The Puerto Rico Bar Association (Colegio de Abogados) presented a resolution on the subject of Puerto Rico’s status at the conference of the InterAmerican Bar (“Federación Interamericana de Abogados” or FIA) in Panama City on June 30th.
The resolution began by summing up the current position of Puerto Rico with regards to status. It stated:
- “Since 1898 Puerto Rico has been an unincorporated territory of the United States of America, a possession that is not part of the U.S. and cannot participate in its political processes, but is subject to the plenary powers of Congress.”
- “In 1952 the people of Puerto Rico adopted a constitution by authorization of the U.S. government.” The resolution goes on the say that this action gave the people of Puerto Rico “the illusion of having ceased to be a possession,” and points out that the constitution “did not really alter the fundamental territorial relationship between the two countries.”
- “The three branches of the United States government have indicated through formal acts of recent years that Puerto Rico remains an unincorporated territory, politically subordinate and subject to the plenary powers of Congress.”
- “Political dependence has caused economic dependence, and Puerto Rico has passed in the last seventy years from an initial era of economic growth to several decades of stagnation, resulting during the last ten years in a 15% decline in economic activity and 12% decrease of the population.”
- The resolution further points out that excessive borrowing was used by the Puerto Rico government to cope with these economic issues. Puerto Rico was denied restructuring options, “leaving [Puerto Rico] without legal resources available to the states and to independent countries.”
- “The U.S. Congress, in the exercise of its plenary powers, approved in 2016 a law entitled Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stabilization Act (PROMESA) which created a Fiscal Oversight Board composed of seven persons appointed by the president and the Congress.”
- “The current economic crisis and the decisions of the government of Puerto Rico to comply with the fiscal plan imposed by the Board are resulting in closing of schools, gradual decrease of half of the budget of the University of P.R., reduction of health services, reduction of public employment and wages, elimination of labor rights, reduction of pensions of retired persons, more taxes, a higher cost of living, and increase of mental health problems, addiction and violent crimes.”
- “A majority of the people of Puerto Rico expressed their rejection of the current territorial regime in a plebiscite held in November 2012.”
“When legislation was passed in Puerto Rico to hold a plebiscite on June 11, 2017,” the resolution continues, “the United States Department of Justice informed the Governor of Puerto Rico that the event would not have the approval of the federal government unless the ballot options included the existing territorial relationship, already rejected by the people in 2012.”
In 2014, the Inter-American Bar Association passed a “Declaration of San Juan,” urging the authorities of Puerto Rico and the United States to respond to the 2012 demand to end the colonial relationship for which the United States no longer has the consent of the governed.
The resolution presented by the Puerto Rico Bar Association to the Inter-American Bar Association reiterated that declaration and went further, making the following resolution:
1. To reiterate its Declaration of San Juan of 2014, which recognized the right of self determination of the people of Puerto Rico in accordance with the norms of international law, and which supported all efforts to make it a reality;
2. To declare that it is incompatible with modern constitutionalism and with the human right to the self-determination of all peoples to subject a people to the plenary powers of a government other than their own, especially against their expressed will;
3. To forward copy of this resolution to the President of the United States and to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States; and
4. To notify copy of this resolution to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, to the Decolonization Committee of the United Nations, and to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, for their knowledge of this anomalous situation in our hemisphere and for the action they deem appropriate.
The Inter-American Bar Association is a non-profit organization formed in 1940 with the participation of forty-four professional organizations and seventeen nations. The object of the Association is to “to promote the Rule of Law and protect the democratic institutions in the Americas.”