Puerto Rico: UN vote on decolonization

On June 14, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization approved by consensus a resolution calling on the US government "to assume its responsibility to expedite a process that will allow the Puerto Rican people fully to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence," and requesting that the UN General Assembly "consider the question of Puerto Rico comprehensively in all its aspects." The resolution, presented by Cuba and co-sponsored by Venezuela, "[r]eiterates that the Puerto Rican people constitute a Latin American and Caribbean nation that has its own unequivocal national identity." (El Nuevo Dia, San Juan, June 14; Text of Draft Resolution, June 11; UN Department of Public Information News and Media Division, June 14)

It was the first time the committee has asked the General Assembly to take on the matter of Puerto Rico's status. Puerto Rico has been an unincorporated territory of the United States since 1898. The UN General Assembly has been silent on Puerto Rico's status since 1953, when it removed the island nation from its list of colonies following the establishment of the "Free Associated State" relationship with the United States. Seven years later, in 1960, the UN General Assembly approved its Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The General Assembly's next opportunity to address Puerto Rico's status will be in September 2008. (END, June 19 from AP)

The Decolonization Committee's resolution also "[e]xpresses serious concern regarding actions carried out against Puerto Rican independence fighters, and encourages the investigation of those actions with the necessary rigor and with the cooperation of the relevant authorities" (presumably a reference to the FBI's killing of independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 23, 2005).

In addition, the resolution urges the US government "to complete the return of occupied land and installations on Vieques Island and in Ceiba to the people of Puerto Rico; respect fundamental human rights, such as the right to health and economic development; and expedite and cover the costs of the process of cleaning up and decontaminating the impact areas previously used in military exercises through means that do not continue to aggravate the serious consequences of its military activity for the health of the inhabitants of Vieques Island and the environment." The resolution also requests that the US president "release all Puerto Rican political prisoners serving sentences in United States prisons for over 26 years for cases relating to the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico, as well as those serving sentences for cases relating to the Vieques Island peace struggle." (Text of Draft Resolution, June 11)

Electric workers strike, governor probed
On June 22 at least 1,500 members of the Union of Workers of the Electricity and Water Industry (UTIER) in Puerto Rico observed a three-hour strike with pickets at the 11 electricity generating plants operated by the state electricity monopoly. The strike action was carefully structured to demonstrate force without causing any disruptions to service or risking a management lockout. The union is seeking a new bargaining agreement and fighting efforts by the Electrical Energy Authority (AEE) to subcontract much of its labor. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, June 23)

After months of denials, Puerto Rico governor Anibal Acevedo Vila acknowledged on June 25 that he is the target of a US grand jury investigation into campaign finances, a revelation further jeopardizing his bid for re-election. Acevedo insists he has not done anything illegal, and dismisses speculation he would be indicted by either of the two grand juries that have questioned some of his closest aides. "I'm not losing sleep over it," he said. (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25 from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 8

See our last post on Puerto Rico.