On June 22, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization approved a draft resolution in support of “self-determination and independence” for Puerto Rico and called upon the United States “to assume its responsibility to promote a process to those ends.”
The resolution, introduced by Cuba, was also supported by Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua, Syria, Bolivia, and Azerbaijan.
This is the 41st time the committee has made this declaration. The General Assembly of the United Nations, however, has never taken action on this point. From the point of view of the United Nations, Puerto Rico ended its status as a U.S. colony in 1953.
Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Calls Out “Authoritarian Regimes”
In a statement, Puerto Rico’s lone representative to the U.S. Congress, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, stated:
“It is no surprise that Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela, who are amongst the worst human rights violators and anti-democratic regimes in the world, are once again calling for Puerto Rico’s independence in an attempt to advance their anti-American agenda and grow their influence in the region. The people of Puerto Rico strongly reject this attempt. For 106 years, Puerto Ricans have been proud American citizens, participated in the U.S. Armed Forces in record numbers, and our Island has been home to important United States military outposts across the Western Hemisphere.”
“As a U.S. territory and under the U.S. Constitution, it is Congress—not the United Nations, and certainly not a Committee made up of authoritarian regimes like Communist China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, and Venezuela—that has the ultimate responsibility to address Puerto Rico’s political status,” she continued.
In conclusion, the Resident Commissioner forcefully pointed out that “these dictatorships have no credibility amongst responsible nations. If they were serious about self-determination, then why don’t they allow for free and fair elections overseen by credible domestic and international observers? Why do they continue to jeopardize the security and prosperity of all of their citizens? Why don’t they call on Russia to end its unprovoked, inhumane, and illegal invasion into Ukraine? The violence, persecution, intimidation, repression that the people in these countries face every day are evidence of the hypocrisy of the so-called leaders of these nations. Sitting on this Committee while enjoying impunity for their crimes is an insult to those of us who deeply cherish democracy and freedom.”
Self-Determination and Independence?
At its core, self-determination for Puerto Rico is all about Congress respecting the democratically expressed will of the territory, which has in the last three referenda voted for statehood. “Self-determination and independence” do not, in the case of Puerto Rico, go together.
Independence has never gotten more than 5% of the vote in any status referendum in Puerto Rico.
The announcement from the United Nations mentions that 51 people made statements on this matter. “While many spoke out in favour of a full self-determination process leading to national autonomy for the island,” the statement acknowledges, “others pointed out that the foregoing was a minority opinion, with most Puerto Ricans voting in favour of becoming the fifty-first state of the United States in a November 2020 referendum.”
“Calling for decolonization in the context of statehood,” the statement continued, “those speakers emphasized that Puerto Ricans deserved the same fundamental rights — including those of voting and representation — that were granted to United States citizens on the mainland.”
As Resident Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon explained, “time and time again, Puerto Ricans have made it abundantly clear through our votes, in fair and democratic elections—something these nations should take a page from—that we want to join our fellow Americans on an equal footing as a full-fledged State of the Union. I’m confident that when the time comes, voters in Puerto Rico will ratify our desire for statehood and full equality as American citizens.”