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UN Press Release from De-colonization Comm.

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  • ProLibertad Campaign
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 11, 2002
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      Acting without a Vote, Committee Also Calls
      For Expedited Process to Allow Puerto Rican Self-Determination

      Bearing in mind that an official referendum held last July showed an
      overwhelming majority in favour of an immediate, permanent halt to military
      manoeuvres on Vieques, the Special Committee on Decolonization this
      afternoon urged the United States to immediate halt such military
      activities, as it approved a draft resolution on Puerto Rico.

      Approving the text without a vote, the Special Committee also urged the
      United States to: return the occupied land to the people of Puerto Rico;
      halt the persecutions, incarcerations, arrests and harassment of peaceful
      demonstrators; immediately release all persons incarcerated in this
      connection; respect the fundamental human rights of health and economic
      development; and decontaminate the impact areas.

      The Special Committee also called on the United States to assume its
      responsibility for expediting a process that would allow the Puerto Rican
      people fully to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and
      independence. It further requested the President of the United States to
      release all Puerto Rican political prisoners serving sentences in United
      States prisons for cases related to the struggle for Puerto Rico�s

      The representative of Cuba introduced the draft resolution.

      More than 20 petitioners addressed the Special Committee during its
      consideration of Puerto Rico which began this morning, and a number of
      petitioners then emphasized the refusal by the United States to respect the
      outcome of last July�s referendum and its continued bombing exercises.
      Speakers also stressed the health hazards, environmental destruction and
      economic strangulation resulting from more than 60 years of bombings by the
      United States Navy.

      In addition, whether they supported independence for Puerto Rico or full
      statehood within the United States, speakers agreed on the need to carry out
      the decolonization of Puerto Rico and for the island�s people to determine
      their future political status. Although commonwealth status had its
      sympathizers, said one speaker, it would not eliminate the colonial
      condition but only perpetuate it.

      (page 1a follows)

      Special Committee on - 1a - Press Release

      Decolonization 10 June 2002

      5th and 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

      Another speaker said the refusal by the United States to accept or follow
      through on the conclusions arising from the referendum was a flagrant
      violation of the right to self-determination. Both the referendum and the
      recognition of the need for a constitutional assembly were important
      additions to the draft resolution and would put pressure on those in Puerto
      Rico and the United States who wished to perpetuate colonialism.

      Statements were made by the representatives of Colegio de Abogados de
      Puerto Rico; Frente Socialista; Causa Com�n Independentista (Proyecto
      Educativo Puertorrique�o); Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico; San Romero
      de las Americas Church; Puerto Rican Independence Party; Committee for the
      Rescue and Development of Vieques; ProLibertad Freedom Campaign; House of
      Representatives of Puerto Rico; United for Vieques, Puerto Rico, Inc.; and
      Nuevo Movimiento Independentista Puertorrique�o.

      Other speakers included representatives of the Congreso Nacional Hostosiano;
      Vieques Support Campaign; United Statehooders Organization of New York,
      Inc.; Puertorrique�os ante la ONU, Inc.; Puertorrique�os Pro Estadidad,
      Inc.; PROELA; Gran Oriente Nacional de Puerto Rico; Primavera, Inc.; Al
      Frente; National Advancement for Puerto Rican Culture; Socialist Workers
      Party; and American Association of Jurists.

      Also making statements were the representatives of Venezuela, Iraq,
      Iran and Chile.

      The next meeting of the 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 -� will be announced.

      (page 2 follows)


      The Special Committee on Decolonization met this morning to consider
      the question of Puerto Rico. It had before it draft resolution submitted by
      Cuba on the Special Committee decision of 21 July 2001 concerning Puerto
      Rico (document A/AC.109/2002/L.8), by which the Special Committee would urge
      the United States to: order an immediate halt to its armed forces� military
      drills and manoeuvres on Vieques Island, which is inhabited; return the
      occupied land to the people of Puerto Rico; halt the persecutions,
      incarcerations, arrests and harassment of peaceful demonstrators;
      immediately release all persons incarcerated in this connection; respect
      fundamental human rights, such as the right to health and economic
      development; and decontaminate the impact areas.

      The Committee would also call on the United States to assume its
      responsibility of expediting a process that will allow the Puerto Rican
      people to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and
      independence, in conformity with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and
      the resolutions and decisions of the Special Committee concerning Puerto
      Rico. Also, the Committee would request the President of the United States
      to release all Puerto Rican political prisoners serving sentences in United
      States prisons for cases related to the struggle for Puerto Rico�s

      The Committee also had before it a report prepared by its Rapporteur,
      Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) (document A/AC.109/2002/L.4), on the Committee�s
      decision of 22 June 2001 concerning Puerto Rico, which considers the
      question of Puerto Rico in the light of previous reports, recent political
      developments in Puerto Rico, action taken by United Nations bodies on the
      question and the views of the parties concerned. Annexed to the report is a
      list of organizations contacted to provide updated information on
      self-determination and independence with respect to Puerto Rico.

      Also before the Committee were requests for hearing, contained in
      aides-m�moire 8/02/Add.1 to 10/02.


      JAIME RUBERTE, Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, said that last year
      he had explained the problem regarding the death penalty, which could be
      applied under federal law, although it was prohibited by Puerto Rico. It
      was both humiliating and unjust that Puerto Ricans could not try our their
      own citizens on their own territory.

      He said that last year a referendum was held on Vieques. The overwhelming
      majority had voted for a cessation of United States bombings and a clean-up
      of contaminated areas. The United States did not respect the result of that
      referendum and continued to carry out bombing exercises. He also referred
      to the abuses carried out by the United States in relation to Vieques. The
      situation there had remained the same or worsened with regard to detainment.

      On the political situation, he said that Puerto Rico had adopted a
      resolution to carry out a study on the establishment of a constitutional
      assembly. The Government had decided to appoint a body to determine the
      status of Puerto Rico. It adopted a resolution in October 2001, which,
      among other things, recognized that the United States had not adopted a
      decolonization policy. The people of Puerto Rico had wanted a
      constitutional assembly to determine their own legal status and discuss
      their own sovereignty. That assembly represented the political will of the
      people and it would sit independently of the United States with the election
      of delegates.

      He urged Puerto Rico�s Legislative Assembly to adopt a policy regarding that
      assembly. The College of Lawyers felt that the assembly was brought
      together to draft a constitution and would support that process. Also, he
      endorsed the adoption of the draft resolution before the Committee.

      JORGE FARINACCI GARCIA, Frente Socialista, noting that the Government
      of the United States had maintained a colonial regime in Puerto Rico since
      1898, said that since last summer the Puerto Rican people's resistance
      against Navy exercises had led to more than 2,000 people being charged in
      federal court. Dozens had been incarcerated for defending Vieques and many
      more had been tried. The matter was still unresolved, owing to the
      stubbornness of the United States Government.

      He said there had been more than a century of mistreatment and abuse of the
      Puerto Rican people by the various branches of the United States military
      and by companies established in the territory. The United States Government
      now wanted to establish the death penalty, which was banned under Puerto
      Rico's Constitution. The Puerto Rican people were facing that and numerous
      other examples of colonial subordination.

      However, it was certain that there was a cause that aimed at changing
      the colonial reality existing in Puerto Rico, he said. On the other hand,
      pro-colonial groups were fighting against the clearest evidence of
      colonialism, including corruption and drug-trafficking. Recent statistical
      studies showed that Puerto Rico had the second highest per capita murder
      rate in the world after Colombia, which was suffering an internal war. The
      people would accept no less than the right to self-determination,
      independence and the release of political prisoners. The draft resolution
      should be submitted to the General Assembly as soon as possible.

      CARLOS VIZCARRONDO-IRIZARRY, House of Representatives of Puerto Rico,
      said that in July Puerto Rico would celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of
      its Constitution. The Puerto Rican constitutional convention, which had
      drafted that document, had also adopted a resolution by which the people of
      Puerto Rico could revise the status of its relationship with the United
      States. Forty-nine years had gone by during which Puerto Rico and the
      United States had failed in their attempts to resolve the political future
      of Puerto Rico. Plebiscites had been held and commissions had been
      established, but those efforts had not been successful.

      The present Government of Puerto Rico would convene a commission of Puerto
      Rican unity to explore mechanisms to determine Puerto Rico�s course to
      self-determination, he said. In that regard, it was exploring the idea of
      establishing a constitutional convention to determine the future status of
      Puerto Rico. He would favour a people�s assembly or constitutional
      convention to determine Puerto Rico�s future.

      The people of Vieques, by a majority of 70 per cent, had stated their
      views through the referendum held last year, he said. The President of the
      United States had stated that the Navy would leave Vieques by May 2003. The
      Special Committee should mention the situation in Vieques and call for the
      immediate cessation of military exercises there. That territory should be
      returned to the people and cleaned up by the United States. He urged the
      Committee to adopt an expression of Puerto Rico�s natural right to

      MANUEL GONZALEZ, Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, said the
      establishment by the United States of the so-called Free Associated State of
      Puerto Rico had long deceived world opinion and some Puerto Ricans. Like
      every other colony, Puerto Rico had suffered, and only concerted action by
      its people and institutions would make it possible for the territory to
      become a free sovereign and independent nation. However, time was too short
      to recount the history of Puerto Rico's colonization, or to enumerate the
      ills visited on its people.

      He said it was not the time to expand on the hypocrisy of those who claimed
      to be the champions of democracy in the world, while they strangled the
      freedom of the Cuban people and refused to recognize their right to forge
      their own destiny. In addition, they attempted to suppress the sovereign
      will of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and permitted the massacre of
      the Palestinian people. Through brutal force they had tried to impose their
      will on all corners of the world. Puerto Rico must be free and sovereign
      today, he emphasized.

      LUIS BARRIOS, Reverend of the San Romero de las Americas Church, said
      that he was here to denounce the political sin of colonialism committed by
      the United States against Puerto Rico. The United States had unleashed its
      war against terrorism following 11 September. While it had identified
      others as supporters of terrorism, their own acts of political terrorism had
      been perpetrated under the cloak of national security. The United States
      invaded and occupied Puerto Rico in 1898. In 1917, the United States
      Government imposed United States citizenship on Puerto Rico against the will
      of its people. Ironically, that was done three weeks before the First World
      War broke out, conferring mandatory military service on the people of Puerto
      Rico. Then, in 1940, the United States military began military exercises on

      It was necessary to constantly question what was known as elections in
      Puerto Rico, he added. While they were supposed to be democratic, they were
      conducted by an administration that carried out the policies of the United
      States on the island. Puerto Rico was still a colony of the United States.
      That sin was still being perpetrated by the United States. It was necessary
      to begin a process of decolonization and self-determination. In addition,
      the United States should shoulder its responsibility of restoring economic
      justice in Puerto Rico after 104 years of colonialism.

      FERNANDO MARTIN-GARCIA, Puerto Rican Independence Party, said many
      cynics and sceptics had said that the Committee's resolutions were
      meaningless and could be ignored. The same had been said of its resolutions
      on East Timor, which had recently gained full independence. Unexpected
      political changes in Indonesia had created a new circumstance to bring about
      an event that had previously seemed impossible. That would have been
      impossible without the international community's recognition of East Timor's
      right to self-determination. Those who underestimated the Organization's
      role in decolonization betrayed an ignorance of history.

      He said the draft resolution before the Committee contained two
      elements that strengthened last year's text. One involved the demand by
      more than 70 per cent of the Puerto Rican, as expressed in the referendum,
      that the Navy put an end to its bombing exercises on Vieques and clean up
      the island. The refusal by the United States to accept or follow through on
      those conclusions was a flagrant violation of the right to
      self-determination. Both last year's referendum and the recognition of the
      need for a constitutional assembly for Puerto Rico were important additions
      to the draft resolution and would put pressure on those in Puerto Rico and
      the United States who wished to perpetuate colonialism. Yesterday East
      Timor, tomorrow Puerto Rico, he concluded.

      ISMAEL GUADALUPE, Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques,
      said that Vieques was being used as a weapons depository and training camp
      for the United States military. The Special Committee had determined that
      the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States was colonial in

      He first wanted to highlight the new violations of human rights against the
      people of Vieques, who had made it clear through a referendum to the Navy
      what it wanted. Two thirds of the voters on Vieques voted in favour of the
      Navy leaving immediately. In response, the Navy had unleashed more
      brutality during demonstrations held against it. Today, the Government of
      Puerto Rico had not called on the Government of the United States to respect
      the will expressed during the referendum. Also, nothing had been said about
      the fact that death due to cancer had risen in Vieques.

      His second point was that it was necessary to put pressure on the United
      States Navy to compensate the inhabitants of Vieques for 60 years of
      destruction. The presence of the Navy had meant the economic strangulation
      of the people of the island. Following the Navy�s departure, the clean-up
      of Vieques must begin. In that connection, he insisted on the following
      four points: demilitarisation; return of land; decontamination; and
      development. The Special Committee must denounce United States activity on
      Vieques and support full withdrawal and compensation by the United States.

      EDWIN PAGAN, ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, said the dissolution by the
      United States of its colonial control over Puerto Rico would cause a domino
      effect on other such administering Powers, which would then end their
      control over the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories. Despite the
      ability of Puerto Ricans to travel between the United States and Puerto Rico
      without a passport, it was still a colonial territory.

      He said that, despite the release of some Puerto Rican political prisoners,
      others had been incarcerated for their political beliefs. Their value and
      efforts were concrete proof of the determination of Puerto Ricans to achieve
      self-determination. By legislation enacted by the Governor of Puerto Rico
      last July, a referendum had been held in which more than 80.5 per cent of
      the population had participated. Of those, more than 70 per cent had voted
      that the United States Navy immediately withdraw from Vieques and that it
      clean up the island's beaches.

      Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September, he said, it had become
      clear that the United States Government would use different means to fight
      against international terrorism. The decisions arising from those tragic
      events had, in turn, rendered obsolete the United States Navy�s need to use
      the beaches of Vieques for its bombing exercises. In that light, the
      failure by the United States Navy and Government to heed the will of the
      people of Vieques and Puerto Rico could only be described as arrogance.

      JUAN MARI BRAS, on behalf of Causa Com�n Independentista (Proyecto
      Educativo Puertorrique�o), said that the most basic understanding should
      indicate to the United States and the United Nations that the question of
      Puerto Rico needed to be discussed in a forum of greater authority, such as
      the International Court of Justice. He requested that that the
      recommendation be included in the resolution to be adopted this year.

      It was time to overcome the deadlock between the United States and the
      Special Committee, he continued. That was particularly important this year,
      because the Puerto Rican people were nearing a crucial moment in their
      history. The old imperialist policy of divide and conquer had begun to
      collapse. A greater number of organizations and peoples had become
      convinced that it was necessary to overcome inter-Puerto Rican differences
      and call for a mechanism leading to consensus on the path to decolonization.
      He hoped the resolution would reflect the progress and changes in the
      struggle of the Puerto Rican people.

      BETTY BRASSELL, United for Vieques, Puerto Rico, Inc., said that her
      organization was a group of individuals committed for peace for Vieques.
      Its goal was to create awareness and keep civil society informed about the
      health hazards and the ecological and economic destruction caused by the
      United States Navy on Vieques, as well as to inspire others to actively
      protect their communities.

      She had gone to Vieques with a group of people to participate in civil
      disobedience, and found it hard to believe the people there were talking
      about the United States Government and Navy, which was supposedly committed
      to protecting its citizens. Bombs devastated the environment, destroyed the
      earth and helped to eliminate various species of wildlife. They were an
      abuse of people and the land. Could one imagine what bombs did to a small
      island like Vieques? The United States Navy knew that, but had continued to
      bomb and contaminate the island for more than 61 years. The international
      community�s voice and indignation was not being clearly heard. A strong
      statement must be made in the Committee�s deliberations to bring peace to

      JULIO MURIENTE, Nuevo Movimiento Independentista Puertorique�o,
      congratulating the people and Government of East Timor for their heroic
      achievement of independence, said that in less than two months Puerto Ricans
      would mark the anniversary of the invasion of their country by the United
      States. While there was no doubt that there was an unresolved political
      problem, there were differences about which path to follow in resolving it.
      The main obstacle was the lack of political will on the part of the United

      Worse was the fact that the Government of the United States refused to
      recognize that there was a colonial problem that had lasted more than a
      century, he said. It could be seen with ever-greater diversity and breadth
      of scope that there was a need to end bombing exercises on Vieques. People
      from all political parties had expressed their will in the referendum, in
      which 80 per cent of the voting public had participated. Almost 70 per cent
      of those had voted for the end to bombing and the withdrawal of the Navy.

      The response of the United States to that overwhelming rejection had been to
      resume bombing two weeks later and to imprison the Mayor of Vieques, he
      noted. Although President George W. Bush had pledged to remove the Navy,
      the great question now remained: how much will remained among the Puerto
      Ricans regarding the annexation of their country? Draft laws were being
      promoted in Congress for direct control of rivers, as well as annexation.
      Such proposals threatened the fiscal integrity and resources of the nation.

      HECTOR L. PESQUERA, on behalf of Congreso Nacional Hostosiano, said
      that since the adoption of the Committee�s resolution in July 2001,
      important events had taken place which violated the human rights of the
      people of Puerto Rico. At present, Vieques fishermen, members of the
      religious community and other civilians were in prison. Through
      environmental colonialism, the United States Navy was destroying
      archaeological and aquatic sites, carrying out exercises with harmful
      substances. In addition, before the United States Congress was a draft law,
      which would appropriate more than 100,000 hectares of land in northern
      Puerto Rico. Also, a draft law, adopted in the House of Representatives,
      would affect three major rivers in Puerto Rico. That draft was currently
      before the Senate. He called on the United States to decontaminate more
      than 79 areas, which had been used by the United States military in the past
      and since abandoned.

      The people of Puerto Rico had come up against the federal Government
      in exercising the rights enshrined in the Constitution, which was adopted 50
      years ago, he said. In the past year there had been constant violations of
      that Constitution by the United States Government. Among them was the
      imposition of the death penalty in Puerto Rico, which was prohibited by the
      Constitution of Puerto Rico. First of all, the case of Puerto Rico should
      be included as a separate item on the agenda of the upcoming General
      Assembly. Second, it should be recognized that the only people that could
      change the Constitution of Puerto Rico were the Puerto Ricans themselves.

      Third, he continued, the United States must respect the rules and laws
      established by Puerto Rico in the management and protection of Puerto Rico�s
      natural resources. He invited the Special Committee to visit Puerto Rico to
      witness the damage caused by military exercises on Vieques. Fourth, the
      people�s assembly should be involved in the decolonization of Puerto Rico.
      He rejected any proposal to integrate Puerto Rico into the federal system of
      the United States. Fifth, the United States Government should respect the
      outcome of the referendum conducted in July 2001, which called for the
      immediate withdrawal of the United States military from Vieques. Sixth,
      amnesty should be granted to all Puerto Ricans involved in the freedom
      struggle for Puerto Rico.

      FRANK VELGARA, Vieques Support Campaign, said the continued bombing on
      Vieques not only represented a clear and present danger to the lives,
      health, social and political well-being of the island's inhabitants, but
      also a direct example of the colonial political control exercised by the
      United States since 1898. The people were affected by mercury poisoning of
      the air, water, flora and fauna, in addition to continuing to live in a vast
      death trap that could only be described as death on the instalment plan.

      The reality of Puerto Rico exposed the lie of participatory democracy
      claimed by the United States, he said. Hundreds of people had been arrested
      in Puerto Rico, in the United States and elsewhere for demanding an end to
      bombing and other harmful practices. The racist treatment of those arrested
      stood clear for the world to see.

      Just a few weeks ago, the world had seen an attempt by anti-democracy forces
      to stage a coup in Venezuela, he recalled. In the past, Vieques had been
      the launch pad and rehearsal site for invasions of the Dominican Republic
      and Grenada. In Vieques, all Puerto Ricans could see their colonial status,
      as well as the racism and discrimination that had been the lot of all
      nations under colonial domination. According to a Puerto Rican saying, one
      could not cover the sky with one hand. In other words, a colony remained so
      under any other name.

      WILFREDO SANTIAGO VALIENTE, United Statehooders Organization of New
      York, Inc., said that self-determination did not necessarily imply
      independence for a group of people. If the Committee wished to support the
      decolonization of Puerto Rico, it was imperative that any resolution adopted
      by it recognize resolution 1514 (XV) and other relevant resolutions, which
      endorsed three options for the decolonization of a territory. The case of
      Puerto Rico brought up the issue of sovereignty, not autonomy. In
      international law, autonomy referred to political decentralization. On 25
      July, Puerto Rico would celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its
      Constitution. He wanted a referendum on statehood or independence to
      determine the future status of Puerto Rico.

      ELSIE VALDES, Puertorique�os ante la ONU, Inc., said that, while the
      alternatives of political status had been discussed for several years, it
      should be remembered that Puerto Rico was subject to the territorial laws of
      the United States, whose Congress could unilaterally decide its destiny.
      There was no bilateral pact whatsoever between Puerto Rico and the United
      States. Puerto Rico was an unincorporated territory, or colony, and had no

      The United States could have solved the issue of Puerto Rico's political
      status as a domestic matter, but it had not done so, she said. Likewise,
      the United Nations, where solutions for such matters were presented, had
      also not resolved it. Only resolutions had been presented. While her
      organization believed firmly in American citizenship and desired permanent
      union with the United States, it would respect the choice of the majority.

      Puerto Rico was a colony and would remain so until a permanent definition
      was established, she emphasized. The independence movement in the territory
      had only been able to achieve 45 per cent in support for its cause.
      Although commonwealth status had its sympathizers, it would not eliminate
      the colonial condition, but only perpetuate it. Puerto Ricans had been
      American since 1917, but were prevented from enjoying the same privileges as
      other Americans without losing their identity as a people.

      HAYDEE RIVERA, Puertorique�os Pro Estadidad, Inc., said that her
      organization had called for a resolution of the political problem of Puerto
      Rico though the granting of statehood. In 1953, representatives of Puerto
      Rico and the United States, before the General Assembly, had stated that
      people of Puerto Rico had exercised their right to self-determination, and a
      resolution had been adopted removing Puerto Rico from the list of
      Non-Self-Governing Territories �- resolution 748 (VIII). However, the
      people of Puerto Rico had not been allowed to determine their status, as
      called for in resolution 1514. General Assembly resolution 748 (VIII) had
      never been fully enforced. The people needed to select one of the options
      outlined in resolution 1514.

      Her organization had maintained that statehood would be the most effective
      way of ensuring the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. Congress
      should recognize permanent legal status for the island. Statehood would
      provide for equal participation in the political process. That was decision
      that should be left up to the Puerto Ricans.

      LUIS VEGA RAMOS, PROELA, said the discussion was taking place in light
      of the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the commonwealth's
      Constitution. While that document reflected the right of future Puerto
      Ricans to decide their political status, claims to greater
      self-determination or autonomy had not been thoroughly heard, and another
      mechanism was required to address that concern.

      He said claims for sovereignty had followed the adoption in 1960 of
      resolutions 1540 and 1541 by the United Nations General Assembly. The claim
      for sovereignty had been reaffirmed in the 2000 elections. Free association
      was nothing but full autonomy of the commonwealth. The resolution adopted
      by the Committee in 1978 reaffirmed its right to self-determination and

      The United States had not complied with the prerequisites of integration or
      the right of accession as contained in resolution 1541, he said. It was
      because of that lack of right of accession that there had already been a
      civil war in the United States. The Mayor of Vieques was among hundreds of
      Puerto Ricans imprisoned for demanding an immediate end to bombing and a
      clean-up of the island. Ending the bombing was a right and should not be a
      subject of negotiations, he said.

      BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba), introducing the draft resolution on
      Puerto Rico, said that the common history and special relationship between
      Cuba and Puerto Rico could be summed up in the words, �Cuba and Puerto Rico
      were the two wings of the same bird.� The text before the Committee
      reiterated the basic elements of resolutions previously adopted by Special
      Committee. Since 1973, resolutions of the Special Committee had reaffirmed
      the inalienable right of

      Puerto Ricans to the right to self-determination and the applicability of
      resolution 1514 to Puerto Rico. After more than 100 years of political
      domination and military occupation, Puerto Ricans had shown their
      determination to maintain their distinct cultural identity.

      A consensus existed among Puerto Ricans to put an end to the situation in
      Vieques, he noted. According to environmental studies, it would take
      decades and hundreds of millions of dollars to clean the areas affected by
      the bombings. New sections of text drew attention to the referendum held
      last July regarding United States withdrawal from Vieques and requested the
      United States President to release Puerto Rican political prisoners. He
      called on the Committee to adopt the text by consensus.

      NELSON CANALS, Gran Oriente Nacional de Puerto Rico, paying tribute to
      the people of East Timor on the occasion of their independence, said his
      organization had been appearing before the Special Committee since 1972.
      Successive generations of Puerto Ricans had committed themselves to
      achieving social and economic freedom, as a result of which many were now
      held in United States prisons.

      Freedom fighters had been forced to go into hiding or flee their homeland to
      escape oppression, he said. Their right to return must be guaranteed.
      Puerto Rican determination to end repression had most recently been made
      clear through the tenacious resistance to the military operations on
      Vieques. That had led to the arrest of protestors and their sentencing to
      disproportionate jail sentences.

      Noting that the Puerto Rican legislature had repealed the death penalty
      since 1929, he said it remained banned under the 1952 Constitution.
      Attempts to introduce that barbaric measure was another flagrant violation
      of Puerto Rican sovereignty. Gran Oriente denounced such attempts and hoped
      the Special Committee would take action to end the situation in Puerto Rico,
      the world's oldest colony.

      ANITA VELEZ MITCHELL, Primavera, Inc., said that she was born in
      Vieques. As a child, she was witness to the agrarian fall of Vieques. The
      United States naval base might finally leave the island in 2003. Puerto
      Ricans were now going through an identity crisis. Eight hundred Puerto
      Ricans perished on 11 September. However, they were counted among the
      Hispanics. When they were called to war, they were identified as Americans.
      After the hideous attack in Central Park, they were labelled as Puerto
      Ricans, even though there was only one Puerto Rican in that group of men,
      that too a �New Yorican�. The idea was to find a way to recover the dignity
      of the people of Puerto Rico.

      JOSE ADAMES, Al Frente, said that despite being one of the best
      democracies in the world, United States history was filled with
      discrimination. Even some map makers did not include Puerto Rico in the
      maps of the United States. Puerto Rico was a victim of discrimination in
      many ways. It became a territory of the United States before some States of
      the Union. Its Government was equal to that of any other State of the
      United States.

      Puerto Rico, he said, should have received statehood. It had more United
      States citizens than some American States. Puerto Rico was a State of the
      United States in every way. Puerto Rican soldiers and police had given
      their life for the United States. He called on the President of the United
      States to put a stop to that historical insult by submitting a declaration
      of statehood to the United States Congress.

      NILDA LUZ REXACH, National Advancement for Puerto Rican Culture,
      stressed that there was no moral or legal principle that could justify
      leaving more than

      3 million people without self-determination. The disenfranchised Puerto
      Rican people included thousands who had given their lives in American wars,
      and yet they had no right to political representation in the United States.
      There was no legal definition for the former and present status of Puerto
      Rico, which was neither free nor associated.

      She said it had long been clear that the Constitution of the United States
      would supersede the will of the Puerto Rican people on any occasion. Puerto
      Rican culture remained the same mixed culture that had always existed on the
      island, yet English was now being imposed on the territory. Full statehood
      was the only solution, she stressed.

      The Special Committee must not be misled by clever manipulation of the
      Vieques issue, she cautioned. That situation was the fault of inaction by
      Congress, which had failed to safeguard health, peace and order on the
      island. In addition, the people of Puerto Rico demanded that President
      George W. Bush end historical discrimination against the Puerto Rican
      people, who fully deserved the status of American citizens of the union's
      fifty-first State.

      ROGER CALERO, Socialist Workers Party, demanded the immediate
      withdrawal of the United States Navy from Vieques and the release of all
      those imprisoned in that regard. A successful struggle for independence was
      in the interest of not only the Puerto Ricans, but also the people of the
      United States. It would show that it was possible to stand up to the mighty
      power of the United States. For more than a century, the United States had
      maintained Puerto Rico as its colony, a fact which it had unsuccessfully
      tried to cover up. Today, the United States was turning to its military
      might to impose its power. The establishment of a United States-dominated
      protectorate in Afghanistan exposed that Washington�s so-called war on
      terror was just a war on other peoples and nations.

      Today, he said, there were still five Puerto Rican political prisoners
      detained in the United States, due to their ideas and actions with regard to
      Puerto Rico�s independence. He joined others in demanding their immediate
      release. Puerto Ricans in the United States represented a significant
      portion of the country�s workforce. Since Washington invaded Puerto Rico
      over a century ago, it had been used as a launching pad for military action
      against other countries, such as Grenada. The militarization of Puerto Rico
      reinforced the United States� intention to establish military bases in other
      Latin American countries.

      VANESSA RAMOS, American Association of Jurists, said that the word
      "American" in her organization's name sought to embrace all countries of the
      Americas, with the understanding that many of the conflicts had been the
      result of intervention by the United States. The Association defended the
      right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence.

      She reaffirmed that the United States Navy must immediately and
      unconditionally stop its military activities and dismantle all warlike

      stored on Vieques. The Navy's experimentation with depleted uranium and
      other unconventional weapons was a blatant act of environmental racism that
      had also been perpetrated in Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines and elsewhere.

      Citing Amnesty International, she said the Navy had used excessive
      force against peaceful demonstrators. Members of the Navy had fired upon
      them using mace, rubber bullets and other projectiles, as well as subjecting
      them to humiliating physical searches. The Association condemned the
      politically imperialistic nature of the excessive sentences imposed on the
      demonstrators, who had acted according to moral dictates. It was essential
      that President Bush free all Puerto Rican prisoners serving long sentences
      related to their country's independence struggle.

      The representative of Venezuela expressed support for the process of
      decolonization, particularly the right of the people of Puerto Rico to
      exercise their right to self-determination. She urged the Committee to
      adopt by consensus the draft text before it, which embodied in a balanced
      form the main components of the issue.

      The representative of Iraq hoped the draft resolution would be adopted
      once again by consensus, so that the Committee could reaffirm the right of
      the Puerto Rican people to self-determination.

      Iran�s representative fully supported the content of the draft
      resolution and believed its adoption by consensus, demonstrated the
      Committee�s support of the right to self-determination of the Puerto Rican

      The Committee adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

      The representative of Chile said that he had gone along with the
      resolution in order to ensure a consensus. However, that should not be
      interpreted as support for every point in the text. Other views existed in
      Puerto Rico which were not represented in the text. He welcomed the
      expressed intention of the President of the United States to end military
      manoeuvres in Vieques by 2003 and remained convinced that the achievement of
      a satisfactory resolution of the matter would require a decision taken by
      Puerto Rico and the United States.

      Cuba�s representative said that for the third consecutive year the
      Committee had adopted a resolution on Puerto Rico, which represented the
      common position that had developed on the issue. Once again, the Committee
      had fulfilled its mandate and heeded the calls for action made by the people
      of Puerto Rico. However, the role of the Committee could not end with the
      adoption of the text, and further efforts were required to implement the
      resolution and transform it into a practical tool.

      Today, he added, a large number of petitioners were heard, the majority of
      whom had voiced the concerns of the people of Puerto Rico. He hoped that it
      had also been useful for the United States delegation. It was his hope that
      the adoption of the text could pave the way for achieving significant
      progress towards the exercise of true self-determination, the inalienable
      right of the people of Puerto Rico.

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