At a meeting this week of the United Nations Committee on Decolonization, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla requested support from the United Nations for self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico. Telesure quoted the governor as asking the committee to “put the case of Puerto Rico to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization and to the Human Rights Council.”
Garcia Padilla referred to the decision in 1953 to remove Puerto Rico from the list of non-self-governing areas which are under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Decolonization. The removal was requested by the United States, after the government of Puerto Rico asked the federal government to do so, following Congress’s acceptance of the Constitution of Puerto Rico.
The United States clearly stated at the time that the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico was not changed by the constitution. Writing and ratifying a constitution is a common step by territories prior to statehood, and has never changed a territory into a state or in any other way altered the relationship between the territory and the United States. Utah, for example, drafted a constitution in 1849 and achieved statehood in 1896. Between 1849 and 1896, Utah continued to be a territory of the United States.
The governor argued that the people of Puerto Rico thought that they gained sovereignty from their constitution, and that the recent confirmation by the Supreme Court that this was not true, constituted a change in the position of the United States.
La Prensa Latina described the governor’s statement by saying that he “denounced Washington’s insistence on neutralizing the self-government agreement.”
The governor’s political party, commonly referred to as “the commonwealth party,” has held that the relationship of the United States and Puerto Rico is a special one, neither a state nor a territory, open to change or evolution. The governor has attempted to explain this concept in recent Senate hearings, without success. All three branches of the federal government have stated repeatedly that this idea of “enhanced commonwealth” is not compatible with the United States Constitution.
Yet there have been claims that the recent Supreme Court decision represents a change in the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. Other people claim that they are slowly coming to the realization that Puerto Rico is a territory.
While some media reports have said that the governor asked for independence or that the hearings were on the subject of independence, this does not appear to be the case. The initial report at the UN website describes the petitions, including that of Governor Garcia Padilla. Representatives of Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela called for independence for Puerto Rico, as did representatives of the Socialist Workers Party and Puerto Rico’s independence party. Other petitioners called for statehood for Puerto Rico, for recognition of the results of the 2012 referendum, or for self-determination or justice.
The committee approved a draft resolution calling on the United States to expedite a process of self-determination for Puerto Rico.
This United Nations vote occurs annually:
- Click here to read about the UN order from 2015 for the U.S. to provide self-determination to Puerto Rico.
- Click here to read about international criticism of the US following the 2014 United Nations vote, and click here for a description of that vote.
- Click here for more information on the 2013 vote, and the United Nation’s unanimous conclusion calling upon the United States for a process to replace Puerto Rico’s territory status with U.S. statehood or nationhood, whichever may be chosen by the people of the island.
- Click here to read about the 2012 UN order for the US to “expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.”