobbyists to derail any changes.  For proof, one needed look no further than the representative sent to the Special Committee today by Puerto Rico's territorial governor.  An attorney in private practice, he was employed by the very companies which made billions of tax-free dollars in Puerto Rico.  He spoke for them, to the detriment of millions of island residents, and for the native territorial elite who benefited mightily from Puerto Rico's territorial status and used its economic heft to push the status quo forward, even as living standards on the island deteriorated and social conditions became intolerable.  The New Progressive Party to which she belonged had attempted to rectify Puerto Rico's territorial problem, and its reward had been a vicious, relentless and brutal persecution of its leadership.  The only solution was for the Special Committee to call on Congress to immediately end Puerto Rico's territorial status.

RENE TORRES PLATET, Gran Oriente Nacional de Puerto Rico, said there was no justification for maintaining the colonial status of Puerto Rico, nor for preventing the General Assembly from taking up the case.  In order to sustain economic development, Puerto Rico had incurred immense financial debt from international lenders which had caused severe hardship in the country.  The intervening Power continued to make false offers for a final definition of status, but the White House Inter-agency Task Force's report revealed that the United States continued to crush Puerto Rico, increase the interest rate, intimidate people who fought for social change, and step up repressive measures against Puerto Rican political prisoners.

He reaffirmed the right of the Puerto Rican people to true self-determination, saying that the current colonial model was totally obsolete.  Each year that passed since the Special Committee's assumption of jurisdiction over the case of Puerto Rico had worsened the reality for Puerto Ricans.  Globalization had made it essential for people to have the necessary force to confront their present challenges.  A colonial model of government was not sustainable, and the people of Puerto Rico must have the right to self-determination.  The United States must immediately recognize the process adopted by the Puerto Rican people to exercise that right, immediately free political prisoners, and cease repressive acts against them.  The assassination of Filiberto Ojeda Rios must be condemned.

FRANCISCO VELGARA, Vieques Support Campaign, said that the island continued to stand out as the most bold-faced example of the destruction and devastation that had historically characterized colonialism.  Today, the bombing range in Vieques was closed, yet the very lives and livelihood of the people there remained in great peril.  The United States continued to do everything it could to avoid cleaning up the contamination of the land.  The military presence remained, as did its political influence.  Through public buyouts and back-room negotiations with the ruling Popular Democratic Party, United States hotel chains and developers were stealing the future of the people of Vieques and the generations to come.

He said that, in the past week, the United States Navy had admitted to detonating 20 tons of explosives in Vieques in recent months, releasing large quantities of contaminants.  It had then had the audacity to claim to be part of the environmental clean-up.  Under any norms of international law and the environmental protections afforded people in many countries, those activities could only be characterized as criminal and genocide.  United States federal agencies charged with protecting the environment and public health were complicit with the colonial Government in what was clearly a military, economic and health threat.  The cancer rate in Vieques, for example, was significantly higher than on the main island of Puerto Rico.

Vieques was also plagued by an unprecedented land-grab, spearheaded by United States corporate and real estate interests, he said.  That was fuelling forced emigration by Viequenses, as well as alarming rates of unemployment and underemployment.  The aerial bombings had ceased, and the firing range had been closed, yet the civilian population on the island continued to live in a vast death trap, which could only be described as "genocide on the instalment plan".  Under the cloak of the "war against terrorism", the continued colonization of the Puerto Rican nation and the dire situation in Vieques were being systematically ignored by the colonizing Power.

He said the people of Puerto Rico demanded their inalienable right to decolonization and urged the Special Committee to address the growing repression of the independence movement, as well as the blatant political assassination of pro-independence fighter Filiberto Ojeda Rios.  Puerto Rican political prisoners must be freed, and the Special Committee must examine the need to bring the colonial case of Puerto Rico before the General Assembly.

BETTY "COQUI" BRASSELL, United for Vieques, Puerto Rico, Inc., said that, three years after the bombing there had stopped, the people of Vieques continued to suffer the aftermath of that and other military practices.  The Navy continued to explode bombs that remained on the land, releasing the same contaminants and poisonous elements as before.  The clean-up had been stalled time and again, and the people of Vieques had been left out of the decision-making process.  After a study, the United States Navy had concluded that it was not required to decontaminate the western end of Vieques.  The Navy also still had the Rothar Radar on the island, which was powerful enough to alter weather patterns.  The people of Vieques had been shut out of decision-making regarding the use of the land now under the control of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.  That land had been fenced off and the community denied access.

She said the economy was in worse shape than three years ago.  Developers and private land speculators were buying up homes, land and business at inflated prices in order to gentrify the entire island in as short a period as possible.  Viequenses were having more difficulties accessing their own beachfront areas and were also dealing with increasing unemployment and rising prices for food and other consumer goods.  Because of the worsening economic conditions in Vieques, emigration had been rising and, at the same time, there was an increase in the arrival of non-Viequenses, especially companies dealing in real estate, tourist, hotels and other fields and that were based in the  United States.  The members of the Special Committee should stand with the people of Vieques in calling for the complete demilitarization of the island, the clean-up and decontamination of its land and waters, the return of the land that rightfully belonged to the people of Vieques, support for their right to develop an economy by and for their own benefit, and an end to the land-grab and the forced migration of its people.

HECTOR PESQUERA SEVILLANO, Movimiento Independista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH), noting that the treatment of Puerto Rico by the United States had worsened in the last year, said pro-independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios had been left to bleed for several hours without treatment and when, as a medical doctor, he had demanded to be allowed to give him medical assistance, FBI agents had forbidden him from doing so in flagrant violation of the fundamental right of all people to receive medical treatment.  In the past several months, FBI interrogations had continued and the head of the Bureau had refused to cooperate with the Government's investigation into such incidents.

Puerto Rico's economy was being strangled by coastal shipping laws that forced local shippers to transport everything on and off the island in American merchant ships, which were the most expensive in the world, he said.  The 20 per cent imperial tax on shipping had been detrimental to the Puerto Rican economy for decades.  The pro-independence movement was fighting against the world's strongest imperial force.  The free nations of the world should support the independence movement by taking up the question of Puerto Rico as a separate agenda item and by supporting the creation of a new relationship between the island and the United States, based on respect and equality.

He said he could not support the Inter-agency Task Force report's mention of annexation as an option for the United States.  Although at first it might seem positive that Puerto Rico continued to be under the plenary power of the United States Congress, the report as a whole contradicted the Special Committee's resolutions as the initiation of any decolonization process should be based on the free will of the Puerto Rican people.  The report gave the false impression that annexation was a decolonization option.  Under the three decolonization formulas, the people could choose independence, free association with the administering Power or free integration of the Territory into another nation with the option to withdraw at a later date.  Annexation without any right to withdraw would, in effect, be colonialism.  All Puerto Rican prisoners must be freed immediately and, the Special Committee's draft resolution should exclude any reference to the Inter-agency Task Force report.

EDUARDO BHATIA, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, reaffirmed that Puerto Rico was a nation with its own identity and culture that was associated with the United States>  It had forged a model of self-government with an advanced constitution, and, while having evolved over the last decades, needed to evolve more in its relations with the United States.  That evolution must be based on mutual respect, but a recent, shameful report from the Inter-agency Task Force had been repudiated as a crass attempt by those who wanted to make Puerto Rico the fifty-first state.  The report concluded that the United States could cede Puerto Rico to another country, or arbitrarily deprive its people of citizenship, even if they lived in the United States.  That report gave the impression that the United States had hoodwinked the world into believing that their relationship was based on mutual consent.  The political pamphlet was probably the most distorted report on Puerto Rico ever seen.  The Special Committee, the General Assembly, and all Member States should demand an explanation from the United States.

He said there were currently two bills in the United States Congress, both designed to achieve annexation through lies.  Democracy could not be half-baked, and the people should not be held to pre-determined mechanisms.  A measure proposed by Puerto Rico's governor would not make United States congressional support a prerequisite for convening the convention in Puerto Rico.  Delegates from Puerto Rico would have the option of choosing between a new or amended convention, admission as a state, or independence.  If the self-determination proposal was not approved by the people of Puerto Rico or by the United States Congress, then a new constitutional convention would be convened with new delegates.  It could stay in session until a proposal was reached.  The Special Committee and the United Nations should join in supporting the will of the people.

RAMON NENADICH, Consejo Nacional para la Descolonización (CONADE), said the United States' control over Puerto Rico since 1898 had served only its own interests and to exploit Puerto Rico's  natural resources.  It was nothing more than modern slavery in which the Territory supplied cheap labour for the colonial Power's enterprises.  The United States President's Task Force report of December 2005 stated that Puerto Rico was, for purposes of the United States, a Territory subject to United States congressional authority.  That violated General Assembly resolutions, and the United States had a  moral and ethical obligation to explain to the Special Committee what had happened in 1953, when the General Assembly had adopted resolution 748.  The United States had to clarify whether Puerto  Rico was a Territory under the Special Committee's jurisdiction or a colony subject to the United States Constitution.  If it was a colony under the Special Committee's jurisdiction, then all repressive acts against its people must be stopped.

The Special Committee was obliged to request that the General Assembly eliminate resolution 748 through which the United Nations had became an accomplice to the great lie, to the detriment of the Puerto Rican people, he said.  The United Nations must demand that the United States immediately free all political prisoners, particularly Antonio Camacho Negro, an outstanding member of the CONADE who had already served 15 years in prison for activism in support of Puerto Rican independence.  The United Nations and the Special Committee must fulfil their own resolutions, the United States must withdraw immediately from Puerto Rico with no excuses, and the United Nations should appoint an international commission to follow and supervise United States action that could be detrimental to Puerto Rico.

WILLIAM ESTRADA, Socialist Workers Party, called on the United States Government to release immediately all Puerto Rican independence fighters locked up in its prisons, and joined other speakers in protesting the cold-blooded killing of independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios by FBI agents last September.  All those responsible for the murder should be prosecuted and jailed.  In addition to all the other reasons offered today why independence from Washington's rule was a necessity for the people of Puerto Rico, it was also in the interest of the vast majority of the people of the United States, whose workers and farmers had nothing to gain from that rule.  Working people had no interests in common with corporation owners or the twin parties that served their interests -- the Democrats and the Republicans.  Instead, they had everything in common with fellow working people around the world, with whom they shared a common oppressor and common enemy -- the handful of ruling United States billionaire families and their Government.

He said that as long as Puerto Rico was under Washington's colonial domination, the fighting capacity and solidarity of the working-class movement in the United States would be weakened, putting United States imperialism in a stronger position to carry out its escalating assaults around the world.  The United States Government had used Puerto Rico as a launching pad for attacks on countries around the world, from Grenada in 1983 to the war and occupation of Iraq.  Right now, United States military forces were conducting large-scale military manoeuvres in the Caribbean -- a threat aimed against Cuba and Venezuela.

Colonial domination reinforced the systematic discrimination and racist prejudice faced by Puerto Ricans in the United States, along with blacks, Chicanos and other oppressed nationalities, he said.  As long as Puerto Rico remained a colony, Puerto Ricans in the United States would be subjected to second class status.  United States rulers, who lived off the labour and resources of millions around the world, had the arrogance to tell the Puerto Rican people they had no choice but to depend on Washington.  That lie was exposed by the living example of the workers and farmers of Cuba and their revolutionary leadership.  By taking political power and making a socialist revolution, they had shown it was possible to win genuine independence from United States imperialism.  The condemnation by the Special Committee of Washington's colonial rule of Puerto Rico would serve the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people of the United States and those fighting everywhere for the right to self-determination and against oppression.

MANUEL RODRIGUEZ BANCHS, Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico, said there had been three plebiscites in Puerto Rico on its status with the United States, but Congress had never put their results into practice.  They were treated more like costly surveys that a process of self-determination for the Puerto Rican people.  The power to change Puerto Rico's status was still in the hands of the United States Government.  Through resolution 748, the General Assembly had exempted the United States from having to submit updates on Puerto Rico's status and progress towards self-determination to the Special Committee.  How was it possible that the General Assembly accepted as legitimate a reorganization of colonial rule?  The United States delegate had said "there exists a bilateral compact of association between the people of Puerto Rico and the United States which has been accepted by both and which {...} may not be amended without common consent".  Several Puerto Rican political parties had stated that the Constitution of Puerto Rico was merely a colonial statute leaving Puerto Rico as a Non-self-Governing Territory subject to the absolute power of the United States Congress.

It was impossible to ignore the conclusions of the defenders of Puerto Rican independence in 1953, which were now openly recognized in the United States Task Force report, he said.  The United States had lied to the United Nations and had now declared that it thought of Puerto Rico as its colony.  The date chosen to assassinate Filiberto Ojeda Rios, 23 September, was clearly a message of intimidation as it marked the same day of the rising up for national independence in Puerto Rico.  The General Assembly should take up the question of Puerto Rico in compliance with resolution 1514, and all political prisoners jailed for their activism should be released.  There should be free movement for those in clandestine activities or in exile.

CARLOS RAMIREZ, Popular Democratic Party, said that it was clear that the issue of Puerto Rico's status had not been resolved in 1952 and that for too long the island had been waiting to take the next step towards self-determination.  That was not due to a lack of activity on its part.  In three plebiscites, the people had expressed the wish for a status free of any colonial connotation.  They had never wanted full independence or federal statehood, but had opted instead for self-government with a shared association and shared responsibility with the United States.

For a long time, the United States had expressed the commitment to respect the will of the people, but in practice it had not done so, he said.  The issue had become more serious with the rise of sectors of power in the United States that opposed a developed state.  The most recent example was the inter-agency group whose report was an outright shame for the United States.  Including an "anti-democratic agenda covered up by a legal study", it would deprive Puerto Rico of its right to self-determination, by its statement that the United States could simply cede Puerto Rico to another country.

He said the Popular Democratic Party group had sought to use domestic avenues, but responsibility towards Puerto Rico must be exercised soon.  The issue must be taken to the General Assembly plenary and it was time for the United States Government to answer the international community.  Puerto Rico must conclude the agenda that had not been concluded in 1952.  The Party wanted a genuine self-determination process through a constitutional assembly and the only thing missing was the will of the Untied States.

Urging the Special Committee to amend the current draft resolution so that it unequivocally stated the right to self-determination, and energetically condemned any attempt to infringe upon that right, he said that any solution must come from the Puerto Rican people.  The case would be an excellent opportunity to restate the original mission of the United Nations.

JAVIER IRIZARRY, Asociación Estudiantes Hostosianos por la Independencia, noting that General Assembly resolutions 1514 and 1541 recognized the inalienable right of sovereignty, demanded that the Assembly take up the issue of Puerto Rico, and asked the United States to respect the right of Puerto Ricans to self-determination.  The United States used Puerto Rico for its own interests, used Puerto Ricans as soldiers in its wars, exploited the island's natural resources, and jailed its political activists.  Many young people who had participated in acts of civil disobedience to protest the United States military presence in Vieques had been imprisoned.

The University of Puerto Rico offered courses on the history of the struggle against the presence of the United States armed forces, he continued, pointing out that universities were required by law to accept a military presence on their campuses.  In an April 2001 student demonstration at Río Piedras, a student had been accused of assaulting an ROTC official and, on the basis of very little evidence, a federal judge had condemned him to a year in prison.  In 2004, four university students who had set up a peaceful campaign against the ROTC presence had been suspended from their university.

Following the Filiberto Ojeda Rios assassination, many young people had turned to art to express their views, he said.  They had painted messages outside the Homeland Security Building such as "FBI out of Puerto Rico" and "FBI assassins".  Those young people had been arrested with an unnecessary show of force.  The students had learned that repression was a product of colonialism.  They would not give up their struggle to end such oppression and support Puerto Rico's right to self-determination.

ELSIE VALDES DE LIZARDI, Puertorriqueños Antes la ONU, Inc., said she wished to clarify two erroneous concepts that the citizens of Puerto Rico, living there and elsewhere, had brought before the Special Committee year after year, so as to try to force the imposition of independence on Puerto Rico, which it did not want.  One of those concepts was that Puerto Rico was a colony entitled to independence.  If the Special Committee determined that Puerto Rico was a de facto colony, then it should have an alternative to annexation by the United States.  That expression should say that Puerto Rico was a colony with the right to decolonize either via self-determination, total independence or integration.  Every four years, Puerto Rico elected government officials who were identified with each of those three options.  None of those options applied, however, because Puerto Rico was part of and belonged to the United States.

Puerto Rico had clearly rejected independence, which had obtained less than 5 percent of the vote in all elections, she said.  If the Special Committee wished objectively to carry out its duty, it should say that integration or statehood was one way to decolonization.  That would be the true option that Puerto Ricans would choose if they opted to change their present status.  Puerto Rico had had that option since 1952.

Another erroneous concept, which separatists around the world used to divide people, was that of colonialism through ignorance of the language of the metropolis, she said.  With English in Puerto Rico, the rich and the bourgeoisie learned the language very well, while the middle classes and proletariat were kept ignorant.  The Special Committee should not put Puerto Rico on its list of colonial Territories or oppressed colonies.  The island enjoyed special treatment, and was acquiring the culture, technology and language of the country that had colonized it.  A main benefit was political stability; other republics experienced coups d'état.

She said Puerto Rico's situation was a domestic internal affair.  To solve any unfinished business, people should intervene with votes.  The Special Committee should observe the process and make the necessary recommendations.  Only the people of Puerto Rico had the right to determine what they wanted, and the only way to solve the situation was through the United States Congress and with the vote of the people.

Statements before Action on Draft Resolution

The representative of Venezuela, speaking before the Special Committee took action on the draft resolution, said Puerto Rico was an integral part of Latin America, and its situation had been difficult since the last session on the subject.  Filiberto Ojeda Rios had been assassinated, having bled to death as a result of a single bullet wound.  Despite calls for an independent investigation into that killing, a stalemate had occurred.  The United States Government should foster harmonious relations with Puerto Rico by ending its repressive actions and freeing all political prisoners.  The occupying Power should address the environmental consequences of its military presence in Puerto Rico and return all facilities and land.  Venezuela firmly and categorically favoured the total independence of Puerto Rico with the understanding that any solution in that regard must originate with the Puerto Rican people.

The representative of Iran supported the draft and called on all other delegates to support its adoption without a vote.

The Special Committee then adopted the text without a vote.

Statement after Vote

Mr. MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba) thanked the members of the Special Committee for their valuable support on the draft resolution.  The text did not totally reflect Cuba's position with regard to Puerto Rico, and the Cuban delegation would have preferred an explicit condemnation of the vile assassination of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, as well as a reaffirmation of the urgency of considering the Puerto Rico question directly in a plenary meeting of the General Assembly.  In order to reach consensus, the draft had been modified to meet the concerns of other delegations.  Nonetheless, it was extremely relevant to Cuba's historic commitment to the freedom of Puerto Rico.  Cuba and Puerto Rico were bound in a shared history of struggles for independence from Spain and the United States.  Some had tried to make the two countries enemies, but a deep fraternity and solidarity between the two peoples would live on.  Approval of the draft resolution was a tribute to the patriotic spirit of the Puerto Rican people, and Cuba would continue to defend their legitimate right to self-determination and independence.

Continuation of Petitioners' Statements

ENRIQUE BAQUERO NAVARRO, Fundación Acción Democrática Puertorriqueña, said that, as recently as 2004, the International Court of Justice had affirmed Puerto Rico's right to self-determination.  The Special Committee should advise the United States that it was not acceptable to refer to the political condition in Puerto Rico as one of "United States citizens residing in Puerto Rico", as if it were possible to ignore that such people were of a different nationality.  The process of self-determination for Puerto Rico must include only non-colonial and non-territorial actions.  The current relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico was colonial and territorial, in violation of international law.

He said decolonization must be carried out through a constitutional assembly that would not call for an amendment of the constitution.  Rather, it would be organized for the people to analyse the different future options for Puerto Rico-United States relations.  The assembly would never violate democratic principles because it would never make final decisions.  It would merely be the first step in a long consensus-building process.  Any proposal by the assembly would have to be approved by the majority of voters.  The referendum should continue until it reached its objective.  While an assembly would be the most promising mechanism for achieving such a goal, there was room for cooperation with a different mechanism chosen by the people of Puerto Rico.  Any solution must presuppose the liberation of those imprisoned for their political beliefs.  The Special Committee should ask the United States to end its oppressive measures against the independence movement in Puerto Rico.  The Committee should begin once and for all the decolonization process and present the case to the General Assembly plenary.

CRISTOBAL BERRIOS, Acción Civil para el Status de Puerto Rico, Inc., said slavery and discrimination were part of Puerto Rico's history, while racism continued.  Defenders of the Territory had launched a campaign for Puerto Rican independence, and on more than 14 occasions, proposals for a new status had been sent to the United States Congress for approval.  However, Congress had always rejected them, as it had no interest in releasing Puerto Rico from its colonial status.  In 1998, the People's Democratic Party had presented a proposal for independence and had been doing so until 2005.  In October 2000, the Committee of Resources of the United States House of Representatives had presented a bill proposing a new bilateral pact for mutual consent which would validate Puerto Rico as a sovereign Power in union with the United States, through an agreement that could not be annulled or changed unilaterally.

Free associated status was unconstitutional, he said, adding that it was necessary to clear up the issue of Puerto Rican status.  Puerto Rican citizens had the right to choose whether they wanted statehood or to establish a free and independent republic.  Self-determination was the right of all individuals and the collective right of all peoples.

NILDA LUZ REXACH, National Advancement for Puerto Rican Culture, said Puerto Rico was an undeclared state of the United States, one affected by discrimination.  Although all Puerto Ricans were American citizens, they did not have representation in Congress and could not vote in the election of the President.  The Congress should end that historical discrimination by declaring Puerto Rico a state immediately.

She said the real problem of Puerto Rico was one of historical, legal and moral rights, and asked why the United Nations and the United States Congress had not sent an observer to the island's last election, during which more than 38,000 illegal ballots were cast by people voting for two candidates.  The problem was that the judges had been elected by the party government, and they were following the party's ideology.  The people of Puerto Rico felt their constitutional rights were frequently violated.  Were the United States Congress and the United Nations aware that Puerto Rico was under a political dictatorship disguised as a democracy?  Congress should honour the Constitution and make Puerto Rico the fifty-first state, with all the rights and responsibilities that required.  The Special Committee should approve a resolution demanding that Congress immediately declare Puerto Rico a state.

JOSE ADAMES, Centro Literario Anacona, said Puerto Ricans had already considered self-determination three times and 95 per cent of them wanted statehood.  Puerto Ricans were second class citizens in the United States without the right to vote for the President or representation in the Senate and House of Representatives.  They became first class citizens when they joined the United States military, but went back to being second class citizens when they returned to Puerto Rico.  The United States was one of the few countries that issued ballots to let citizens vote abroad.  Puerto Ricans residing in the United States mainland could vote, but those on the island were not allowed to vote in the United States presidential election.

The marriage of Puerto Rico and the United States could not even end in a viable divorce, he said, adding that several generations of Puerto Ricans had spread out over the United States.  The only choice for Puerto Rico was the immediate declaration of the island as the fifty-first state of the Union.  Then the United States Congress could say that the United States was in fact respecting its own laws and Constitution.  Puerto Ricans should be given statehood and, as mandated by the United States Constitution, the right to vote in presidential elections and to be represented in the Senate and House of Representatives.  The future of Puerto Rico did not depend on what Cuba was proposing in the draft resolution.

Referring to the statement just made, Mr. MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba) said on a point of order that Mr. Adames had previously made such statements, and Cuba's delegation had sought a point of order because of the lack of respect and the false statements regarding Cuba.  Mr. Adames had once again made unacceptable, completely false statements regarding Cuba, and would take that into account next year, when the list of petitioners was being circulated, in determining whether he could once again speak about issues that were not up for discussion.

 MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES, Ithaca Catholic Worker Vieques Support Group, said the United States military, the enforcer of the colonization of Puerto Rico, continued to impose itself unjustly, not only in Vieques and on the main island of Puerto Rico, but throughout the world.  The pre-emptive war and colonization of Iraq was the most blatant current example of United States transgressions.  During a visit to Vieques in 2000, the people there had made it very clear that their struggle to remove the United States military was directly intertwined with the fate of others around the globe who shared the brunt of United States military colonial power.

She demanded that the United States Navy stop detonating unexploded bombs and completely remove such ordnances, and urged the immediate removal of all hazardous materials, as well as the immediate return of lands now occupied by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to the people of Vieques.  The citizens of Vieques must be included in the planning and development of their island and in a moratorium on the sale of the Vieques lands to big developers.

Describing how depleted uranium, when converted into weapons and exploded, turned into a very fine radioactive dust which caused illness and genetic deformities, she said that the 9,500 residents of Vieques lived 11 miles east of the bombing range where the United States Navy was still detonating unexploded ordnance.  The latest health studies showed that cancer rates in Vieques were much higher than on the main island of Puerto Rico, and there was no hospital in Puerto Rico to test properly for the presence of depleted uranium.  The military's decision to use such a radioactive heavy metal as a weapon, in spite of its obvious health risks, showed a blatant disregard for human life and well-being.  That was one of the more deliberate examples of the unnecessary suffering of the Puerto Rican people caused by the United States colonizer.  The Special Committee must consider the evidence and recognize the need of the Puerto Rican people for self-determination.

* *** *


*  Reissued to reflect changes in pages 1 and 2.