Mr. President, Ambassadors, representatives from the different nations of the world:
My name is Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. I appear before this committee for the third time. The first time was in 1997 when I came in my capacity as president of the Popular Democratic Party to denounce an attempt by the United States Congress to pass a legislative measure publicly known as the Young Bill (HR 856), which disowned the historic position the United States had assumed regarding Puerto Rico and designed an involuntary pathway to bring the island to request admission as a state of the United States. Eventually, that proposal died without becoming law.
In 2008 I returned as Governor of Puerto Rico and president of the Popular Democratic Party. That appearance was provoked by two reports issued by the administration of President George W. Bush, in which the United States claimed that they held plenary powers over the nation of Puerto Rico. Plenary powers is the term the United States Constitution uses to refer to what the rest of the world knows as imperial or colonial powers. On that occasion I called for this committee to make a formal request to the United States to explain the crass inconsistencies between their position in the 50s and the position adopted in these two reports. Furthermore, I requested from this committee to present a request for the United Nations General Assembly to include the case of Puerto Rico in their agenda.
Today, I return as a former governor and former president of the Popular Democratic Party, but more than anything I stand before you as a Puerto Rican very much concerned for the future of my country. I have had three appearances in three consecutive decades, but with the same connecting thread. First, due to actions from the United States Congress that went nowhere; second, due to formal statements from the head of the executive branch of the United States that were not accompanied by concrete actions and now, almost 20 years after my first appearance, it is not longer in response to statements or reports, but to concrete actions that go against our dignity and our democracy.
I will not use my limited time to analyze or summarize the events of this year 2016, nor for recriminations. Im also not here to re-litigate the events from 1950 to 1953, but there are some unassailable facts that cannot be overemphasized: during this year the three constitutional powers of the United States have made it clear that the United States continues to have plenary powers over Puerto Rico and that they are willing to exercise them. In fact, while we are here, President Obama, personally, is urging the US Senate to approve House Bill 5278, (called PROMESA) which has already been approved by the House of Representatives, which constitutes a blatant display of imperial and colonial powers of the United States over Puerto Rico. This bill revokes the limited levels of self-government and autonomy that the United States had delegated to the people of Puerto Rico.
And as a known saying among Puerto Rican lawyers goes: when theres a confession, you need no proof, There is not much left to litigate, what corresponds now is to act and that is why I am here today: so that the United Nations exert its best efforts and pressure the United States to begin as soon as possible the process of political and economic de-colonization of Puerto Rico. To move forward I request and claim from this committee to adopt and push the following agenda:
1. That this committee take the recent actions and expressions from the three constitutional branches of the United States government as an admission that Puerto Rico has not reached the level of self-government which the United States pledged to Puerto Rico and the UN in the process of 1950 to 1953, which culminated with the approval by the United Nations General Assembly of Resolution 748 (VII) of November 27, 1953.
2. That this committee express that these actions, expressions and admissions of the three braches of the United States government have had the effect of rolling back the international situation of Puerto Rico to what it was prior to 1952 and as a logical consequence of this, invite the government of the United States to appear before this forum to explain the steps they will take to remedy this colonial situation.
3. That with this new scenario, this committee recommends to the General Assembly a separate discussion on the case of Puerto Rico, and that if the United States refuses to accept the international consequences of its recent admissions, the General Assembly will request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, in a similar way as they did in the case of the territory of South West Africa (now Namibia), through Resolution 338 (IV) of 1949.
4. That this committee express its strong condemnation of the actions of the United States government by attempting to approve the House Bill 5278, as a crude exercise of colonial power over Puerto Rico and a unilateral revocation of the limited powers of self-government that Puerto Rico has reached. That, if this bill becomes law this committee, in its discharge of its responsibility, visit and meet in Puerto Rico to examine directly the colonial effect of this law upon us. It is one thing for the international community to denounce and recognize the colonial status of Puerto Rico and another to look the other way when the United States acts as an empire and exercises and abuses such colonial powers.
5. That this committee demand from the United States government a commitment to the people of Puerto Rico and the international community to cease to have and exercise their plenary powers within the maximum period of 5 years.
6. That this committee exercises its best efforts to facilitate a dialogue between the US government and the people of Puerto Rico to advance and achieve a genuine process of self-determination.
To impose upon Puerto Rico the responsibility of solving this issue is not only unfair, but also contrary to law and human nature itself. In the same way that you would not impose upon a slave the responsibility of resolving the situation of its own slavery, you cant require a people who have been denied the most basic traits of sovereignty to determine their fate, to assume the responsibility to resolve this situation at the same time that you deny them the attributes necessary to act. The United States must take responsibility for solving this colonial situation and speak clearly to the people of Puerto Rico on what options they are willing to be part of this dialogue-negotiation. This dialogue must include the United States defining clearly the political, legal, economic, and cultural conditions that they are willing to negotiate with the people of Puerto Rico and I propose it should address, among other topics, the following:
a. If the United States is willing to integrate Puerto Rico as a federated state of their nation, and what would be the economic and cultural consequences of such integration;
b. What would be the legal and economic contours a dignifying political association (Sovereign Commonwealth) with special attention to the political and legal reality that for more than five generations, Puerto Ricans have been US citizens by birth and that there are more than 8 million Puerto Ricans around the world that have the dual status of being Puerto Rican and American citizens and that citizenship cannot be stripped away; and,
c. What would be the transitional economic measures towards an eventual independence.
I repeat, it is time to act.
Thank you very much.
Translation from spanish by Gabriela Acevedo Gándara