And these seven?

If some skeptics believed that the seven from the board “were coming to put the house in order”, to “end the politicking”, to “not be influenced by anyone”, well they’ve had a sad awakening. Viewed as a whole, with some exceptions, there are no big stars in these seven. Most of us who follow these issues had to go to use Google to find out who they were and their merits, and the balance is frightening, particularly over those who are Republican, who are the majority with the power to decide our future. Furthermore, in just 24 hours Wall street analysts have concluded that this board is pro-bondholders.
The best known one is the biggest surprise: Carlos Garcia. For those who wanted a “fresh start” (or “clean slate”) his name is bad news. He is the first president that the Government Development Bank had under Luis Fortuño, the architect of the fateful Law 7 that left thousands of public employees out of work and accelerated the economic crisis. This Garcia is who administrated more than 6 billion in ARRA funds that Obama sent to Puerto Rico, who to this day, does not know what they were used for. This Garcia or Caco, as his friends call him, was who raised the CONFINA debt of $6 billion to $14 billion and changed its use to finance operational deficits; and, even worse, was the one who, at Fortuño’s request indebted the BGF Bank for $4 billion, with a bond issue to be paid in this quadrennium. This is the debt that precipitated the bankruptcy of the BGF, but if this was not enough to disqualify him, he has a grave conflict because, how can he tell the bondholders that he won’t pay them, when it was he who approved these issuances? How will he audit the prudence of these issuances (issue bonds?) if he was the one who designed them?

The next one that jumps up at you is José Carrión III, a successful insurance agent, but without any expertise in the financial challenges we face. He is pro-statehood, Republican. PNP and Pierluisi’s brother-in-law. None of that disqualifies him, but it also doesn’t make him qualified, and I must say that one quick Google search was all it took to end the illusion that the board is coming to put an end to political influences. I have no doubt that José Carrión is one of the seven because he donated thousands of dollars to Republicans here and in the US. The website ‘Open Secrets’ reveals that in recent years he has made, among others, the following donations: $20,000 to Jeb Bush’s super pac, $3,000 to Marco Rubio, $7,000 to the Republican National Party; $2,500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee; $2,000 to Marco Rubio, $4,000 to Luis Fortuño, $4,500 to his brother-in-law Pierluisi, $1,000 to Labrador and $2,700 to Jennifer González.

The others we will get to know along the way, but it stands out that the other two republicans are ultra conservatives, of those who understand you have to pay at any cost (or by any means). Andrew Biggs belongs to the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank that is known for advocating for reducing the salaries of public employees. David Skeel is a university professor, a bankruptcy expert, but on the issues that concern us, his position has been that bankruptcy laws are bad for creditors. From these four republicans it’s easy to anticipate what awaits us and to make matters worst, disappointedly, they were validated and appointed by Obama.

On the side of the democrats there is some little hope. Arthur González is a reputable former bankruptcy judge. Ana Matosantos comes with vast experience in budgetary matters from the state of California, who has managed them under republican and democrat governors, and last is the banker José Ramón González, known and respected in the financial world. He was president of the BGF during the second administration of Rafael Hernández Colón, which doesn’t present a conflict of interest because there are no transactions from that time on the table.

On balance, the hopes of Puerto Rico are only to fight against this board.

Declaraciones del exgobernador Acevedo Vilá y su esposa ante el fallecimiento de la madre del gobernador García Padilla

Mi esposa Piti y yo seamos expresar nuestra más profunda tristeza por el fallecimiento de María de los Ángeles Padilla Passalacqua, madre del gobernador Alejandro García Padilla. Confiamos y oramos a nuestro señor para que el gobernador, sus hijos, sus hermanos y el resto de su familia y amigos tengan la fortaleza para sobrellevar este momento de dolor. Nos consta el vínculo tan especial y muy fuerte que tenía el gobernador con su señora madre y sabemos que fue una de las personas más importantes e influyentes en su vida. Nuestro más sentido pésame y un abrazo solidario para él y la primera dama, Wilma Pastrana.

A Sovereign Commonwealth (ELA Soberano) is possible

After the positions of the federal executive branch and of Congress reaffirming their plenary powers over Puerto Rico, the two decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the approval of PROMESA, for the vast majority of Puerto Ricans who want and believe in a dignifying and not colonial association with the United States, that preserves our national identity, several questions arise: Is it possible to have a Commonwealth (ELA) outside of the scope of the territorial clause, a Sovereign Commonwealth (ELA Soberano)? Is it possible to have a dignified, non colonial, non territorial association relationship with the United States that maintains the common bonds of currency, defense and market, plus the American citizenship? My answer is yes, but we need to teach and educate ourselves and end the fears and myths here and over there.
Today is very different from 1952. Trade barriers have fallen and the free flow of people and goods between countries is becoming more common every day. Let’s look at the reality of these four pillars I mentioned in terms of today.

Common currency / Although with periods of fluctuation, the US dollar continues to be the dominant currency in the world. In fact, there is no United States law that prevents another country from using the dollar as their domestic currency; it’s what’s known in the international community as the “dollarization” of an economy. Countries such as Ecuador and El Salvador have the dollar as their official currency and others, like Panama, whose economy growth has been extraordinary is the past 15 years, use the dollar in place of its currency. So, it’s obvious that in any relationship of dignified association with the United States, there is no impediment to maintain the dollar as the common currency.

Common market / If anything in the world has changed dramatically since 1952 it’s in the creation of large trade blocs that allow the free market of goods and services. The United States was one of the last markets to enter this current, but since the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, the trend has been to increase its common market agreements. In the case of Puerto Rico, it would not be to promote a change in the existing trade rules, but to maintain and perfect them under the new globalized world. And let’s not forget that Puerto Rico continues to be one of the main markets for American goods, which guarantees that the US corporate sector will ensure that the common market is maintained.

Common defense / The United States has mutual defense agreements with more countries than anyone else. The economic and strategic interests that the United States has in Puerto Rico guarantee that what we have today remains under a dignified relationship of ELA Soberano.

Common citizenship / This is really a topic full of myths and lies, and although I will elaborate a at a later date, today it’s enough to say that it is constitutionally guaranteed that Puerto Ricans cannot be deprived of our American citizenship, even in the extreme case of independence. Under ELA Soberano, maintaining the American citizenship of Puerto Ricans by birth is a matter of mutual benefit and of political will. Professor Samuel Issacharoff in the study he made last year by request of the PPD, concluded that in a relationship of dignified association anything can be agreed on “including the grant of continued rights to U.S. citizenship to any person born in Puerto Rico and full entitlement to American social benefits.” It is a matter of political will.

For all this reasons I affirm that there should be no doubt that we can renegotiate a relationship of dignified association with the United States that preserves the binding values that Puerto Ricans want to maintain, what we must do is begin to work on it without fear.
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Published originally in spanish by El Nuevo Día on August 11, 2016
Translated by Gabriela Acevedo Gándara

United States and its right to self-determination

Statehood for Puerto Rico constitutes an exercise in self-determination for the United States. This is not a case of adding one more state to the union or one more star to the flag, but a transformation from what the US has been throughout its history, a nation-state, into a multi-national state.

World history has various examples of sovereign states that are composed of more than one nation. Unlike a multicultural and multiethnic state, where different racial, religious, and/or linguistics majorities and minorities live in the same territory, but are all part of one historical and sociological nation, (like the US); in a multinational state different nations share their territory, history and culture, which distinguish one from the other, but are united in one state under political arrangements.

When my generation went to school, we were taught about the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Under communist and totalitarian regimes, those states survived with a unitary state despite having different nations coexisting within the same state. In the Soviet Union 15 nations co-existed, in Czechoslovakia two, and in Yugoslavia six. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, these nations that throbbed silently within these antidemocratic regimes reclaimed their space and joined the community of nations with their own rights, and today none of the three exists.

But multinational states don’t exist solely under totalitarian regimes. At this very moment, the world is observing what is happening in Great Britain with Scotland and in Spain with Catalonia. The United Kingdom of Great Britain is a democratic state that is made up of four nations with their own territories and history: England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, each with different levels of autonomy as agreed with the central government. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom since 1707, but today, more than 300 years after the start of that union, the friction between Scotland and the rest of Great Britain is evident, with a strong independence movement that, although lost a recent referendum by a small margin, has regained strength after the triumph of Brexit , and at the moment, the autonomous government of Scotland is in the hands of the pro-independence party.

Spain is living with a similar situation, where, although it has never clearly recognized that it’s a multinational state, its linguistic and cultural reality support it is. Catalonia has been part of what we know today as Spain since the fifteenth century. But during that period, with its ups and its downs, under repressive regimes like Franco or under models of greater autonomy, Catalonia has preserved its national identity, its language and its own idiosyncrasy. Today, large sectors of the catalan society claim their independence and the local government is in the hands of the independence movement.

The United States is nothing like the previous two examples. Although it is a nation of immigrants and different minorities live in it, its objective since its beginnings has been that they all incorporate into one nation, what is known as the ‘melting pot’. Since its inception, the American nation has had in its official seal the following motto : “e pluribus unum”, which in Latin means, “from the many, one”.

Nobody in their right mind can doubt that Puerto Rico, sociologically, is a nation. We have our own territory, history, language and culture. Unless we suffer a rapid racial, linguistic and cultural assimilation that destroys our nationality- something that hasn’t happened in the more than 116 years of our relationship with the United States- statehood for Puerto Rico would mean that the United States would integrate into their federation a distinct nation. It would mean going from “e pluribus unum” to “e pluribus duo”. There is no doubt that this decision equates to an act of self-determination that in its day the American people will have to make.
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Originally published by El Nuevo Día.
Translated by Gabriela Acevedo Gándara

HABLEMOS SOBRE LA ESTADIDAD

Durante las últimas semanas, en parte como consecuencia de la aprobación de la ley federal PROMESA, las recientes decisiones del Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos y la cercanía de las elecciones, el tema del status de Puerto Rico ha vuelto a tomar prominencia en la discusión pública. Para los líderes del PNP la única solución “mágica” a todos nuestros problemas es la estadidad. Ante esa ofensiva estadista de desinformación, a través de las columnas que me publica periódicamente el periódico El Nuevo Día, he comenzado un diálogo con el país sobre los verdaderos efectos de la estadidad.
Ese diálogo lo voy a continuar en el futuro. Por eso quiero compartir contigo las primeras dos columnas que ya publiqué durante el pasado mes de julio. Por la importancia de que estos asuntos se discutan también en los Estados Unidos, he traducido ambas columnas al inglés. Te incluyo aquí las dos columnas y además los enlaces a las traducciones disponibles en internet. Te invito a que me escribas con tus reacciones y comentarios y se te parece compartes las columnas y enlaces con tus amistades y conocidos.

Saludos
Aníbal

El mito del milagro económico de la estadidad
21 de julio de 2016
Publicado en El Nuevo Día

Al escuchar a los estadistas parece que están vendiendo una especie de socialismo estadista, que la estadidad para Puerto Rico significa que nos va a tocar parte de la producción petrolera de Texas, parte de las ganancias de Hollywood, de la bonanza de Wall Street y del turismo de Orlando. Esa retórica hueca la repiten ahora con más insistencia como su respuesta a nuestra crisis.

Desde que tengo uso de razón escucho a los estadistas comparar la economía de Puerto Rico con la de Mississippi, para decir que la nuestra es mucho más pobre que “la del estado más pobre de la nación”. Esa afirmación pro estadista siempre me lleva a hacer las preguntas que ellos nunca contestan: ¿Por qué pasan los años y Mississippi sigue siendo el estado más pobre? ¿Es que acaso la estadidad no le ha funcionado a Mississippi? La respuesta es sencilla: la estadidad no es un modelo de desarrollo económico. La estadidad es, simplemente, una forma de organizar una federación.

Lo que hace la estadidad en materia fiscal y económica es aplicar unas reglas de juego uniformes a los cincuenta estados. Si en algo se parecen la junta de control fiscal y la estadidad es que ninguna de las dos tiene elementos de desarrollo económico.

La premisa del “milagro” de la estadidad es que la aplicación de los programas federales significará una bonanza para Puerto Rico, pero la respuesta inequívoca a esa aseveración está en el informe del GAO (Government Accountability Office) de 2014 y que curiosamente, en medio de nuestra crisis, ningún estadista cita.

Del lado de las asignaciones nuevas que recibiría Puerto Rico como estado, el informe las estima en $5,200 millones anuales, una cantidad de hecho menor que la que recibió la isla en el 2009 por la ley de estímulo económico de Obama, cuando por concepto de fondos ARRA Puerto Rico recibió $6,887 millones, y todos sabemos que fueron mínimos los efectos de este dinero sobre nuestra economía.

Pero donde está la realidad cruda de la estadidad es en el análisis que hace el GAO sobre los impuestos federales que pagaríamos. El GAO estima que con la estadidad los individuos y corporaciones pagaríamos $7,200 millones en contribuciones federales en un año. Es decir, aportaríamos más de lo que recibiríamos. Lo que no dice el GAO, pero es de fácil constatación con los números oficiales, es que en un año fiscal similar los individuos y las corporaciones pagaron al gobierno de Puerto Rico $4,170 millones en contribuciones, mucho menos que lo que hubiésemos pagado bajo la estadidad. La estadidad significará un aumento de por lo menos 72% en la contribución sobre ingresos de los sectores productivos del país. A este número, de por sí devastador, hay que añadirle que el informe hace ese estimado tomando en cuenta el éxodo de una porción alta de las industrias americanas que se encuentran en Puerto Rico, que según el GAO abandonarán la isla para no pagar contribuciones federales.

En palabras sencillas, ese aumento de 72% o $3,030 millones adicionales, lo pagaremos los individuos y corporaciones puertorriqueñas, y encima, tendremos que lidiar con el aumento en el desempleo que se va a generar con la ida de las industrias americanas y con buscar los recursos para que el gobierno de Puerto Rico pueda operar, unos números que no están incluidos en este cálculo.

Puerto Rico vive momentos de profunda crisis económica y fiscal. Necesitamos cambios estructurales profundos. Pero es evidente que la estadidad no está diseñada para Puerto Rico y no beneficia a los puertorriqueños. Tenemos que entrar pronto en la discusión profunda y seria de cuáles son nuestras alternativas reales.

(Traducción al inglés – The myth of the economic miracle of statehood, http://acevedovila.net/es/?v=item&id=131)

La estadidad no es imposible
13 de julio de 2016
Publicado en El Nuevo Día

“La estadidad para Puerto Rico es imposible”. Esa ha sido la premisa bajo la que han actuado y actúan muchos anti-estadistas y anti-colonialistas, que incluso afirman que pedir la estadidad es la mejor forma para resolver el dilema del status porque cuando el Congreso la deniegue, eso va a generar que se muevan las fuerzas anticoloniales para lograr una solución vía el modelo de la libre asociación-ELA soberano, o la independencia. La premisa para esta convicción es que la estadidad es mala para Estados Unidos y mala para Puerto Rico por razones económicas y culturales, y por ende, jamás nos la darán. Por lo tanto, una petición de estadidad negada, va a desencadenar una crisis política que obligaría a Estados Unidos a descolonizar a Puerto Rico.

Que la estadidad es mala para Puerto Rico y para Estados Unidos es algo de lo que estoy convencido y estoy dispuesto a argumentarlo en cualquier foro aquí y allá. Pero en la vida, hacer una estrategia para lograr lo que yo quiero, basada en lo que la otra parte haría, es una invitación a un salto al vacío porque mi verdad, necesariamente, no es tu verdad.

Además, lo más lamentable de esta estrategia es que, tal vez inconscientemente, parte de la visión del colonizado. El racional implícito es: yo sé que la estadidad es mala para Estados Unidos y Puerto Rico, pero si yo llegué a esa conclusión, el americano, que es tan inteligente e infalible, va a tener que llegar a esa misma conclusión. En otras palabras, la premisa es que es imposible que Estados Unidos se equivoque.

Pero la historia nos demuestra todo lo contrario. Ahí está la guerra de Vietnam y más reciente la guerra de Irak, la inestabilidad en Libia y el desastre que vive Siria. Cualquier análisis racional de lo que llevó a cada uno de esos eventos confirma que tales intervenciones eran malas para Estados Unidos, pero actuando bajo premisas equivocadas y/o intenciones particulares, es obvio que Estados Unidos se equivocó, costándole muchas vidas de ciudadanos americanos (incluyendo puertorriqueños) y el desprestigio internacional.

En el caso de Puerto Rico hay unos hechos irrebatibles que no podemos olvidar:

Luego de más de 116 años de relación, Estados Unidos no entiende a Puerto Rico.

Estados Unidos no entiende que somos una nación, con nuestra propia personalidad, identidad y cultura. Para muchos líderes americanos, incluyendo al presidente Obama, Puerto Rico es, simplemente, el lugar dónde viven 3.5 millones de ciudadanos americanos. Para otros, lo que somos es otra minoría dentro del amplio ‘melting pot’ que es la nación americana. Ante este desconocimiento, nos tratan como a cualquiera de sus otras minorías que se han integrado a su sociedad y no como una nación con identidad propia.

Estados Unidos no entiende la situación económica particular de Puerto Rico. No entiende que somos una sociedad económicamente en desarrollo que vive y sobrevive dentro de la economía más desarrollada del mundo. Desde esa perspectiva, les es difícil comprender los efectos que la integración total tendrían sobre la economía de Puerto Rico.

La inmediatez de la política norteamericana puede reducir el tema de la estadidad a las conveniencias electorales inmediatas de uno u otro partido, sin enfocarse en las consecuencias.

Para mí, la estadidad significa la muerte de Puerto Rico. Para Estados Unidos, significa su transformación en un estado multinacional, algo que ellos no son y no conocen. Las consecuencias negativas para ambos son demasiado altas, pero no cometamos el error de pensar y actuar como que ellos son infalibles y no cometen errores. Tenemos que educarnos y tenemos que educarlos. Recordemos Vietnam, recordemos Irak.

(Traducción al inglés – Statehood is not imposible, http://www.elnuevodia.com/opinion/columnas/statehoodisnotimpossible-columna-2220660/)

The myth of the economic miracle of statehood

Listening to statehood supporters it seems they are selling a type of socialist statehood, that statehood for Puerto Rico means that we get a part of oil production from Texas, part of the proceeds from Hollywood, the economic bonanza from Wall Street and from Orlando’s tourism. That hollow rhetoric is repeated with even more insistence now as a response to our crisis.

Since I can remember I’ve heard statehood supporters compare the economy of Puerto Rico with the economy in Mississippi, to say that ours is much poorer than “that of the poorest state in the nation”. That pro-statehood affirmation always leads me to questions they never answer: Why do the years pass and Mississippi is still the poorest state? Is it possible statehood hasn’t worked for Mississippi? The answer is simple: statehood is not a model for economic development. Statehood is simply a way to organize a federation.

What statehood does in fiscal and economic matters is apply uniform rules of the game to the fifty states. If anything, the new federal control board and statehood share is that neither has elements of economic development.

The premise of the “miracle” of statehood is that the application of federal programs will mean a bonanza for Puerto Rico, but the unequivocal response to this statement is in the GAO (Government Accountability Office) report of 2014 and that, curiously, in the middle of our crisis, no statehood supporter cites.

On the new federal funds that Puerto Rico would receive as a state, the report estimates $5,200 million annually, an amount that is in fact less than what the island received in 2009 from Obama’s stimulus bill, when by way of ARRA funds Puerto Rico received $6,887 million, and we all know the minimal effects of this money on our economy.

But were the stark reality of statehood lies in the GAO analysis on the federal taxes we would pay. The GAO estimated that with statehood individuals and corporations would pay $7,200 million in federal taxes in one year. Bottom line is, we would give more than we receive. What GAO does not say, but is easily verifiable with the official numbers is that in a similar fiscal year individuals and corporations would pay the Puerto Rico government $4,170 million in taxes, considerably less than what we would have paid under statehood. Statehood would mean an increase of at least 72% in income taxes for the productive sectors of Puerto Rico. To that already devastating number, we must add that the report makes that estimate taking into account the exodus of a high portion of the American industries currently in Puerto Rico, which according to the GAO would abandon the island to avoid paying federal taxes.

In simple terms, that 72% increase or additional $3,030 million, would be paid by Puerto Rican individuals and corporations, and on top of that, we would have to deal with an increase in unemployment generated by the departure of American industries and with finding the resources so the Puerto Rico government can operate, numbers that are not included in this calculation.

Puerto Rico is experiencing moments of deep economic and fiscal crisis. We need profound structural changes. But it is evident that statehood is not designed for Puerto Rico and does not benefit Puerto Ricans. We need to soon enter into a profound and serious discussion of what are our real alternatives.

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Originally published by El Nuevo Día online. Translated by Gabriela Acevedo Gándara.

THE HURRY IS OVER, THE CRISIS REMAINS

With the direct intervention of President Obama, the Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and the two highest ranking elected officials in Puerto Rico, PROMESA was approved without any significant amendments before July 1st with the expectation, that if it did not happen, the sky would fall. However, several days have passed and the questions remain the same: is the crisis over? Did it stop the lawsuits? Is there certainty about what will happen in Puerto Rico? Will the tax refunds arrive? Are the government suppliers being paid? Has optimism returned?
The answer to all these questions is no, because the only thing PROMESA has achieved so far is deal a heavy blow to Puerto Ricans’ self-esteem and justify the United States need for a colonial regime in Puerto Rico.

I don’t have any doubt that the hasty approval of this law will have negative consequences for Puerto Rico and for the United States.

The two Senators responsible for the issues related to Puerto Rico in the Senate, one Republican and one Democrat voted against it, a bad sign for those who argue that this is the first step in a design to solve Puerto Rico’s colonial problem. In less than 24 hours, the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin Hatch, sent letters indicating possible law violations and collusions between the federal Treasury Department and the government of Puerto Rico, which in itself bodes ill for the possibility of achieving economic development initiatives in the near future.

As days pass, Puerto Ricans will discover that PROMESA does not solve our crisis, it only deals with theirs. Interestingly, the day after the approval of this measure almost all of the companies that insure Puerto Rico bonds increased their market value. Obama and Lew have stopped talking about us because, as was their strategy, the possibility of the United States being sued for Friday’s default was reduced, significantly.

But regarding the problem of lack of liquidity of our government, PROMESA does nothing. The non-payment to government suppliers continues from month to month and PROMESA does not solve it. PROMESA also does not serve the budget deficit of Centro Medico, of the health system or of the special education services, among the many other pressing challenges facing Puerto Rico. In fact, these problems will be aggravated. According to the text of the law, if by midyear the PROMESA board concludes there is a budget deficit, they can order budget cuts in all areas except those regarding debt service to the bondholders. In other words, if you have to choose between cutting funds to Centro Medico, the Department of Education, or the payment to bondholders, the law specifically prohibits cutting the funds to the bondholders.

But the most dramatic is what was validated in the Government of Puerto Rico financial statements, published after the approval of the law: that it is very likely that the government will run out of money in the coming months. The financial statements confirm that the problem will not be solved with more spending cuts because that would mean that many fundamental areas of the government would basically will become unworkable.

Several reports have already been published about how the crisis in Washington DC and New York, that have been presented to us as savior models, after initial enactment of their fiscal board, over time the fiscal crisis of both jurisdictions had to return to Congress because without new financial resources and loan guarantees for market access, the crisis was not solved. Hurry is the friend of disinformation and now, although it appears that there is no hurry, there is also no solution.

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Translated by Gabriela Acevedo Gándara. Originally published by El Nuevo Día Interactivo, June 7, 2016

TESTIMONY OF THE FORMER GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO ANÍBAL ACEVEDO VILÁ BEFORE THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTE ON DECOLONIZATION, JUNE 20, 2016

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. I’m 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 there’s 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 can’t 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

TESTIMONIO DEL EXGOBERNADOR DE PUERTO RICO ANÍBAL ACEVEDO VILÁ ANTE EL COMITÉ DE DESCOLONIZACIÓN DE LA ORGANIZACIÓN DE LAS NACIONES UNIDAS, 20 DE JUNIO 2016

Señor presidente, señores embajadores, representantes de las diferentes naciones del Mundo:
Mi nombre es Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. Comparezco ante este comité por tercera ocasión. La primera vez fue en 1997 cuando vine en mi carácter de presidente del Partido Popular Democrático para denunciar el intento del Congreso de Estados Unidos de aprobar una medida legislativa, conocida públicamente como el Proyecto Young (HR 856), que renegaba de las posiciones históricas que Estados Unidos había asumido respecto a Puerto Rico y diseñaba un camino involuntario para llevar a la isla a solicitar su admisión como estado federado de Estados Unidos. Eventualmente, dicha propuesta murió sin ser convertida en ley.

En el 2008 regresé como gobernador de Puerto Rico y presidente del Partido Popular Democrático. Dicha comparecencia la provocó dos informes emitidos por la administración del presidente George W. Bush, en los cuales Estados Unidos reclamaba que dicha nación mantenía poderes plenarios sobre la nación puertorriqueña. Poderes plenarios es el término que usa la Constitución de Estados Unidos para referirse a lo que en el Mundo se conoce como poderes imperiales y/o coloniales. En esa ocasión le reclamé a este comité que hiciera “un requerimiento formal” a Estados Unidos para que explicara “las crasas inconsistencias entre sus posturas de la década de los 50” y las posturas asumidas en esos dos informes. Además, que este comité elevara una petición para que la Asamblea General de la Organización de Naciones Unidas incluyera en su agenda el caso de Puerto Rico.

Hoy, regreso como exgobernador y expresidente del Partido Popular, pero más que nada me presento ante ustedes como puertorriqueño muy preocupado por el futuro de mi país. Han sido tres comparecencias en tres décadas consecutivas, pero con un mismo hilo conductor. Primero, por unas acciones del Congreso de Estados Unidos que no llegaron a concretarse; segundo, por las expresiones formales del jefe de la rama ejecutiva de Estados Unidos que no fueron acompañadas de acciones concretas, y ahora, casi veinte años después de la primera comparecencia, ya no es en respuesta a expresiones o informes, sino a acciones concretas que van contra nuestra dignidad y nuestra democracia.

No voy a usar mi tiempo limitado para analizar o resumir los acontecimientos de este año 2016, ni para recriminaciones a este comité. Tampoco vengo a re-litigar los acontecimientos de 1950 al 1953, pero hay unos hechos inexpugnables que no puedo dejar de destacar: en este año los tres poderes constitucionales de Estados Unidos han dejado claro que Estados Unidos continúa teniendo poderes plenarios sobre Puerto Rico y que está dispuesto a ejercerlos. De hecho, mientras estamos aquí, el presidente Obama, personalmente, intenta que el Senado de Estados Unidos apruebe el Proyecto de la Cámara 5278, (llamado PROMESA) y que ya fue aprobado en la Cámara de Representantes, el cual constituye un ejercicio descarado de los poderes imperiales y coloniales de Estados Unidos sobre Puerto Rico. Ese proyecto revoca los niveles limitados de gobierno propio y autonomía que Estados Unidos había delegado al pueblo de Puerto Rico.

Y como dice un conocido refrán entre abogados puertorriqueños, “a admisión de parte, relevo de prueba”. Ya no queda mucho por litigar, lo que corresponde ahora es actuar y por eso estoy aquí hoy: para que esta Organización de Naciones Unidos ejerza sus mejores oficios y presione a Estados Unidos para que inicie a la mayor brevedad posible un proceso de descolonización política y económica de Puerto Rico. Para movernos hacia delante, solicito y reclamo a este comité que adopte e impulse la siguiente agenda:

1. Que este comité tome las acciones y expresiones recientes de las tres ramas constitucionales del gobierno de Estados Unidos como una admisión de que Puerto Rico no ha alcanzado el nivel de gobierno propio con el cual Estados Unidos se comprometió con Puerto Rico y la ONU, en el proceso de 1950 a 1953, y que culminó con la aprobación de la Resolución 748 (VII) del 27 de noviembre de 1953 de Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas.
2. Que este comité exprese que estas acciones, expresiones y admisiones de las tres ramas del gobierno de Estados Unidos tienen el efecto de retrotraer la situación internacional de Puerto Rico al nivel de la existente antes de 1952 y como consecuencia lógica de esto, se invite al gobierno de los Estados Unidos a que comparezca ante este foro para que explique los pasos que dará para remediar la presente situación colonial.
3. Que ante este nuevo escenario, este comité le recomiende al pleno de la Asamblea General una discusión separada del caso de Puerto Rico, y que si Estados Unidos se niega a aceptar las consecuencias internacionales de sus admisiones recientes, la Asamblea General solicitará una Opinión Consultiva a la Corte Internacional de Justicia, de forma similar a como lo hizo en el caso del territorio de África del Sudoeste (hoy Namibia), a través de la Resolución 338 (IV) de 1949.
4. Que este comité exprese su repudio enérgico a las acciones del gobierno de Estados Unidos al pretender aprobar el Proyecto de la Cámara 5278, por ser un ejercicio burdo de su poder colonial sobre Puerto Rico y una revocación unilateral de los restringidos poderes de autogobierno que Puerto Rico ha alcanzado. Que, si este proyecto se convierte en ley, este comité, en el descargo de su responsabilidad, visite y sesione en Puerto Rico para que examine directamente el efecto colonial de esta ley sobre nosotros. Una cosa es que la comunidad internacional denuncie y reconozca la condición colonial de Puerto Rico y otra es que se haga de la vista larga cuando Estados Unidos actúa como un imperio y ejerce abusivamente tales poderes coloniales.
5. Que este comité le reclame al gobierno de Estados Unidos que se comprometa con el pueblo de Puerto Rico y con la comunidad internacional a cesar de tener y ejercer sus poderes plenarios en un plazo máximo de 5 años.
6. Que este comité ejerza sus mejores oficios para propiciar un diálogo entre el gobierno de Estados Unidos y el pueblo de Puerto Rico para adelantar y alcanzar un verdadero proceso de auto-determinación.

Imponer a Puerto Rico la responsabilidad de “resolver” este asunto es no, solamente, injusto, sino contrario a derecho y a la propia naturaleza humana. De la misma forma que no se le podía imponer a un esclavo la responsabilidad de resolver su situación de esclavitud, no se le puede exigir a un pueblo al que se le han negado los más básicos atributos de soberanía para determinar su destino, que asuma la responsabilidad de resolver esa situación a la misma vez que se le niegan los atributos necesarios para actuar. Estados Unidos tiene que asumir la responsabilidad de resolver la presente situación colonial y hablarle con claridad al pueblo de Puerto Rico sobre cuáles son las opciones que está dispuesto a que formen parte de este dialogo-negociación. Ese diálogo debe incluir que Estados Unidos defina con claridad las condiciones políticas, jurídicas, económicas y culturales que está dispuesto a negociar con el pueblo de Puerto Rico y propongo que debe abordar, entre otros temas, los siguientes:

a. si Estados Unidos está dispuesto a integrar a Puerto Rico como un estado federado de esa nación, y cuales serían las consecuencias económicas y culturales de dicha integración;
b. cuáles serían los contornos jurídicos y económicos de una asociación política digna, (Estado Libre Asociado Soberano) con atención especial a la realidad política y jurídica de que por más de cinco generaciones los puertorriqueños han sido ciudadanos americanos por nacimiento y que hay más de 8 millones de puertorriqueños alrededor de mundo que tienen la condición dual de ser puertorriqueños y ciudadanos americanos y que jurídicamente esa ciudadanía no les puede ser quitada; y,
c. cuáles serían las medidas económicas transicionales hacia una eventual independencia.

Repito, llegó el momento de actuar.

Muchas gracias.

Colonizers and colonized

Thursday June 9, 2016 will go down in history as the day the colonizers and the colonized won and celebrated, but Puerto Rico lost. The repercussions of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Sánchez Valle and the approval of PROMESA in Congress with its colonial board, will mark us for many years like a slave by its brand.
It was not by chance that both events happened on the same day, and that while the Treasury Department urged since November last year for a “strong control board”, the US Department of Justice intervened in the case of Sánchez Valle, to deny the legitimacy of the Commonwealth status.

In my meetings last week in Washington it became clear that the legal and financial design of PROMESA is reliant on affirming that Congress has plenary powers over Puerto Rico. Although using a politically neutral language, Antonio Weiss recognized that for PROMESA to be constitutional there can be no doubt over the colonial character of the United States relationship with Puerto Rico. He also acknowledged that if Puerto Rico breaches its obligations and defaults on its bonds, the United States government would be sued for their legal responsibility over our public debt.

PROMESA is not to save Puerto Rico, but to save the US from being held accountable and having to rightly pay for their actions and lack of action. The agreement of republicans and democrats in Congress with the Obama administration is due to this: an effort to try to clear their responsibility at the expense of our dignity.

Sánchez Valle does not completely validate what PROMESA represents, but if the ultimate source for Puerto Rico to prosecute criminals emanates from Congress, there lies the legal basis to explain that the ultimate source of the Commonwealth Constitution lies not with the sovereign will of the people of Puerto Rico, but with the will of Congress. Last week Congress threw our Constitution in the trash and with it our frail democracy and our dignity. But beware, if the ultimate source of our powers reside with Congress, with plenary powers come plenary responsibilities.

For Puerto Rico the cost is very high. First it annihilates our capacity to govern ourselves, something that transcends legal discussions about Commonwealth status and goes to the essence of our aspiration to achieve any dignified future status. Those who believe this to be the first step towards our decolonization are wrong. What PROMESA is saying is: “slave, for your own good, I will whip you more so you don’t continue to make mistakes”.

And second, those who applaud PROMESA have not realized that this board comes to impose neo-liberal measures, to save themselves from lawsuits and so that the bond holders are happy.

One of the tragedies of colonial power is that it convinces itself that they are doing the best for the poor people they have colonized. Even worse, they convince many of their subjects of their superiority and magnanimity. It is the syndrome of the colonized mind; by accepting such fallacies they become accomplices and allies. Sadly, they exist everywhere and from every ideology. That is what has happened to some of those that at this moment had an obligation to defend our dignity.

Translated by Gabriel Acevedo from the original Op-Ed published by El Nuevo Día on June 11, 2016