Happy United Nations Day! On this day in 1945, the United Nations came into being. October 24th has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948.
Puerto Rico is a territory rather than a nation, so the connection might not be obvious. However, Puerto Rico and the United Nations have a strong connection. Each year, the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization calls upon the United States to “expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.” This call has been made three dozen times.
In 2013, Pedro R. Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico at the time, said the 2012 plebiscite “had fundamentally changed the terms of the debate on Puerto Rico’s political status, pointing out that 61 per cent of voters favored statehood, also the position of his political party. The referendum had eliminated any legitimacy attached to Puerto Rico’s current colonial status and people clearly preferred integration, he said.”
At the same meeting, Juan Dalmau of the Puerto Rican Independence Party also referred to the November 2012 referendum. Since 54 per cent of voters had rejected continuing the commonwealth’s current status, he said that there had been a “full rejection of colonialism.”
Petitioners from other countries, such as Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Syria, spoke out for independence for Puerto Rico. This is also always a feature of the annual meeting.
In 1946, Puerto Rico was on the U.N.’s list of non-self-governing territories. The United States, as a member nation and the owner of Puerto Rico, was required to report each year on its progress toward providing self-determination for Puerto Rico.
In 1953, after adopting a constitution for the territory in the previous year, the government of Puerto Rico requested removal from that list. The U.N. voted on the matter and agreed. The U.S. is no longer required to provide a report.
The letter from the Secretary of State to the U.N. in 1953 put it this way:
Since 1946 the United States has transmitted annually to the United Nations information on Puerto Rico pursuant to Article 73(e) of the United Nations Charter which relates to territories whose peoples “have not yet attained a full measure of self-government”. The new Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which entered into force on July 25, 1952, was developed by the people of Puerto Rico and their duly elected representatives and conforms with their wishes as expressed in popular referenda and elections. The new Constitution was approved by the Government of the United States.
With the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the people of Puerto Rico have attained a full measure of self-government. Accordingly, and in response to a request from the Government of Puerto Rico, the Government of the United States decided that it is no longer appropriate for it to submit information on Puerto Rico pursuant to Article 73(e) of the Charter. The United Nations was informed of this decision on January 19, 1953, by a letter from the United States Mission to the United Nations to the Secretary General.
But the Committee has been questioning the self-governing nature of Puerto Rico’s political status since the 1960s. The United States said clearly in 1952 that Puerto Rico’s constitution didn’t change its political status, and the federal government has continued to make this plain ever since.
In 2016, following the Supreme Court’s Sanchez-Valle decision, the Governor of Puerto Rico protested that he didn’t think Puerto Rico was self-governing at all, and suggested that the “commonwealth” of 1952 was “a cruel hoax.”
In 2018, a special report from the U.N. declared that poverty in Puerto Rico was the result of the territory’s political status.
The United States considers that the U.N. has no right to meddle in its relationship with Puerto Rico, since the Island is no longer on the non-self-governing list. The federal government also questions the right of nations with bad civil rights records to criticize the civil rights record of the United States.
Whatever has happened in Cuba or Syria, Congress has a responsibility to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has formally requested statehood. Congress has ignored that request so far. This is not the American Way.
Tell your legislators that you want to see equality for Puerto Rico through statehood.