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Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Resolution Calling upon United States to Promote Process for Puerto Rico’s Self-Determination, Eventual Independence

By the terms of the resolution titled “Decision of the Special Committee of 18 June 2021 concerning Puerto Rico” — which was approved without a vote, and will now go to the General Assembly for adoption — the 193-member organ would support a process enabling the Puerto Rican people to take decisions addressing their urgent economic and social needs, including unemployment, marginalization, insolvency and poverty.  Among other things, it would urge the United States Government to complete the return of all lands occupied by its military forces in the Territory to the people of Puerto Rico.María Isabelle Pérez-Hedges, speaking for the Puerto Ricans in Minnesota Committee, said she stands with the multitude of indigenous movements who have been fed a paternalistic narrative that they cannot survive independently without their hands held by a colonizing power.  “The Puerto Rican people continue to endure and persevere through a failed American experiment,” she stressed, noting that they have long demanded that their island “no longer be the war booty” of a nation that destroys Puerto Rico’s environment, conducts scientific experiments on its women’s bodies and fails to provide even the most basic emergency aid in situations of crisis and natural disaster. VADIM GUSMAN (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the importance of decolonization efforts around the world, and in particular that of Puerto Rico.  Highlighting the principled position of the Movement with regard to the Territory, he stressed the need to ensure the self-determination of the people of Puerto Rico and underscored the unwavering support of the Movement’s member States for the implementation of all relevant resolutions. Hearing of Petitioners on Puerto Rico JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), aligning with the statements to be delivered by CELAC and the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted the moral responsibility of the Special Committee to fulfil the mandate to eradicate colonialism.  Reaffirming that Puerto Rico is a Latin American and Caribbean nation, he recalled the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the first resolution on that Territory.  Remembering the patriotic revolutionaries, socialists, poets and other heroes from the island who also showed solidarity with Sandinista resistance efforts, he called on the United States to decolonize the Territory.  Puerto Rico cannot continue to be an exception, he said, adding that “it is a nation that has every right to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an independent country.” VANESSA RAMOS, speaking for the Asociacion Americana de Juristas, also voiced support for the draft resolution before the Special Committee, calling for the right to self-determination and independence in Puerto Rico.  In truth, the island is a Latin American and Caribbean country facing a long-standing colonial situation which has not yet been addressed.  “Decolonization must be decided by those who are colonized, not by the colonizer,” she stressed, adding that Puerto Rico’s legal debt cannot be taxed by the United States.  That country has created a monopoly on the island which violates basic human rights, all while it seeks to erase Puerto Rico’s diversity.  Multinational companies are committing atrocities, and compensation is needed.  Emphasizing that the United States has used Puerto Rico for its own purposes, she said it must now adhere to the terms of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and asked the Special Committee to urgently send a visiting mission to the island. JUAN DALMAU, speaking for the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, urging the United States to carry out the decolonization of Puerto Rico, said it must respect the heritage of the Territory as a Latin American and Caribbean country.  Pointing to the 15 uninterrupted years of economic recession suffered by Puerto Rico, he said a significant portion of its population has emigrated as a result.  Now more than ever, the Territory needs international support, he said, adding that the international community has the tools to bring significant legal and moral pressure on the United States so that it cannot continue to use pretexts and excuses. The question of Puerto Rico is a matter of high interest to CELAC, she said, adding that the bloc will continue working in the framework of international law, to put an end unconditionally to colonialism in all its forms and manifestations in the Latin American and Caribbean region. CARLOS VEGA, speaking for the Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano, said 25 July will mark 124 years since the United States first invaded Puerto Rico and then tricked the international community into believing that the island had its own Government.  Today, the PROMESA control board “controls everything that we do”, he said, adding that the island lacks even the ability to decide on basic self-governance matters, such as immigration.  “We do not participate in international decision-making processes,” he said, voicing support for the draft resolution before the Special Committee.  Indeed, Puerto Rico has never had the opportunity to be independent, he said, pleading for action to bring to an end “one of the most unequal fights in history”. Michael Viera, a petitioner speaking for the organization El Grito, said the Special Committee “is not a committee for the continuation of colonization”.  Recalling that a historic gag law imposed by the United States criminalized the independence movement in Puerto Rico, he said the island’s residents nevertheless continued to fight.  Today, the island is represented on the mainland by a “sham congressional delegation”, with many delegates set to appear before the Special Committee today.  However, it remains that “Puerto Rico is not for sale”, he stressed, asking the Special Committee to ensure that the case is urgently brought before the General Assembly. Eugenio Matias, on behalf of Puerto Rico’s Extended Congressional Delegation, noted that United States citizens in Puerto Rico do not have the same rights as citizens that live within the 50 states of that country.  While some benefit from the island’s current status, the rest of the population ends up in a situation of extreme inequality.  Calling on the Special Committee to urge the United States Congress and President to address that inequality and grant all United States citizens equal rights, he added that 53 per cent of Puerto Rican voters already opted for the island to be admitted as the fifty-first state. The representative of Papua New Guinea, speaking on a point of order, recognized and voiced respect for the views being freely expressed by petitioners today.  However, he requested that “we maintain decorum in this meeting hall” as the meeting proceeds. Action on Draft Resolution MANUEL RIVERA, speaking for Puertorriquenos Unidos En Accion, said after 124 years of colonialism and imposed rule “even those that are the most loyal to independence depend on [United States] citizenship”.  Pointing out that many people around the world enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship, he said transferring self-governance to Puerto Ricans should not necessarily mean that individual islanders need to lose their United States citizenship. MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina), speaking on behalf of CELAC, reaffirmed the importance of Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) which constitutes “the cornerstone of the political process promoted by the United Nations after the Second World War to end colonialism.”  Noting the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the first resolution on Puerto Rico as well as the 39 resolutions and decisions approved by consensus since then, she reaffirmed the Latin American and Caribbean character of the Territory. PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, said despite the Special Committee’s efforts, the people of Puerto Rico are still unable to exercise their right to self-determination.  The United States Supreme Court has taken decisions aimed at continuing the current colonial situation, rendering Puerto Rico a colonial territory that is not wholly sovereign.  Noting that the economic situation on the island has deteriorated, he said the entire international community is affected by the issue.  The Heads of State of CELAC recently noted that Puerto Rico is a particularly important matter for the region, and called for an end to colonialism once and for all.  In that light, he urged the Special Committee to fully implement its mandate. ROGELIO MALDONADO III, speaking for Jornada Se Acabaron Las Promesas, noting that for years people of Puerto Rican origin have come to the United Nations from all over the world to denounce colonialism, pointed out that there has been little progress.  “We are pushed into the position of pariahs on our own land,” he said, adding that while the United States has created various draft bills and projects to deal with this matter, these are “mere siren calls” that seek to push back any efforts to achieve real independence.  What does the Territory have to go through to get the United Nations involved, he asked, adding that “there’s no point in us coming back every year from various sectors in Puerto Rico to say what you already know.” JAN SUSLER, speaking for the National Lawyers Guild, noting that the United States continues to thumb its nose at international law, said that colonial rule in Puerto Rico today looks like “disaster capitalism”.  Drawing attention to the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board installed by the United States to manage the Territory’s finances, dubbed “La Junta”, she noted that it pushed through a debt service plan that starves Puerto Ricans of basic services for the benefit of debtholders.  Its plan slashed pensions for already underpaid public school teachers and will shutter scores of public schools and privatize the University of Puerto Rico.  Also noting that the tax breaks approved by the ruling elite enable private investors to reap profits and build environmentally destructive projects, she drew attention to the solidarity of Puerto Ricans, who have established mutual aid societies and resistance organizations to deal with this untenable scenario. KATHY BLOUNT, speaking for the Puerto Rico Statehood Delegation, noted that the United States just celebrated its Juneteenth holiday – known as “Freedom Day”, which marks the true end of slavery — and said Puerto Ricans too were colonized and struggled for independence.  They now stand on the precipice of becoming the fifty-first state of the United States, a move which is “long overdue”, and which is supported by the international community.  Outlining the negative impacts of the island’s longstanding colonial character — especially on the poorest and most vulnerable – she said the United States National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, known as the NAACP, also supports statehood for Puerto Rico, and urged the Special Committee to support the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act currently before United States Congress. YADIRA O’FARRILL of the Extended Congressional Delegation Pro Statehood Puerto Rico in Georgia, United States, noting that Puerto Ricans have no right to vote in elections for the United States Congress or that of the President, pointed out that the Territory has only one House of Representatives member with a limited vote to represent 3 million plus United States citizens of Puerto Rico.  “Just moving to Puerto Rico makes you a second-class citizen,” she said, adding that the commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a euphemism and an excuse to ignore the fact that colonial relationships continue in the twenty-first century.  The majority of the island’s citizens are proud of being United States citizens and are against ending their relationship with the United States, she said, adding that there is an overwhelming preference for statehood over any other decolonization formula.  “We are on the verge of an historical consensus in the United States Congress to decolonize Puerto Rico,” she said, calling on the Special Committee to support that consensus bill. Benjamin Ramos, speaking on behalf of the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, said since Puerto Rico’s initial colonization, the island’s residents have been victims of United States exploitation.  Even today, the island is still suffering heavily under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act — known as PROMESA — which created a Financial Oversight and Management Board and resulted in significant austerity measures.  Describing the economic crises that followed, including major spikes in the cost of basic services, he said those measures also encouraged tourist ventures on the island which have oversaturated the pockets of the rich “who only wish to become richer”. ESTELI CAPOTE, speaking for the Instituto Puertorriqueño de Relaciones Internacionales, calling for urgent decolonization action, pointed to the large number of organizations from Puerto Rico and the diaspora who are present at the United Nations today.  Noting that the lower House of the United States Congress is currently putting forward a draft to decolonize Puerto Rico, she stressed that statehood is only possible through a plenipotentiary process that must be recognized at the international level. Further, it must be done for the benefit of Puerto Rico’s social and economic development, she said, also expressing concern about the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board imposed by the United States to obligate the Territory to pay an illegal debt. Nicaragua’s delegate highlighted the Special Committee’s moral responsibility to fulfil the mandate to eradicate colonialism.  Reaffirming that Puerto Rico is a Latin American and Caribbean nation, he paid tribute to the patriotic revolutionaries, socialists, poets and other heroes from the island who also showed solidarity with Sandinista resistance efforts.  Calling upon the United States to decolonize the Territory, he said Puerto Rico cannot continue to be an exception to the United Nations decolonization agenda. The Special Committee on Decolonization today approved a draft resolution reaffirming the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence, and calling upon the United States to assume its responsibility to promote a process to those ends. The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 June, to continue its work. The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the bloc’s principled position in support of colonized peoples around the globe.  Underscoring its unwavering approval for the implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions in the case of Puerto Rico, he voiced concern that the island’s very limited decision-making powers have exacerbated the impacts of multiple recent crises — including hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.  The United States decision to impose the Financial Oversight and Management Board infringes on the Territory’s ability to administer its own economic affairs, he noted, calling on Washington, D.C. to assume its responsibility to expedite the decolonization process on the island. The Special Committee then adopted draft resolution “L.7” without a vote. MARÍA ISABELLE PÉREZ-HEDGES, speaking for the Puerto Ricans in Minnesota Committee, said she stands with the multitude of indigenous movements who have been fed a paternalistic narrative that they cannot survive independently without their hands held by a colonizing power.  “The Puerto Rican people continue to endure and persevere through a failed American experiment,” she stressed, noting that they have long demanded that their island “no longer be the war booty” of a nation that destroys Puerto Rico’s environment, conducts scientific experiments on its women’s bodies and fails to provide even the most basic emergency aid in situations of crisis and natural disaster. SARA LOBMAN, speaking for the Socialist Workers Party of the United States, said that United colonial domination has been plundering Puerto Rico’s wealth while squeezing working people.  Highlighting the cuts to wages, pensions and living standards enforced by the United States-imposed fiscal board, she demanded that Washington cancel Puerto Rico’s debt.  In the United States, workers and farmers are ravaged by the same capitalist disaster, she said, pointing to inflation, drug overdoses and unemployment.  Noting that this is part of a world capitalist crisis, she stressed that working people aren’t helpless victims.  Workers and their unions have waged island-wide protests, she said adding that working people in the United States have a vital stake in championing an independent Puerto Rico. Several representatives of United Nations Member States also weighed in on the discussion. Prior to approving the resolution, members of the Special Committee — formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – heard testimony from petitioners with ties to Puerto Rico.  While many strongly favoured a full self-determination process leading to national autonomy for the island, others pointed out that Puerto Ricans voted in favour of becoming the United States fifty-first state in a November 2020 referendum.  Calling for decolonization in the context of statehood, those speakers noted that the United States is currently weighing the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, proposed by members of Congress in 2021, which some described as a “historic opportunity”. Also speaking were representatives of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Syria and Argentina (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States). DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia) associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, said his delegation co-sponsored the draft resolution before the Special Committee in line with its strong anti-colonial commitments.  Calling on the body’s members to continue working to ensure that the Puerto Rican people’s will is fully respected, he said they must be able to respond to their own pressing challenges.  The resolutions of the General Assembly must be fully implemented in the case of Puerto Rico, he said, also urging the Special Committee to ensure that all administering Powers implement programmes to ensure the sustainable development of Territories under their control, and to move towards ending colonialism once and for all. The representative of Syria, aligning herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that for years, her country has supported putting an end to colonialism in all its forms and expressions.  The United States must end its occupation of the island, in accordance with the relevant Assembly resolutions, she stressed, also expressing support for the resolution to be considered later. LIA FIOL-MATTA, speaking for Latino Justice PRLDEF, said since 1953 the United States has maintained that Puerto Rico is an “autonomous territory”, but nothing could be further from the truth.  In the last year alone, a United States judge approved a plan to restructure the island’s debt, which has received much-deserved criticism.  The plan cut funds to municipal services, took money from teachers’ pensions and leaves many important monetary processes to the PROMESA fiscal control board.  Also noting that the United States Supreme Court recently decided that Puerto Ricans living with disabilities lack access to additional Government aid, she rejected that claim, noting that it treats the most vulnerable islanders as political pawns.  Against that backdrop, she asked the Special Committee to fully apply General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) to the case of Puerto Rico and complete a comprehensive self-determination process as soon as possible. Expressing concern that the Puerto Rican people have very limited decision-making powers, he pointed to the impact of that in this period of crisis, noting the compounded effects of Puerto Rico’s debt overload, multiple hurricanes and the pandemic.  The legislation adopted by the United States to impose a fiscal board on the Territory infringes on San Juan’s ability to administer its own economic affairs, he said, calling on that country to return all occupied lands.  Further, the United States must assume its responsibility and expedite the decolonization process in order to ensure that Puerto Ricans can fully exercise their inalienable rights to independence, he stressed. BEATRIZ AREIZAGA, speaking on behalf of the Extended Congressional Delegation for Puerto Rico (Washington DC), noted that she is appearing before the Special Committee in an effort to end the colonial status of Puerto Rico.  Advocating for United States statehood — which will grant Puerto Ricans a better quality of life — she asked the Special Committee to help the people of the island break free of the chains of slavery under which they have endured for more than a century. JOAQUÍN PÉREZ (Venezuela), aligning with the statements to be delivered by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, noted the long history of decolonization around the world.  Reaffirming support for all efforts to end colonization in all shapes and forms, he noted his country’s close ties to Puerto Rico.  For 120 years, the Territory has not been able to enjoy its right to self-determination as a free and sovereign State, he said, noting that this has proved a serious obstacle to its development.  Despite the Special Committee considering this matter for 50 years, there has been no progress because of the lack of political will by the United States.  Calling on Washington, D.C. to facilitate a process to ensure that Puerto Rico will be free and sovereign, he added that the country must relinquish its facilities on the island. RICARDO ROSSELLO, speaking for the special delegation from Puerto Rico to the United States Congress, recalling his statement to the Special Committee nine years ago as part of a Boricua rights coalition, pointed out that today he is here on behalf of the extended Congressional delegation of Puerto Rico to the United States.  “I stand before you a little bit older with a few new scars, a little less idealistic but still hope remains”, he said, adding that after years of inaction, the United States Congress has finally drafted a consensus bill to achieve the decolonization of Puerto Rico.  “You can choose to stay on the sidelines once again or you can choose to actively engage,” he said, adding that while it is possible to continue to check a box by continuing to hold Special Committee hearings and adopt resolutions, supporting the Congressional efforts is crucial to seize this limited window of possibility.  “I stand for statehood,” he said, describing it as an historic opportunity. Also speaking were representatives of the following organizations:  Generacion 51, Coalición Puertorriqueña contra la Pena de Muerte, Vidas Viequenses Valen, Movimiento Unión Soberanista, Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, Frente Independentista Boricua, Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora, A Call to Action on Puerto Rico, Delegacion Congresional Extendida Texas-Puerto Rico, Delegado Congresional Extendio P.R., Reading High School Parents Organization, Puerto Rico Extended Congressional Delegates/Pennsylvania Chapter, Sovereign National State of Borinken, Puerto Rico Bilingue, Inc., Rhode Island Extended Delegation for Statehood for Puerto Rico and Delegates US. The representative of Cuba, introducing the draft resolution titled “Decision of the Special Committee of 18 June 2021 concerning Puerto Rico” (document A/AC.109/2022/L.7), said the text reaffirms the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico, which its residents have been able to maintain despite the actions of the colonial power.  Expressing concern about undue controls and economic influence exerted by the United States over the island — as well as a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court establishing that Congress “has the reigns”, and that any concession made to Puerto Rico could be cancelled unilaterally by the United States — he also voiced concern over instances of repression and harassment against Puerto Rican activists.  “The adoption of this text with the support of all members of the [Special] Committee […] would be the best contribution this body could make to the just cause of the Puerto Rican people”, he said. CARMEN HERNANDEZ, speaking for the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said she is compelled to speak to the Special Committee as her mother passed away before she was able to see victory for Puerto Ricans seeking statehood and equality at the ballot box.  Agreeing with other speakers that millions of Puerto Ricans continue to experience powerlessness every day, she said their disenfranchisement as United States citizens is a major failure of that country’s democracy.  Against that backdrop, she urged the Special Committee to support the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act currently before the United States Congress. RAMON NENADICH, speaking for Estado Nacional Soberano de Borinken, stressing that the plebiscite being offered by the United States is a lie on par with the “free state of association”, said:  “Do not be fooled by this new artifice.”  After 124 years of colonialism and repression by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the colonial police, as well as dozens of assassinations, it is hard to believe that “we can freely use the vote”, he said.  Requesting that the International Court of Justice issue an advisory opinion on the status of the island, he said the empire must not be allowed to continue to fool Puerto Rico or the General Assembly. The representative of Cuba, introducing the text, said it reaffirms the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico, which its residents have been able to maintain despite the actions of the colonial power.  Expressing concern about undue controls and economic influence exerted by the United States over the island, he said the resolution also expresses concern over instances of repression and harassment against Puerto Rican activists.  “The adoption of this text with the support of all members of the [Special] Committee […] would be the best contribution this body could make to the just cause of the Puerto Rican people,” he said. BENJAMIN RAMOS, speaking for the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, said since Puerto Rico’s initial colonization, the island’s residents have been victims of United States exploitation.  Even today, the island is still suffering heavily under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act — known as PROMESA — which created a Financial Oversight and Management Board and resulted in significant austerity measures.  Describing the economic crises that followed, including major spikes in the cost of basic services, he said those measures also encouraged tourist ventures on the island which have oversaturated the pockets of the rich “who only wish to become richer”.  The idea that the United States Government is entitled to this type of control is ridiculous, he stressed, as is the presence before the Special Committee today of disgraced former Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Antonio Rosselló Nevares.  His presence is an insult to the will of the Puerto Rican people, he said, asking the Special Committee to pass a resolution calling for an end to the island’s colonization and to bring the matter before the General Assembly. JOSE MELENDEZ-ORTIZ, speaking for LULAC Puerto Rico, welcomed that, for the first time, the United States Government is working on a “transparent, inclusive” decolonization process that could be self-executing in nature.  However, for such a process to be fruitful, the international community — and the United Nations in particular — must first recognize that Puerto Rico is in fact a colony, and that the General Assembly “made a mistake” in its historical understanding of that status.  Pointing out that 53 per cent of the island’s population does not accept Puerto Rico’s current status, he described it as absurd that a continuation of that status should be an option on the ballot “whenever we vote again”.  Describing the self-executing language now included in the political process as a major step forward, he said it is the only way for the people of Puerto Rico to move forward.  “No more colonies […] the people of Puerto Rico deserve so much more,” he stressed. EUGENIO MATIAS, speaking for the Extended Congressional Delegation, noting that United States citizens in Puerto Rico do not have the same rights as citizens that live within the 50 states of that country, added “we are not allowed to elect the President.”  Stressing that the Territory should be able to enjoy the same rights that are enjoyed within the states, he added that “you cannot deprive people from electing their president just because of a tax situation.”  While some benefit from this situation, the rest of the population ends up in a situation of extreme inequality.  Calling on the Special Committee to urge the United States Congress and the President of that country to resolve this inequality, and give all United States citizens equal rights, he added that 53 per cent of Puerto Rico voted for the island to be admitted as the fifty-first State. Statements Ricardo Rossello, former Governor of Puerto Rico, spoke for the special delegation from Puerto Rico to the United States Congress, welcoming that after years of inaction, the United States Congress has finally drafted a consensus bill to achieve the island’s decolonization, known as the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.  While the Special Committee can choose to continue to “check a box” by holding hearings and adopting resolutions, it can also seize the limited window of opportunity by supporting Congressional efforts.  “I stand for statehood,” he said, describing it as an historic opportunity. Meanwhile, Manuel Rivera, speaking for the organization Puertorriquenos Unidos En Accion, said after 124 years of colonialism and imposed rule “even those that are the most loyal to independence depend on [United States] citizenship”.  Pointing out that many people around the world enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship, he said transferring self-governance to Puerto Ricans should not necessarily mean that individual islanders need to lose their United States American citizenship. MICHAEL VIERA, speaking for El Grito, said the Special Committee “is not a committee for the continuation of colonization”.  “We’ve seen the same pattern over and over again,” in which terms such as “independence” and “colonization” get twisted and turned around in order to confuse native populations.  Recalling that a historic gag law criminalized the independence movement on the island, he said Puerto Ricans nevertheless continued to fight.  Noting that the island’s “sham congressional delegation” — elected by only 3.9 per cent of the population, and led by the head of the former disgraced Government of Puerto Rico — is represented before the Special Committee today, he emphasized that “Puerto Rico is not for sale” and urged the case to be brought before the General Assembly. WALTER ALOMAR, speaking for the Organization for Culture of Hispanic Origins, noting that Puerto Rico will be looted, kept poor and exploited as long as its political status is not resolved, said “we will remain in a limbo where poverty will continue to increase”.  Pointing to the impact on women heads of families and their children as well as other marginalized sectors of the population, he noted homelessness, the displacement of entire communities and families in the face of gentrification and labour exploitation.  Highlighting in particular the lack of education due to the closure of schools imposed by a fiscal control board that Puerto Ricans did not choose, he added that “statehood is a fantasy”, and Puerto Rico has the right to be a sovereign and independent international economy. EDUARDO VILLANUEVA MUÑOZ, speaking for the Puerto Rico Bar Association, said the international community has a responsibility to ensure that the colonization of Puerto Rico comes to an end.  Noting that the Association has examined the Constitutional Status Assembly in order to initiate a political process with the United States — and to make sure the people of Puerto Rico have the final word — he proposed a formula for a “different kind of status”, which would allow for a certain degree of United States citizenship.  However, it is critical that the people of the Territory enjoy such basic rights as the right to vote, to receive social services and to own property.  The fact that, in the current formulation, any plebiscite would be overseen by the United States Department of Justice, is a major flaw of the system.  Meanwhile, he said, the United States has violated multiple aspects of the Charter of Human Rights, including through its use of the death penalty. TRILCE TORRES LÓPEZ, speaking for Gran Oriente Nacional de Puerto Rico, stressing that the decolonization of Puerto Rico is not a domestic issue but an international one, underscored that it must be conducted in accordance with international law and not with unilateral measures imposed by the United States. Pointing to the tax regime that is exacerbating the economic situation in the Territory, she added that it is unacceptable that the Territory’s requests are not reaching the Assembly.  “The dignity of our people is being undermined,” she said, adding that the island’s inhabitants are being ruled by a military force, without control of their own affairs and subordinate to the negative effects of United States legislation.

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