Senator Frank Murkowski, (R-AK), Chairman


APRIL 2, 1998


Hon. Pedro Rossello, Governor of Puerto Rico

Representative Anibal Acevedo Vila, President, Popular Democratic Party (PDP)

Senator Ruben Berrios Martinez, President, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP)

Hon. Governor Luis Ferre, New Progressive Party (NPP)


THE CHAIRMAN (Senator Murkowski): -- we're just able to get started now. It's my intention to proceed as rapidly as possible, and I would call the Honorable Governor of Puerto Rico, the Honorable Pedro Rossello, and the Honorable Carlos Romeros- Barcelo. Let me just make a short statement relative to the importance of this hearing.

As you know, I've always supported the application of self-determination for Puerto Rico. The process of how that's achieved, of course, is a rather extensive one, and suggests that now that the matter is before the Senate inasmuch as the House has passed its bill, we have an obligation to initiate a process.

Now, what we have done here is to initiate a workshop. The workshop will be recorded and the purpose of that is to familiarize members of the Senate with this particular issue and the prevailing attitudes of the people of Puerto Rico. The last time this committee addressed this issue, I think was in 1989 to '91, Chairman Bennett Johnson from Louisiana chaired the committee at that time. It's my understanding there were eight hearings held, three of which were held in Puerto Rico and five here in Washington, D.C. There are many members of the committee that were not on the committee at that time and, as a consequence, the necessity of the Senate visiting the issue in detail is appropriate and necessary.

Furthermore, the House action was a very close vote, it was 209 to 208, and the realization of the situation in Puerto Rico is unique inasmuch as in its territorial structure the citizens of Puerto Rico of course are American citizens. Unlike other areas that have been considered for statehood, Puerto Rico has never been incorporated, and the Constitution does not fully apply. Unlike other areas, it's my understanding the Philippines, as an example, when they

were formerly a possession of the U.S., Puerto Rico -- the United States citizens have been citizens for some 80 years. So there are several consistencies, several inconsistencies, associated with this issue. I'm not going to go through the entire statement, other than to indicate a willingness and an obligation by the United States Senate to address the issue of self-determination.

We have, among the witnesses here today, a governor who will speak as governor of Puerto Rico. We will also have a statement from the party representatives. It's my understanding with the witness list -- it's buried here somewhere -- that we have spokespersons, and I will introduce them now, in Panel One, the Honorable Berrios Martinez (phonetic), President of Puerto Rican Independent Party; the Honorable Anabel Acevedo Vila, President of the Popular Democratic Party; and the Honorable Luis A. Ferre, of the New Progressive Party.

So in the interests of time I would ask the Honorable Carlos Romero-Barcelo to introduce the Governor of Puerto Rico. Excuse me, I apologize. Senator Craig. Excuse me, you were here first?

SENATOR LANDRIEU (D-LA): Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just briefly. I'm sorry for the delay. We were voting earlier this morning, but I want to join the Chairman in welcoming you, Governor, to the committee, and to the representatives of all three of the parties from Puerto Rico, to acknowledge my predecessor there, Senator Bennett Johnston, and the great work that he's done on this issue for many, many years, to say how proud I am to support your efforts for self-determination, how strongly I support Puerto Rico in their effort to do that.

I'm a co-sponsor of the bill and, so, anxious to hear the workshop today and look forward to working with you in every way to move this legislation forward. Thank you.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Senator Landrieu. Senator Craig.

SENATOR CRAIG (R-ID): Mr. Chairman, thank you. Let me also welcome our guests and those who will testify today.

But, Mr. Chairman, I especially want to thank you for holding the workshop on the issue of political self-determination for the territory of Puerto Rico. I also want to recognize Bennett Johnston in the audience today. Senator Johnston was one of those who wakened me to this issue some years ago as I began to study it and develop a better understanding of it.

This is an issue that I believe needs to be addressed by this committee and by Congress as a whole. That was why I introduced S-472 as a way for the 33.8 million U.S. citizens who live on the island of Puerto Rico as an opportunity for them to speak for themselves about their political future. On March 17th, 1997, with my partisan co-sponsorship, I introduced the legislation to resolve the status of the U.S. citizens living in America's largest, most populous, and, for over one hundred years in 1998, longest-held unincorporated territory.

I know that some of my colleagues and, indeed, citizens in the fifty states question the need for Congress to take up this question. The most common reaction is that we should let Puerto Ricans decide the issue for themselves. The problem with that approach is that two parties are involved in this decision: Congress, this Congress, because of the plenary power expressly vested in it by the territorial clause of the Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2, and the other party, people of Puerto Rico, who have U.S. citizenship but are not yet fully self-governing.

When Congress failed to approve legislation to provide a status resolution process in 1991, the Puerto Ricans conducted a status vote and the commonwealth option was defined on the ballot in

terms most favorable to its approval. To the point that it promised a lot more than Congress could have approved. Even with a ballot definition that would significantly enhance the current status, the existing commonwealth relationship received less than a majority of the vote, so there is a serious issue of legitimacy of the current status, a status that is less than equal and less than fully self-governing, especially given the US’s assertion to the UN in 1953 that Puerto Rico was on the path toward decolonization.

This is why the legislature of Puerto Rico passed Concurrent Resolution 2 on January 23, 1997, requesting Congress to sponsor a vote based on definitions it would be willing to consider if approved by voters. This legislation provides the framework for resolution of the Puerto Rican status question through a three-phased decision-making process that will culminate no sooner than the second decade of the next century. It is a process that respects the right of the residents of Puerto Rico to become self-governing based on local self-determination and, at the same time, recognizes the United States also has a right of self-determination in its relationship with Puerto Rico.

Consequently, resolution of status for Puerto Rico should take place in accordance with the terms of a transition plan that is determined by Congress to be in the national interest. Acceptance of such a congressionally- approved transition plan by the qualified voters of Puerto Rico in a free and informed act of self-determination will be required before the process leading to change of the present status quo. S-472 creates an even-handed process that will lead to either separate sovereignty or statehood, depending on whether Congress and the residents of Puerto Rico approve the terms of implementation of either of these two options for full self-governance.

Preservation of the status quo commonwealth is also an option of the plebiscite ballot. However, the existing unincorporated territorial status, including the commonwealth structure of local government, is not a constitutionally-guaranteed form of self-government. Thus, until full self-governance is achieved for Puerto Rico, there will be a need for periodic self-determination procedures.

Mr. Chairman, there is more to my statement but I recognize the time and the patience of this audience, and so let me ask unanimous consent that the balance of my statement become a part of the record.

MR. : (Inaudible.)

SENATOR CRAIG: Let me also say that it is important that everyone understand that this legislation and issue is about a process, not about a result. It is about a process that is constitutionally fair and morally fair. It is fair to the Congress, to the citizens of the Union, and the citizens of Puerto Rico. It does not guarantee any outcome. It does not bind any future Congress. That is, I believe, as it should be. And so I think it is important that this Congress move toward consideration of this legislation.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Senator. Let's start now -- there's no other members, which gives us a little break and an opportunity to proceed with the hearing.

Carlos Romero-Barcelo, would you please introduce the governor, Governor Rossello.

MR. ROMERO-BARCELO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Landrieu and Senator Craig. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today, and as the sole representative in Congress for the people of Puerto Rico, albeit disenfranchised, it is my privilege today to introduce the Governor of Puerto Rico. As a student, the governor was an outstanding student. In Notre Dame he graduated with magna cum laude, bachelor of science, then Yale University in the School of Medicine, cum laude as a degree of medicine. Then, later on, in the University of Puerto Rico he had a master's degree in public health magna cum laude. And he was an outstanding surgeon -- pediatric surgeon, in Puerto Rico.

Now, since he got involved in politics, he's been extremely successful. One of the elections in '92 where he won by the largest margin in the last twenty years before that election. In the elections in 1996, by the largest margin in the last 34 years. So that he received a strong mandate during the past election, and one of the main issues at that election -- one of the principal issues, not only by our party, the New Progressive Party, but also by the opposition, was the fact that we had a bill pending that would be revised again in Congress to have a referendum held in Puerto Rico to choose between the three options -- historical options that we had before us: Commonwealth, independence, or statehood. In spite of that being an issue in the election, the overwhelming victory of the governor, it was two-thirds in the House -- over two-thirds in the House, over two-thirds in the Senate, and I won by the largest margin in the last 20 years for any Resident Commissioner to Congress.

So our party is a coalition of -- the New Progressive Party is a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, and here we'll -- later on, you'll have the founder of the party, Luis Ferre, testifying before this committee, who is the oldest person in the -- as the State Chair of the Republican Party, and he held that position for the longest time.

The governor has had successful administration and introduced a lot of changes and a lot of the reforms, and it is indeed my pleasure here to introduce the Governor of Puerto Rico, Dr. Pedro Rossello.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Congressman, we appreciate your introduction and we welcome the Governor. I do want to remind the audience that this is a unique day. We have about 70 amendments pending on the floor of the United States Senate, we're going to be in all day and probably most of the night. We have a break now, and I have no idea how long that break is going to occur before voting starts again, so we've indicated to all the panel that we'd like to keep the presentations to about 15 minutes or thereabouts, so I have abbreviated dramatically my opening statement, but it will be entered into the record and I would look forward to the Governor's testimony.

Please proceed, Governor.

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Thank you very much, Senator Murkowski, Chairman -- Senator Landrieu, Senator Craig as members of the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

My name is Pedro Rossello. Since 1993 I have been Governor of Puerto Rico. My five years in office are a small fraction of the one hundred years that Puerto Rico has been a United States territory. A century should be a cause for a celebration, but this is a sad centennial to commemorate because Puerto Rico has the painful distinction of having subsisted longer, over 500 years, and with the largest population, than any other community on earth without ever having exercised or enjoyed any form of true political sovereignty. Ever.

We, the people of Puerto Rico, have been involved in a long and laborious struggle for self-determination almost as long as that of Hawaii, which struggled for statehood from 1853, when King Kamehameha ordered his foreign minister to begin negotiations, to 1959, when it became the 50th state of the Union. And we are fast approaching Oklahoma's record territorial period of 104 years before

becoming a state. So we are extremely heartened by the passage of HR-856, the United States Puerto Rico Political Status Act, which constitutes a major milestone on the road to self-determination. At best, it heralds a breakthrough, a turning point, the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end, for the record disenfranchisement of 3.8 million United States citizens.

The United States House of Representatives took an historic leap forward on March 4th and it was right and fitting that this should happen at last one hundred years after Puerto Rico became a United States territory. Today, I am immensely grateful to Chairman Murkowski and this committee for so expeditiously initiating Senate evaluation of this most fundamental issue.

S-472 and its counterpart in the House, HR-856, both reflect a bipartisan commitment to the most basic principles of human rights and civic justice, a commitment that likewise enjoys the emphatic support of the President of the United States and his administration. We trust in God that the Senate will recognize its historic responsibility and will act decisively to keep the momentum going, to ensure that a conclusive self-determination process for the 3.8 million United States citizens of Puerto Rico will commence in this centennial year of 1998.

Fortunately, we have the opportunity, together with the Congress and our people, to bring an end to half a millennium of ignominious political inferiority, four centuries under a Spanish monarch and now one full century under the greatest democracy every created by the human race, a democracy that should find it untenable and repulsive to keep a large number of its citizens bereft of their basic citizenship rights. On our shoulders, all of us in this room bear the aspirations, the frustrations, and the legacy of literally generations of Puerto Ricans and mainlanders alike who have endeavored, against all manners of adversity, in the hope that one day their efforts would bear fruit.

It is imperative that the United States Senate act now, before the 105th Congress adjourns, because it would be disheartening in the extreme if, as in the past, those who wield the ultimate power and the authority were to fall back on the excuse that, "The clock simply ran out on us, sorry, try us again in the next Congress." We have heard that excuse much too often in the past.

Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico nurture the great hope that this Congress will earn the distinction of shouldering responsibilities, its responsibilities, a responsibility which our nation's legislative branch has never totally accepted before, dating all the way back to the 1899 Senate ratification of the Treaty of Paris during the tenure of the 56th Congress. In tribute to past generations and in solidarity with the future generations, let us examine, through this senatorial process of dialogue and discussion, the principal issues which we trust will be thoughtfully and thoroughly addressed now, during 1998, in a spirit of brotherhood and patriotism by all of our fellow citizens in Congress.

These are issues that must be understood and placed in context if the Senate and the House are to come to agreement on the enactment of a viable, definitive, Puerto Rico self-determination legislation. Thirty-seven times since the original thirteen colonies founded this republic, a thorough public examination has taken place as one territory after another labored through its own process of self-determination. As we, the people of Puerto Rico, come under that scrutiny, we are aware that the issues and concerns being raised with respects to our own efforts are all not new. Issues concerning the economic impact of our status choices, the place of our language and culture within the diversity of our nation, and the ramifications of a status change on the current political balance of our national parties, issues that were raised and resolved in the discussions surrounding virtually every territory -- every other territory, that face the critical juncture that is now before us.

Throughout American history, the struggle for statehood has rarely been easy. So we, the people of Puerto Rico, are not discouraged in the lightest by the obstacles that we encounter along our rocky road to civic equality. On the other hand, neither do we take those obstacles lightly. One may describe our attitude -- one way might be this. We must cut out this territory stunt(?), we have had too much hot atmosphere, soothing syrup, and other poor nourishment from Uncle Sam. What we want now is a statehood sandwich, buttered on both sides.

This chance may not come again in the life of the present generation. "A few years will make no difference," say those who oppose us. Such persons either know nothing or care nothing about the history of the statehood fight. It has been the longest struggle -- years and years of evasion, attack and neglect by Congress. The only opposition remaining exists under the leadership of an itinerant demagogue who secretly sends lying telegrams to Washington and who occupies the evenings informing us that our women carry on the practices of saloon bums and that our boys and girls are going to hell.

That, distinguished members of this committee, might be one way to describe our attitude. Interestingly enough, though, those words are not mine, nor are they the words of any other Puerto Rican. Instead, the words I just read to you are a direct quote from the Albuquerque Morning Journal. Those words were published in January, 1911, during the climactic final months of a 62-year crusade for New Mexico statehood. And we must all say that perspective is priceless.

It works wonders in helping a person cope with bouts of indignation and outrage, like when some itinerant demagogue insults the memory of Puerto Rico's four posthumous recipients of the Medal of Honor, not to mention the over 2,000 Puerto Ricans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation.

Like when some itinerant demagogue discredits his own people by claiming that our women have children only to receive welfare benefits, I might remind you of the saloon bums reference I just read, or that our children are incapable of learning or speaking English -- and I quote again, "Our boys and girls are going to hell." Or like when some itinerant demagogue insults the memory of our fallen defenders by proclaiming, loudly, that the people of our island are not Americans. By definition and by conviction, every citizen of the United States is an American, and he who does not feel that way has the right, the right to renounce his citizenship.

But we try to keep our cool amid such demagoguery. And when we are making that attempt, it always helps to be able to recall a comment that was made at just about the same time that Puerto Rico was coming under the United States sovereignty. Almost exactly a century ago, Tammany Hall politician, George Washington Plunkett, praised muckraking author, Lincoln Stephens, for writing that New York, where most of the elected officials were, and I quote, "Irish," was less corrupt than Philadelphia, even though the latter was governed mostly, and I quote again, "by Americans." Fascinating, isn't it?

Who, exactly, is an American, and what, exactly, constitutes patriotism. Puerto Rico has public buildings that bear the names of fierce advocates of independence from the United States, and that is true. Nationalist, Pedro Campos, for example, has a school named after him. But I ask you, does that render us unworthy of statehood? Well, if so, then where does that leave the great

states of the former confederacies, many of whom are members of the Southern Governance Association, which I have the privilege of chairing this year. After all, the deep south is inundated with statues and structures, not to mention cities and towns, that bear the names of men who are remembered best for their leadership role they played in waging war against the United States of America.

Yes, perspective is indeed precious, so let me wrap this up with one final historic footnote. This one takes us all the way back to the United States' very own crusade for self-determination, the Spirit of '76 and the Revolutionary War. Guess who fought the British. Guess who was on the same side as the Yankee Doodle Dandies of the thirteen rebellious colonies. It is quite a remarkable little story. From 1766 to 1803, the expanse of North American territory, known as Louisiana, was governed by Spaniards.

And when the Founding Fathers issued their Declaration of Independence, Governor Bernardo Galvez (phonetic) of Louisiana sent money, gun powder, rifles and other desperately-needed material to American General George Rogers Clark in the Ohio Valley and to a certain General in Virginia, by the name of George Washington. By 1779, Spain had formally declared war against Great Britain, and Governor De Galvas did his part by raising an army of 7,000 Spanish subjects. That fighting force captured five British forts in the Mississippi River Valley. Grateful Americans later named a city after the Spanish governor, the City of Galveston, Texas.

But who fought the British? Well, as by now you surely have guessed, the Spanish army that contributed to the arduous but ultimately triumphant quest for United States' self-determination included troops from the loyal Caribbean colony of Puerto Rico.

May God bless patriotic Americans, however you define them and wherever they may be. May God bless everyone throughout this nation, including everyone on the United States "Island of Enchantment," who is engaged in this noble crusade after one hundred years of American territorial solitude for a community that now encompasses 3.8 million United States citizens. And may God guide this committee and this Senate as it confronts its historical and constitutional responsibilities of providing for a fair and definitive process of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico. I thank this committee for the privilege of addressing them this morning.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Governor, it was a very, very powerful statement and I think it certainly represents your conviction relative to your particular view --

(Extended applause.)

You must have some fans out there, as well, of your particular view.

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: They're all cousins of mine.

THE CHAIRMAN: All cousins, okay. Nothing like a big, happy family.

We've been joined by Senator Graham, from Florida, and if you have an opening statement -- we have concluded our opening statements, as you probably have guessed. I'm going to defer, after you, to Senator Landrieu, who was first, and Senator Craig and I will ask my questions last, and I'm going to have to be excused for a minute to take a call outside, so in my absence Senator Craig will act as chairman.

SENATOR GRAHAM (D-FL): Mr. Chairman, I have an opening statement which I would like to file for the record, in deference to the time constraints. I would just -- I will echo the comments of the governor that this is a historic moment in which our nation is being tested. One of those tests is our own sense of national vision. We have had a history, as the example of New Mexico illustrates, in which we have been reluctant to add new peoples who might be, in some ways, unlike ourselves, to our nation. But every time we've done that, we've added to the strength of the nation.

The issue before us today is not whether Puerto Rico will be added as a state to the United States of America, will become the 51st star, but whether the people of Puerto Rico should be given the respectful opportunity at self-determination, a principle that is as fundamental as our own Declaration of Independence. So I appreciate the outstanding statements that have been made today on behalf of the cause of self-determination, and I am optimistic that those messages will be heeded by prompt and affirmative action on this legislation.

SENATOR CRAIG: Senator Graham, thank you very much. Let me also say that Senator Graham is a co-sponsor of S-472, as many of you know, and has been strongly supportive of moving this legislation forward, and I thank him for that.

Now let me turn to the Senator from Louisiana, Senator Landrieu.

SENATOR LANDRIEU: Thank you. Governor, it was an extraordinary statement, and very well delivered and quite powerful in your comments about various historical points along the way.

Let me just say briefly that, because we are a political system, there are many times when we act in political ways, which is quite natural and parochial. But there are times when that kind of way is not sufficient, because of the principles that are at stake. I think we are at that time here.

I would urge my Senate colleagues to think of this issue in that way. There are greater principles of which we all, regardless of our parties, stand for, that are all well-represented in the arguments that you've laid out, so I hope we can move quickly and that this year would not pass and that we could end it with great joy and celebration and be true to everything that we preach every day here on the floors on both sides.

But let me ask a question about, in your opinion --- I hope that this doesn't happen, but if Congress fails to act this year, what do you think the outcome would be if, by any chance, we would fail to act in this way?

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: I think, first of all, it would be fair to say that this would be a great disappointment to the people of Puerto Rico. We have gone at this for a hundred years. We go into cycles of -- the last one was mentioned earlier before from 1989 to 1991, and we at the end of a cycle keep getting the message that maybe there was not enough time. I think the people of Puerto Rico would not understand a message again that after so many years of discussing and so many years of dialoguing about this issue that the Senate of the United States cannot get itself to act on this proposal.

The reality of the case is that Congress has to enter, has to be an integral part of this process, as was mentioned by Senator Craig. It is not one-sided. It needs collaboration from both sides. And the fact is that there's a strong message to this Congress that the situation has changed in Puerto Rico. Always, we labor under the concept that there should be an approval by the governed for its government. And in Puerto Rico, that has changed. We have a situation where none of the alternatives have a majority. And it is at this point where it is absolutely necessary.

If Congress does not act, particularly if the Senate does not act, then I would ask what would be the response if in any one of your states you had a similar situation, where more than 50 percent of the population, of the electorate, says that they're not in agreement with the way they're being governed. And so this is, to a certain extent, something that from your experience in each one of your states would probably constitute a constitutional crisis. That is why it is so important.

What will the people do in Puerto Rico if Congress does not act? I think that's a very difficult question to answer. I can tell you for creation that there will be a sense of disenchantment, a sense of being run around for a long time, and I think the Senate has before it a historical opportunity to exert, for the first time, its constitutional responsibilities, not to shirk away from that responsibility but to act at this present time. One hundred years after the Stars and Stripes came to Puerto Rico, this is a moment not for further discussion, for further dialogue, this is a moment for action and that's what the people of Puerto Rico expect.

SENATOR LANDRIEU: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SENATOR CRAIG: Senator, thank you very much. Governor, again, welcome and thank you for that very powerful statement. And the response that you just gave to the Senator for Louisiana I think expresses the frustration that Puerto Ricans have over this issue, and partly reflects my frustration, that we have a responsibility here in the Congress to allow this process to move in a way that not only sets the parameters by which the Congress would respond but also sets parameters by which Puerto Ricans can respond in an effective way.

I was fascinated and frustrated by the debate by some of my colleagues in the other body, as I listened to this issue develop on the floor of the House. Fascinated by statements that I knew were false or at least dramatically shaded to present an image that I didn't understand because I didn't think it existed. About Puerto Rico. For the record, would you give us some of the changes that are occurring in Puerto Rico, some of the reforms that you're instituting, that are critical to the citizens, that are very consistent with what this Congress has talked about and, in fact, moved on over the last several years, that I think demonstrate the continuity of relationships and understanding between Puerto Ricans and citizens of the 50 contiguous -- or not so contiguous states.

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Yes, Senator Craig, and let me start by thanking you for your leadership in this matter that's very important to the people of Puerto Rico. You certainly have stood on the principle as to how we should resolve this century-long quandary that we've had, both in Puerto Rico and in the United States.

Puerto Rico maybe will be defined as going through a very significant change of redefinition during this decade of the '90s. Among those redefinition are, first, the first bill that I submitted to our legislature, a law that I signed within a month of having been -- having taken the oath as governor of Puerto Rico, was to establish English as an official language in Puerto Rico. And maybe I can make some history about that, too.

Puerto Rico is the first jurisdiction that has had English as an official language, dating all the way back to 1902. Before the first state ever established English as an official statement, which was in 1920, the State of Nebraska. Since 1902, except for a brief period of some years where English was removed for a couple of years as an official language, under the previous administration, I had the privilege of reinstituting English as an official language to Puerto Rico. English is the official language used in federal agencies in Puerto Rico, it is the official language that is used in the U.S. Courts, and, as I said, at the state level it is co-equal with Spanish as an official language.

In the area of health, we have instituted a major health reform that will have as its goals, and which we will reach of having everybody in Puerto Rico covered by private health insurance by the year 2000. We have instituted a very aggressive tax reform, which has resulted in lowering in approximately 20 percent the tax rates in Puerto Rico. We have instituted a new economic model for Puerto Rico, which is less dependent on historical crutches and which has created over 150,000 new jobs in Puerto Rico over the past five years, and again, instituted a reform in education that has led to an establishment of community schools, a statewide choice program for students so they can choose the school of their choice, and all of these changes are part of what we feel is the central element of redefinition in Puerto Rico during this decade of the '90s, which is the empowerment of people, the empowerment of people.

That empowerment is being done, area by area, but there is no question that the final empowerment in a democratic society is its power to vote. Puerto Rico does not possess that power at the present time. Congress has absolute powers over the territory of Puerto Rico under the U.S. Constitution and also under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Until Puerto Rico participates fully, our society will not be fully empowered.

And so maybe, Senator Craig, the overbearing view of what's happening in Puerto Rico is, yes, this is a very intense, very controversial, much discussed period in Puerto Rico that is redefining the course Puerto Rico is following in many areas, be it tax reform, be it educational reform, be it health reform, be it the way we treat our people in terms of allowing them to develop power within their communities, and also, yes, at this moment, defining whether Puerto Rico will be empowered as in any democratic society to elect its own representatives and to have a voice in those bodies that make the ultimate decision over our citizens and our people.

SENATOR CRAIG: Well, Governor, thank you very much. I thought it was important for the record that we record some of those reforms, because I think they are valuable and important, and I think the citizens of the United States beyond Puerto Rico need to hear that in many instances you lead in a variety of the areas that are now issues of importance here before this Congress and before citizens of the other states. Thank you very much.

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Thank you, sir.

SENATOR CRAIG: Senator Graham.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Governor, I'd just like to ask a single question, which is somewhat of a follow-up to the question that Senator Landrieu asked, and that is, what will be the impact of the decision by this Congress on whether to grant to the citizens of Puerto Rico the opportunity of self-determination. The United States, after having spent most of its history looking towards Europe and, in recent years to some degree, looking towards Asia, is now, for the first time, seriously engaged within the hemisphere. In a matter of days, the president will go to Santiago, Chile, for the second Summit of the Americas, as an example of the increasing momentum of our hemispheric relationships.

I know that you are a well versed and highly respected figure within the hemisphere as well as within Puerto Rico and the United States. Could you give me your assessment, based on that knowledge, of what would be the effect on attitudes towards the United States if we were to deny the people of Puerto Rico the right to take a vote on their own political future?

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Senator, I think that you very ably have focused that this is not just an issue that's important to Puerto Rico and maybe to this Congress in a very narrow sense. But that it's important to other communities and other populations. Within the United States I think this is an important issue for Hispanic populations throughout the United States. I think the issue of empowering Puerto Rico to make a decision is something that every Hispanic throughout the nation feels, maybe from a very personal perspective. So when we're discussing this, we're also have to be aware of what message is going out to those communities that in their own lives have a very dramatic sense of what being disenfranchised is all about.

When we look at the wider community within our hemisphere there is also an important message here. The message as to whether Hispanics that share 400 or 500 years of heritage, that share a common language, will be allowed, within this American democracy, to participate fully in taking a decision and making a decision about their own self-determination. If the message were one that is negative, I think that would be taken as a slap in the face to all those that share with Puerto Rico a long history, a common heritage, that the United States is not willing to open its democracy to everyone, but that it has some exclusions, some areas where it is not fully exercised.

So I think you're absolutely right in maybe opening up the scope of the importance and the significance that this issue has, not just for the 3.8 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to which I think this is a central concern, but also the position that the United States will take in terms of its own populations of Hispanic Americans and also to all those Hispanics that live in the countries in our hemisphere that share a history and a language with Puerto Rico throughout our Latin American republics.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Thank you, Governor.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Senator. Governor Rossello, I too have experienced the disenfranchisement associated with living and growing up in a territory. While we were American citizens, of course, we had other restrictions. We had to actually have an identification card with a picture, almost like a passport, to leave Alaska to enter the United States. We paid federal income tax.

In order to feel good, some of us protested and wrote about representation -- you know, "Taxation without representation." It made us feel good, but didn't reduce our tax liability. So I can appreciate the frustration associated with the resolve on the issue of self-determination. I'm particularly sensitive to it.

A few questions. In your opinion, the necessity of Congress becoming involved with this issue before a clear expression in Puerto Rico of what a majority of the population wants, either statehood, independence, or the status quo. You have kind of touched on it.

I'd like you to go over it very briefly one more time, because what has happened here, of course, with this House bill, is the plebiscite has been, all right, you know, here's the congressional action that's been taken in the House, and these are the choices, it's up to the other body and ultimately the Congress to dictate which choice, and then the assumption is that it will become a reality. And you've had referendums, we had referendums in Alaska. Hawaii had referendums.

What it does, of course, it takes the onus off the Congress and the Senate by, "Well, what is the will of the people?" Now, we've done a different switch here and some members feel a little uncomfortable about it.

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: I think that was the message we heard in the process that took place from 1989 to 1991. As a response to that, the people of Puerto Rico took action. They celebrated a referendum in 1993. As a result of that referendum, we're in the state that we are. There's no majority option that has the favor of the people of Puerto Rico. As a result of that referendum, our legislature, in 1997, asked Congress to set the stage for a plebiscite or a referendum that would have valid options before the people of Puerto Rico.

Senator, I am -- I don't want to over-emphasize this, but for a hundred years, yes, we've had plebiscites, but never has Congress been in the process for defining options to the people of Puerto Rico that are valid. That has been the missing ingredient. In 1993, I submitted a bill to our legislature that allowed every political party to define its own formula. I say, in retrospect, that was a grave mistake. Because in trying to be fair, we essentially were not fair to the people of Puerto Rico who had presented before them some options that even history -- the history after that shows that were not valid, or could not be validated by the Congress.

So what we're saying now, the big difference is that Congress has to be fair to the people of Puerto Rico by telling them exactly what is valid, what is not valid, what is possible and what is not possible. You know I advocate for statehood. But if Congress says here that statehood is not an option, I want the people of Puerto Rico to know about that. And so, the big difference is that I don't think Congress or the Senate can shirk its responsibilities any more.

It is now the moment, after multiple attempts, all of the people you will hear here today probably know what each other is going to say. We've discussed it so much. It is a time for action. And I urge the Senate not to maybe hide behind excuses that will prevent action. An action that again has to be a honest message to the people of Puerto Rico, "If you want self-determination, these are the valid options. You define them." You might define something that I don't like for the formula that I propose, but it is -- and I'm saying it up-front, it is the responsibility of Congress to define validly, to speak honestly, to the people of Puerto Rico. I don't think it's fair, I don't think it's adequate, to say, "We will keep discussing ,this for a hundred more years."

THE CHAIRMAN: You know, the last time the committee addressed the issue, Governor, we became entangled in political battles relative to the party interests as we tried to fashion the definitions, and you've referred to the difficulty of the definitions. And the effort then was to try and compliment the three parties on what they would accept, and we got mired down. And you know, you've indicated that it's up to the Congress to define the terms.

Many members find that a little ingenuous because, you know, the people have to be able to express their preference and, you know, our ability to dictate the terms and conditions of Puerto Rico's self-determination without a referendum I think is something that several members have expressed to me a concern, and I've discussed it personally with you relative to that, but, on the other hand, you've had them before and nothing's happened. So I don't mean to suggest that your point of view isn't valid and your frustrations aren't real, and that Congress does have an obligation, but that does not eliminate the difficulty associated with defining the ultimate self-determination of Puerto Rico.

You know, the devil's always in the details, and the Congress and the Senate body and this committee certainly don't have divine guidance in defining what's in the best interests of the people of Puerto Rico, so I just leave you with that observation, because I think it puts all of us in a position of, well, you know, how do we define and be totally objective in a mandate that sets your own self-determination paths.

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Well, Senator, I think I recognize the difficulties. But I'm sure that you were elected not to take out the easy route from controversial issues, but to really tackle them. The truth of the matter is that the House process allowed the political parties to submit their input. And I think the Senate should do the same. But ultimately, if I came to you with a definition for statehood that said that Puerto Rico as a state would have four senators, I'm sure that decision would be easy for you to say, "No, Puerto Rico --"

THE CHAIRMAN: Well, if they were all Republicans we might be ...


GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Well, that's a new perspective and I'm sure we could reach an agreement on that.


THE CHAIRMAN: You think maybe we could arrange that? I don't know (inaudible) --

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: We could arrange that.

(Simultaneous discussion, unintelligible.)

MR. : What I think is that the proportion -- I think that the proportion of Senators should be the proportion of the members of the Senate as they vote on this self-determination bill.


THE CHAIRMAN: All right, please proceed with your response, Governor. I think we've pretty well exercised that this is a political issue, as well.

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Sure, it's a political issue, I think it's valid that we discuss it. And I think it's something that is not new or unique for Puerto Rico. When Alaska came in, Senator, you know that that was a significant part of the discussion, what would be the future in terms of political parties for Alaska. There was a deal so that Hawaii could come in with Alaska so that you could maintain the balance. I must say those that were forecasting at that time were totally wrong, 180 degrees wrong. And so I think that that has to be discussed. But I say that maybe we don't have that ability to be very accurate as to what will happen in the future.

I do feel that the political balance will in a large extent depend on how the political parties address Puerto Rico and address the Hispanic community. And, to the extent that one or the other political party appears as to be supportive or one or the other political party appears not to be supportive, that certainly will have an impact. So I agree that this is an issue that has to be discussed, it has to be discussed the fear that some states have of losing seats to Puerto Rico and the House when Puerto Rico comes in with a significant six-member delegation.

So yes, these are issues that we should discuss but, again, bottom line what I'm saying, these are valid issues, we should discuss them, but this should not end with a message that we have, "We need more time to discuss this." We've had an awful long time to discuss this. The arguments are the same, the issues are the same for the 37 states that came in after being territories, or on one or two occasions after being independent republic. Those are the same issues discussed over and over, and sometime you will have to take the bull by the horns and decide to take action, and that's what I'm urging this committee and what I'm urging this Senate to do.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Governor. I again want to thank you for your excellent, again, very powerful presentation, and we will count on your office and your development bank for assistance in providing further information and I would excuse you now and call the next panel and --

GOVERNOR ROSELLO: Thank you. Thank you very much.

THE CHAIRMAN: Carlos, thank you as well.

(Extended applause.)

For the members of the Governor's party, if they want to watch the balance of the presentations, we can make arrangements. We have some seating in the back, and I'm going to ask the staff go out and corral the Governor's party if he so wishes. We'll proceed now with Panel Number One that will consist of the balance of the statements that are to be taken at this workshop. The Honorable Anibal Acevedo Vila, the President of the Popular Democratic Party, that is the PDP. And the next gentleman will be a Senator, the Honorable Ruben Barrios Martinez, Puerto Rican Independence Party, known as the PIP, and our good friend, the Honorable Governor Luis Ferre, who represents the New Progressive Party, the NPP. And ...

We would call on Representative Acevedo Vila first, the President of the Popular Democratic Party, and again, I would encourage your statements to be within the fifteen minute allowable. Please proceed.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good afternoon.

THE CHAIRMAN: Please identify again, your democratic party represents the consensus as we know it, of the status quo?

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Commonwealth.

THE CHAIRMAN: Okay. Not necessarily the status ---

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Not necessarily.

THE CHAIRMAN: You can elaborate and highlight that a little bit for us.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Anibal Acevedo Vila (phonetic), President of the Pro Commonwealth Popular Democratic Party. I'm going to summarize my written statement and ask that it be included in the record completely.

Commonwealth has been supported by a majority of the people in all three status plebiscites, held in 1952, 1967, and most recently, in 1993. The most recent public polls show -- taken in Puerto Rico from last year showed 45 percent support for commonwealth and 36 percent for state, and that was last year. Therefore, on the status issue I speak on behalf of the majority of the people in Puerto Rico.

Although this is not a hearing on any specific bill, I must convey to you that the democratic principles of fairness and inclusion were now adhered to during the process in the House regarding HR-856, which you know passed the House by only one vote on March 4th. The problem with that legislation and also with the Senate counterpart, S-472, are numerous. Among them, it does not present a level playing field for choosing among the status options being debated in Puerto Rico. Second, the definition within this legislation are not based on the adequate studies in term of the economic and cultural consequences of a change of status in Puerto Rico, and third, it does not reflect a proper and just understanding of what commonwealth status stands for and its potential for further development.

Both bills are totally unacceptable to the Popular Democratic Party and the majority of Puerto Ricans. Both claim to be self-determination bills. They certainly are not. They are statehood bills disguised inside a self-determination mask. Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, has brilliantly summarized the major flaws of HR-856 in a letter he recently sent to a member of the House in Puerto Rico. I'm quoting from Senator Lott. "I'm concerned that the language of HR-856 does not clearly provide a workable option for the citizens of Puerto Rico. The definition of commonwealth in the bill will conceivably take away existing rights of Puerto Ricans, including the guarantee of American citizenship. Further, the commonwealth definition will in effect return Puerto Rico to the status of a territory without many of the self-governing rights clearly afforded Puerto Ricans. Given a choice --" and I'm quoting from Senator Lott -- "given a choice between that definition of commonwealth and statehood, Puerto Ricans would have no real option and the choice will be more one of statehood versus independence." Clearly, this bill denies access to the ballot of half of the population in Puerto Rico that believes in commonwealth.

The last time this committee entertained this issue, as the chairman has acknowledged, was back in 1991, when a bill that had the support of the three political parties in Puerto Rico -- and that's very important, because there was no controversy when they got to the definitions at that time -- the three political parties were supporting that bill. Nevertheless, it was defeated at the mark-up because of the opposition to statehood. After that, a local plebiscite was called in 1993 by the Statehood Party -- now in power. Yet, commonwealth won again, but now they want to change the rules and said, because there is not a majority, there was not a mandate for a commonwealth. Having been defeated by the people in Puerto Rico, statehood has moved to the House and convinced some members to present a bill crafted to assure a statehood victory. That bring us today here. We have not had a response from the Senate on the will of the people freely expressed in favor of enhanced commonwealth in 1993. Nevertheless, the House approved, by one vote, a divisive and coercive bill sponsored by the losers concerning the status issue in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico's long history shows that full autonomy has been by far the status formula preferred by the people of Puerto Rico. It was like that under Spanish ruling back in 1897, one year before the Spanish-American War. Spain granted the autonomic charter to the island. Under it, Puerto Rico had full voting rights in the Spanish parliament, were full-fledged Spanish citizens. Their charter could not be amended without our consent. There was a common market where Puerto Rico could devise its own tariff, and Spanish commercial treaties could not bind Puerto Rico without its consent. All these political rights were taken away after the invasion in 1898. The struggle for autonomy did not end, and continues today.

In the first half of this century, the status discussion centered on the traditional alternative of statehood and independence. In the late '30s, it was evident that there was a deadlock on the island, with no clear mandate for any of the traditional alternatives. Autonomy was again the only way out. Commonwealth was created as a flexible alternative, appealing to the majority of the people with elements that make it resemble maintaining some independence by harmonizing the fact that we are a people, a nation, with our own identity, history, and culture. With the preservation of the permanent bond of the U.S. citizenship, commonwealth represents an alternative to the extremes of complete integration and total separation. It is this flexibility under commonwealth that has strengthened our identity as a distant society while, at the same time, fulfilling our responsibilities as U.S. citizens. This flexibility has also nurtured our economic development.

A starting point for any process of self-determination for Puerto Rico should be the recognition of our 500 years of existence as a people and the uniqueness of the present relationship. Public Law 600 was enacted on July 3rd, 1950, by Congress, authorizing Puerto Rico to draft and adopt its own constitution, and I quote from the bill -- from the law, "Fully recognizing the principle of government by consent, this act is now adopted in the nature of a compact." The Constitution was approved by the people of Puerto Rico and it was approved by Congress in Law 447, which reiterated that it was a compact.

Based on these actions, United States government made the following solemn representation to the United States in 1953, and I'm quoting, "The previous status of Puerto Rico was that of a territory subject to full authority of Congress of the United States in all governmental models." The previous constitution of Puerto Rico was in fact a law of the Congress, which was called an organic act. Congress only could amend the organic act of Puerto Rico. The present status of Puerto Rico is that of a people with a constitution of their own adoption, stemming from their own authority which only they can alter or amend. The relationship previously established by a law of Congress which only Congress could amend have now become a provision of a compact of a bilateral nature, whose term might be changed only by mutual consent.

On November 27, 1953, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved Resolution 7488, which specifically declares that under the compact, and I quote from the United Nations resolution, "The people of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have been invested with attributes of political sovereignty which clearly identify the status of self-government obtained by the Puerto Rican peoples as that of an autonomous political entity." That's the same resolution that has been attacked by the Fidel Castro government since 1960 in the United Nations.

The United States promised, and the United Nations acknowledged, that Puerto Rico was entitled to further develop the autonomy it had just obtained. Establishment of commonwealth was a significant step on our quest for greater autonomy but it was not the last stop and that is why we are here. The current status of Puerto Rico needs development, not demolishment. Any process of self-determination, to be valid, must include the aspiration of the majority which believe in full autonomy and democratic commonwealth. That development should -- of commonwealth should give the island more flexibility, with new powers and tools to stimulate economic development. There is a theory that makes way into the two bills pending before this Senate, stating that it's not possible to have a non-colonial bilateral relationship based on a compact that can be only altered by mutual consent with U.S. citizenship. That theory is against history, legal precedents, and should be unacceptable to you.

History shows that full autonomy and U.S. citizenship are not mutually exclusive concepts. In the case of Puerto Rico, citizenship has always been the bond for a permanent union entirely disassociated from statehood. That principle was clearly outlined by President Taft in 1912, in his state of the union address advocating in favor of granting U.S. citizen to all Puerto Ricans, and I quote from his statement. "I believe that the demand for citizenship is just, but it must be remembered that the demand must be, and in the minds of most Puerto Ricans, is entirely disassociated with any thought of statehood. I believe that the aim to be striven for is the fullest possible allowance of legal and fiscal self-government with American citizenship as the bond between us." In other words, a relation analogous to the present relation between Great Britain and self-governing colonies of Canada and Australia.

Other nations have entered into binding compacts with formerly-dependent territories, and some stipulate that the citizens of such territories shall continue to be citizens of the former administering nation. The United States Constitution is not such a strangely constricting document that it allows only two de-colonizing formulas: admission to the Union or independence without a shared citizenship. It is most difficult to envision any perceptive court accepting the bizarre argument that the United States Constitution limits the sharing of U.S. citizenship besides the members of the Union to dependent people only, thus condemning the nation to remain as one of the few colonial powers in the world should such dependent people desires to hold on to their status as a U.S. citizen.

To unilaterally change the assumption that you can have autonomy and U.S. citizenship at the same time now would confront Puerto Ricans with a conscious dilemma having no precedent in American history. A closer look at Puerto Rico's reality will clearly show --

THE CHAIRMAN: Maybe if you could kind of summarize a little --

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Okay, yeah.

THE CHAIRMAN: -- bit, because we're trying to -- we might start voting any time, and I want to make sure everybody is heard from.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: I will summarize, but I would like to make this last point because --

THE CHAIRMAN: Sure, go right ahead. Go ahead and finish your point.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Yeah. Puerto Ricans, when you ask Puerto Ricans which one is our nation, the majority, the overwhelming majority will say Puerto Rico. On the latest poll, 62 percent responded that Puerto Rico was their nation, and only 25 percent said it was the United States. But in the same poll, when you ask the about the U.S. citizenship, 75 percent said U.S. citizenship is a critical, is very important to them.

Therefore, you have a super majority that wants to preserve those values represented by the existing national identity and U.S. citizenship.

Someone may say that's a contradiction. It's not our fault. It was the United States that invaded Puerto Rico, it was the Congress granted U.S. citizenship back in 1917, it was Congress that granted commonwealth back in 1952, so now we have this Puerto Rico. That's the reality of Puerto Rico. We are a nation, we are a people, but we cherish and we're proud of our U.S. citizenship. The only way you can harmonize those two principles is through commonwealth. That's the reason why autonomy and commonwealth represents the majority of the people of Puerto Rico. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much for that statement, very fine statement. I appreciate -- what we're going to do is we're going to hold questions until the balance of the panel has been heard from. The Honorable Ruben Barrios Martinez, please proceed. We welcome you to the hearing.

MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I have provided the committee with copies of my written statement, which I request be made part of the record of these proceedings --

THE CHAIRMAN: Without objection.

MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: The status options and definitions to be offered in a future referendum constitute the most fundamental issue this Senate will have to face in any legislation dealing with U.S./Puerto Rico relations. I will thus address my remarks directly to that issue, and leave other matters for the question and answer period.

I will not beat around the bush. I will go to the point. I am absolutely convinced that the principal obstacle in this Senate to approval of status legislation for Puerto Rico is that profound reluctance of a large number of Senators to enact a bill that would include the statehood alternative. I fully understand --

THE CHAIRMAN: State what?

MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: To enact a bill that would include the statehood alternative.

THE CHAIRMAN: Statehood alternative.

MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: Yes. I fully understand this reluctance. I understand it because I believe that it would be reckless on the part of the U.S. to attempt incorporation into the Union of a Latin American nation with its own historical, linguistic, and cultural identity, and whose primary loyalty is to Puerto Rico, not to the United States. The U.S. is a multi-national nation state. It's not a multi-national nation state, nor I believe does it aspire to be one. "E pluribus unum" is written right there behind you, and that's what the United States wants. Not a multi-national nation state, but E pluribus Unum. Simply statehood, statehood of Puerto Rico entails grave dangers for the future of the American federation.

(Dias): So there.

MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: As a Puerto Rican, furthermore, I cannot conceive of statehood as a truly decolonizing alternative. The right of the people of Puerto Rico to rule themselves in their own nation is an alienable right -- inalienable right, excuse me. For me, as for hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican, statehood cannot eliminate our right to independence. That is to say, our right to secede from the Union. Is the U.S. willing to risk a Caribbean Quebec or a tropical Northern Island? It is my contention, however, that it is precisely those Senators, many of whom I believe are not here today, who are reluctant to support the inclusion of statehood and whose opposition to referendum bill will doom it to failure, the ones who have most to lose by inaction or postponement. To them I say, the best time to stop statehood, if it should be stopped, is now. Tomorrow may be too late.

That is why, as president of the Independence Party, the party most vehemently opposed to statehood, firmly believe that a referendum on statehood should be held as soon as possible. The reasons are simple and powerful.

First, a refusal by this Congress, by this Senate in particular, to approve a federally-sponsored referendum may lead to the Puerto Rican legislature to enact a local plebiscite law, where the incentives for truth in advertisement as to the status alternatives may be lacking. The result of such local plebiscite may very well confront this Congress next year with a statehood petition sustained by an artificially large majority.

Second, even if such a locally-sponsored plebiscite did not materialize this year, as dependence and federal funds increases in Puerto Rico and as colonialism continues to generate even more statehooders, an irrational statehood bandwagon in Puerto Rico will in all likelihood develop in the not distant future. Such a wave may then coincide with an equally irrational bandwagon in the United States, where electoral pandering for the Hispanic vote may confuse cultural diversity with the promotion of multi-nationalism. Inaction by the Senate now will stimulate such developments. The possibility of a statehood petition simply will not go away. This may be the last clear chance of this Senate to avoid being overtaken by events. In light of these considerations, I propose the following guidelines to be followed in any referendum legislation. These guidelines have been formulated so that they can be acceptable to all Senators, particularly those who oppose statehood.

First, statehood should require what a Washington Post editorial recently called "a healthy majority." Or better still, what Senator Lott has called "a substantial consensus." In my judgment, the moral, historical historical legitimacy of such a requirement is self-evident.

Second guideline, a statehood alternative must be accompanied by a clear expression of a sense of the Senate that before Puerto Rico could be favorably considered as a state, English will have to become a true language of common understanding in Puerto Rico.

Third, the statehood alternative should also anticipate the economic and financial criteria that would be applied to determine statehood for Puerto Rico would constitute an unacceptable burden on the U.S. Treasury.

Fourth guideline, the option of colonialism as it appears in the Young Bill, for example, should be eliminated from any Senate bill. This commonwealth option, because of its colonial nature, is demeaning to Puerto Rico and the United States. Moreover, it is supported by no one in Puerto Rico. Extreme care must be exercised so that this commonwealth definition that appears in the House bill is not substituted by another colonial definition. Only a clearly-defined, separate Puerto Rican sovereignty alternative will avoid this pitfall. As regards commonwealth, contrary to what the president of the PDP states, this is not the moment to waste time or energy in rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic.


It is true, it is true, the government of Fidel Castro combats present commonwealth as colonial. So does the House of Representatives of the United States, by approving the Young Bill recently.

Fifth, the option of independence must be further strengthened in any bill.

Six, the option of free association as an intermediate alternate form of separate sovereignty must be carefully defined and detailed. Under this option of free association, the possibilities of either dual citizenship or other analogous reciprocity arrangements regarding citizenship must be creatively addressed.

It is my conviction than a plebiscite designed along the lines that I have suggested will result in a victory for separate sovereignty. That is, the sum of the goals for independence and those for free association. Under those conditions, the Puerto Ricans themselves will say no to statehood and opt for separate sovereignty. Yet, even if statehood were to prevail by an unhealthy majority, the Senate will have wisely exercised political foresight by openly anticipating the criteria with which any pro-statehood vote would be judged. If such a majority vote for statehood were considered to be insufficient, a second vote between the two forms of separate sovereignty -- independence and free association -- could then be held. In any case, the Gordian knot of colonialism and subordination would have finally been cut. That should be the goal of both the United States Senate and the Puerto Rican people. Thank you very much.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. We've been joined by Senator Thomas. Do you have a statement that you care to make?

SENATOR THOMAS: No, thank you, I just . . .

THE CHAIRMAN: We're very pleased to have with us the former governor of Puerto Rico, the Governor Luis Ferre. We look forward to your presentation and please proceed, Governor.

GOVERNOR FERRE: Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I have submitted a full statement of my remarks here --

THE CHAIRMAN: Without objection.

GOVERNOR FERRE: I will then make a summary in order to save some time. And at the same time, I want to submit a chart, which will go together with my report.

THE CHAIRMAN: May I ask that you come as close to the microphone as you can, and move the microphone to you, it'll move.


THE CHAIRMAN: That's fine. Thank you.

GOVERNOR FERRE: I am -- my name is Luis A. Ferre, I am a former Republican governor of Puerto Rico, as well as the current state chairman of the Republican party, as well as the founding chairman of the New Progressive Party, a coalition created in 1967 for the purpose of seeking statehood for Puerto Rico. I am, of course, a very young man, burdened with 94 years of experience.



THE CHAIRMAN: I should have Senator Strom Thurmond to introduce you.

GOVERNOR FERRE: I have to compete with him.

THE CHAIRMAN: It would have been our only senior colleague that could have properly done that. Please proceed, Governor.

GOVERNOR FERRE: Thank you. It is in this last capacity and by delegation of our party chairman, Governor Rossello, that I have the privilege of appearing before you today. I wish to congratulate and thank Chairman Murkowski for so expeditiously scheduling this first workshop. Puerto Rico's self-determination is a subject of paramount importance to our great nation. How we handle it can burnish or soil our luster as the greatest democracy in history. I address you today as an American, as a Republican, and as a Puerto Rican. I would --


I was born in Ponce Puerto Rico in 1904. My life has spanned the 20th century and virtually the entire history of Puerto Rico and its relationship to the United States.

Americans have a great deal to be proud of. In this century, we have perfected the fairest, most stable and most prosperous democracy in history. We have the right to approach very careful any process which might result in the incorporation of another four million citizens as full partners. Legitimate questions have been raised regarding the process of self-determination for Puerto Rico. I have the answers.

Are we rushing into the process? This hardly is the case. Puerto Rico has been a part of this country for a hundred years. Furthermore, the House of Representatives has held extensive hearings in Washington and in Puerto Rico since 1995, and the Senate also has done so. In this statehood bill, not at all. This bill initiates a process of self-determination and does nothing more. If the commonwealth option wins this referendum, nothing changes. If either statehood or independence win, a lengthy process of confusion(?) is triggered, only Congress decides it. And under such circumstances, a change of status will take place.

Moreover, the legislation does not favor statehood. On the contrary. If any option is favored, it is commonwealth, since that is the status that prevails if no option wins a majority in the referendum. There is a clear need for Congress to act. A referendum was held in Puerto Rico in 1933, in which each party was allowed to define -- pardon me, 1993 -- in which each party was allowed to define its own option. Even under these circumstances, which gave an unfair advantage to commonwealth, less than 50 percent of the voters supported the status quo; as you will see by this chart, it's only 48 percent. We have, therefore, a constitutional crisis in Puerto Rico that can be summarized as follows.

Fully 100 percent of the voters demand changes. Over 95 percent of the voters, those favoring statehood or commonwealth, favor permanent union with United States, but do not support the current system. Clearly, Puerto Rico is no longer being governed with the consent of the governed. As a territory, Puerto Rico does not have the authority to fix this problem on its own. For that reason, our legislature has petitioned Congress to set in motion the self-determination process that we are discussing here today.

What about language in Puerto Rico? Contrary to campaign of misinformation that is underway, the majority of Puerto Ricans are proficient in English. It is our policy on the island to ensure that everyone speaks English. In fact, English has been official language of Puerto Rico since 1902, longer than any other jurisdiction under the United States.

We developed our own educational system, and our political institutions gear those in cooperation into the mainstream of America, retaining those unique qualities of our cultural identity which would enrich the quality of life in our nation. As a result, the present generations of Puerto Ricans are comfortably engaged in athletic, professional, educational, artistic and political activity in the 50 states. Some have achieved distinction as public servants, such as Admiral Rivero, former commander in chief of Naval Forces in Southern Europe, and ambassador to Spain. Admiral Nangas, former commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, Dr. Antonio Morillo, former surgeon-general of United States, and Judge Juan Torruellas, chief judge of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

And all the while, Puerto Ricans have treasured their association with the United States, cherished their American citizenship, and loyally done their duty. A duty which in Puerto Rico meant the highest rates of volunteer enlistment in our armed forces, the service of more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans in wars during this century, over 2,000 of our soldiers killed in action, and the award to four of them of them Congressional Medal of Honor. And I had the honor of having my grandson participate in the Gulf War.

Puerto Rican are and always will be Americans. What will statehood cost? Of all the status options that are before this committee, commonwealth has proven over a 40-60 year period, that it will be never be self-sufficient. In fact, over the last ten years the cost of commonwealth exceeds $64 billion, while new economic studies which have been submitted to the committee show that statehood would save the taxpayer between 2.1 and 2.7 billion a year, and more as the Puerto Rican economy reaches its full growth, which is expected to be 29 billion by 2025.

The real question before the American people, therefore, is whether we as a nation should support the expensive status quo or let the people of Puerto Rico have the opportunity to consider a new status that ends this subsidy. What about apportionment? Some have voiced a concern about which state might lose seats in the House if Puerto Rico became a state. The answer is, none will. Nothing in the Constitution prevents the House from increasing its size to accommodate new members from Puerto Rico. Allow me now to speak briefly as a Republican.

I know many in my party are apprehensive about a process that might result in two Democratic Senators and six representatives. At the risk of upsetting my Democratic friends let me say Republicans have nothing to fear. Puerto Rico has had an active Republican party since 1902. The birthday of the party's founder, Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa, is an official holiday on the island. Currently, Republicans hold the balance of power in our legislature, and among our Mayors and we have come a long way to implement a Republican agenda, as the governor has explained to you. In the government we have today, out of the legislature there are 24 members of the -- there are 29 members of the House that are Republican, and 23 Democrats. In the Senate, there are 14 members who are Republicans and 13 Democrats. And the mayors, there are 46 municipalities that are Republican and 32 Democrats. So you see that in Puerto Rico, the Republican party controls the elected members of the government, and therefore there's no way to think that there's going to be a Democratic control like some people think of our delegation in Congress. It will be as, I imagine, divided between two parties.

With respect to cost, I've already covered that area. And governing Republicans hold, as I -- just (inaudible).

Puerto Rico has always been fertile ground for the Republican party. In Puerto Rico we Republicans have made historic changes. In conclusion, let me speak as a Puerto Rican. As an American (inaudible).

What we want is simply to enjoy all of the rights and privileges of American citizens while, at the same time, to assure all of the inherent duties and responsibilities. We just want to be equal under the law, and we are ready, able and eager to assume those responsibilities. It is impossible, Mr. Chairman, to expect this change to come from Puerto Rico. Congress, and only Congress can properly define the options available to Puerto Rico and put into place a process of full implementation.

And it is time to act, Mr. Chairman. We hope 4 million Puerto Rican Americans and the attention of our nation are now focused on the historic process that is underway here in Congress. The eyes of the world will soon follow, as America debates extending the right of self-determination to 4 million of our citizens after such a long wait. Congress has steered this republic to extraordinary accomplishments during our 222 years of increasing greatness. I have no doubt that it will do the right thing here once again.

And let me tell you. For a hundred years we've been under the American flag. We were brought in under the American flag by American troops that landed in Puerto Rico. We were very friendly to those troops. We received them with our open arms. There was no shot fired by Puerto Rican against an American when they came into Puerto Rico in 19 -- 1898. I know this because having lived so long I remember exactly stories of all the people who lived through all this period. So Puerto Ricans were completely decided to be free of Spain, but they didn't want to be a colony of any other country. And we were accepted by the Americans to come to Puerto Rico with open arms because they promised us at that time that we were going to be equal to them in the enjoyment of the rights of a republic and in equality, and we expected to become a state of the union from the very beginning. That is why the Puerto Ricans have always wanted American citizenship and have all the time fought to maintain our line of union with the United States.

In 1917, we were able -- we were given the U.S. citizenship. Since then, we've been U.S. citizens. But U.S. citizens without the full rights. And that is all we are now fighting for. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but we want them to have all the rights of all the other citizens. There is no more room in this world for second-class citizens. There's no more room in this room for people who are subject to the authority of one body in which there is no representation from them. We feel that Congress should now respond to this question and give Puerto Rico the chance to say which way it wants to have its authority, its sovereignty. Sovereignty as a state of the union, or sovereignty as a republic.

Any other intermediate case, which is not subject to the Constitution acceptance, you will have to decide upon. But we cannot go on fooling the people of Puerto Rico. I have been fighting the party that has been now calling for commonwealth for 60 years. Since 1938. I became a Republican, in '38 I came to Washington to testify before the Senate, against the Tydings Bill for independence of Puerto Rico, and since then I've been coming back and back and back to assure that Puerto Rico becomes a state of the Union. That is what we have been looking for, that is what the people of Puerto Rico and the majority want to have, and that is why they want to have American citizenship and there is no reason why we should try to evade the issue and let the commonwealth group dominate the election by having -- by promising something that they cannot deliver.

Puerto Rico wants equality. There are 2 million Puerto Ricans in the mainland who are doing very fine job in many ways. We have to have that equality in order to be able to enjoy our citizenship and to do our country the best as we want to do. We have fine people today, Puerto Rico -- when you compare Puerto Rico in 1898 and Cuba, we were the same. We started out the same. But we said no, we want to pick our American citizenship association, the Cubans wanted independence and they got independence. The citizens wanted independence and they got independence. A hundred years later, the experiment has shown who were the wise ones, our grandparents were the wise ones. They said, "No, we want to continue under the American --"


THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Governor. Your presentation has given us the knowledge of 60 year of your commitment towards Puerto Rican self-determination and your particular view relative to statehood. We're honored to have you with us and are most appreciative of your statement and your point of view.

Some brief questions, gentlemen. First, for Mr. Acevedo Vila, one of the concerns that we've discussed earlier and it was discussed with the governor, is the issue of definitions. Which ones do we use. In your presentation you indicated you didn't like the definition in the House bill. I understand that there are other factions, perhaps within your own party who disagree with that definition, some want a treaty of union, that means different things to different people, others want something akin to free association. How do you sort through these alternatives and not become involved in the internal party politics associated with this issue, because the definitions could move very broadly, into virtually any party position.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Well, the problem with the House bill and the Senate counterpart is that the premises are unacceptable because the premises are if you want to keep U.S. citizenship there are only two alternatives. Either be a colony or a state. And that goes against history, that goes against legal precedence, and that's not what the people of Puerto Rico obtained in 1952 and that's not what they want right now. So once we change the premises and we accept that having an autonomous commonwealth with U.S. citizenship as one of the elements of that relationship, we're willing to come forward and sit down and draft our definition for development of commonwealth with more powers to the people of Puerto Rico, especially those directed for more economic development for the island. But the problem is that we cannot work with those two bills because the premises are really unacceptable.

Basically, those are bills to make the decision between statehood and independence, and you heard my two colleagues here basically saying that. That the alternatives should be statehood and independence only. So if there is the political will from this committee to work out a real self-determination process where you recognize that you can have a fully autonomous and democratic commonwealth, I can assure you that my party will be the part of that process, and I can assure you that we're going to win that plebiscite. Because that's what the people of Puerto Rico wants, that's what really fit its reality, its aspirations. You know, there is not commitment here with statehood. You have heard everybody saying that they are not asking you to make a commitment with statehood. They just want to put on the ballot(?) their aspiration for statehood. We're asking for the same. To put on the ballot our aspiration for a fully autonomous and fully democratic commonwealth, and the problem with the bills is that there's no space for us on that, for that alternative.

THE CHAIRMAN: Looking at the past referendum that we've seen in Puerto Rico, there's been a decline in the percentage for the current status, in my reading. What do you see as the reason for that decline? Or do you acknowledge that there is a decline?

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: A decline for commonwealth?


MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Two main reasons. The first one, that plebiscite was called by the statehooders, they established the rules of that, so they decided the best moment for them and we beat them. But secondly, I have to be honest. Because United States have not fulfilled its commitment with Puerto Rico to fully develop commonwealth. If we get a fully democratic and fully autonomous commonwealth, I can assure you that it will get the support of the vast majority of the people, because it's the only alternative that can harmonize those two principles I was discussing before, the fact that we are a people with our own history and own culture and our own identity but, at the same time, that we cherish U.S. citizenship.

The only way you can harmonize that is through commonwealth and its development, but it has been, you know, we had a plebiscite in '67, nothing happened in Congress. We had a plebiscite in 1993, nothing happened. We have the attempt back in 1991, nothing happened. And unless we get that commitment from Congress that we can develop commonwealth to its fullest potential, which goes with what's happening in the world. You know, there are two trends that you see in Europe and all around the world, first is the reaffirmation of nationalities. You have it in Canada, you have it in the former Yugoslavia, you have it in former Soviet Union, but at the same time economic and political inter-dependence. And that's what we have -- we want to develop through commonwealth.

THE CHAIRMAN: Well, we've heard, time and time again, the reflection on the referendum and nothing happens but, you know, I would remind you that in many cases states have expended 30 years, I think in the case of Alaska in the process, referendums have been kind of an investment in the future, and so I don't necessarily believe in discounting the merits of a referendum because that's an expression of the views of the people, as opposed to hybrid that we have before us here, which puts more of the obligation on Congress, which is neither good or bad but it's just a reality that some members don't feel very comfortable with, and that's evidenced by I think many members who simply would not like to address the question or necessarily see it resolved for various reasons, some of which may be a lack of sensitivity, there's a political concern, there's the language issue, and just various others that I think can only be addressed and resolved through a process of communication and understanding, which is the point of this workshop today, and I think one of the hopefully lasting contributions of the Senate process.

Let me briefly -- I just have two more questions, but


MR. ACEVEDO VILA: May I make a comment on --


MR. ACEVEDO VILA: I want to make sure we want a process. We are for self-determination. The process that was discussed in this committee back in 1989 was under the leadership of our party. We want a process, but we want a fair process. And I agree with you, we have won some plebiscites, we haven't get what we want but we're going to keep fighting for what we want. But when -- and you make the analogy with Alaska and I heard the governor saying the same thing in some way, Luis Ferre, but there's -- you know, they have never won a plebiscite. That's very important for you to understand. Statehood has never won a plebiscite. We are the one who's been winning. So in a way it's our struggle, the one that has to be heard here in Congress.

THE CHAIRMAN: You've made your point very well. Although it's getting closer each time.

The question --


That's what makes a race. Berrios Martinez. Relative to the insular case, essentially what we've done is put Puerto Rico and the territories in limbo until Congress decides either to dispose of the territory, as we did with the Philippines, where they proceeded with their independence, or extend the Constitution to prepare the territory for eventual statehood. To what extent do you see the current debate in Puerto Rico being a product of Congress not having decided which way federal policy should go?

MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: To a very large extent. Congress has, throughout this century, adopted a policy of persecution against independence forces and of dependence of Puerto Rico on welfare payments that makes inevitable the yearning for participation in a political body which determines how many food coupons we have, and that guarantees that we're not persecuted for political beliefs since we're not for independence. That's the logic of many people in Puerto Rico. So Congress, because of geopolitical reasons, have always during the century maintained a colonial status in Puerto Rico under different names.

Now, you cannot square the circle. You cannot make a colony a non-colony. You are either a colony or a territory or you are not. They are ways to get away from that juridically even if not sociologically or politically, statehood might be a juridical solution to that problem. But from the separate sovereignty point of view there is independence and there is also free association. To insist that the present commonwealth is a satisfactory way out of statehood is to avoid the whole issue. The present commonwealth is the problem. Besides, it breeds statehooders. So inevitably it will lead to a statehood position. So therefore, so therefore Congress better take action soon. Soon. I mean soon, especially those who oppose statehood, because if not then we'll only have other ways out which nobody wants. And then people would be drawn into syndromes which we don't to be drawn into.

That's why I mentioned Northern Ireland, that's why I mentioned Quebec. Let's face the issue and let's solve the issue. And when we solve the issue, we won't have a colonial problem any more, but you can't beat around the bush of colonialism any more. You know, the only thing colonialism Puerto Rico do is like the man who's destined to the electric chair. He prays so the lights go off. That's what they're praying for, for this Congress not to do anything about it, so they may win the next election. But ultimately they'll have to be converted into statehooders if they want to vie for power in Puerto Rico. The only way to alter that relationship is to alter the conditions which have made out of Puerto Rico a colony on the way to statehood. The United States has to ask itself whether it wants Puerto Rico on the way to statehood or not. For my part, I will tell you that I will always struggle for independence, under colonialism, under statehood, or under heaven's authority, I will always struggle for independence.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. You've left us with an interesting reflection.

Governor Ferre, relative to your statement that the administration of Puerto Rico would increase net federal revenues -- of course, we've got others who claim just the opposite -- wouldn't it make sense for Congress to consider the extension of the Internal Revenue Laws to Puerto Rico as well as federal programs with whatever modifications may be made so that the fiscal cost issue is no longer significant, because I've heard from members a recollection that at one time a resident commissioner published a document entitled, "Statehood is for the Poor," inasmuch as our sensitivity is for those unfortunate, the political association of using poor to influence them under the implication that they would receive welfare benefits and so forth that might not be -- self-determination as something that I think concern many members.

GOVERNOR FERRE: Well, I think there has been a misunderstanding of what the present commissioner has said. But statehood is for the poor, because statehood is a thing that gets you out of being poor. It gets you out of being poor by giving you the tools to work yourself out. It is not by giving you give-outs. That is the error that has taken place. Puerto Rico has been used by the government of the gentlemen who now represent the minority to have to live in handouts. And when you live on handouts, you don't learn how to work yourself.

Now, we feel that Puerto Rico should not be dependent on handouts, but should be given the tools that other states have had to grow. Other states have had what tools? They are sovereign, because they're part of Congress, and being part of Congress then they can see that the legislation that is prepared will be able to give Puerto Rico the opportunity to grow into a more prosperous community. The Puerto Ricans have shown they are hard working. We have learned -- we have more university students than France, for example. Because Puerto Rico has been very much interested in educating our youth. But Puerto Rico needs the tools of having two Senators and six members of the House and be able to vote for the president so as to stimulate its economy.

Now, let me tell you why I'm saying this, and I'm going to make a joke. In 1950-something, we had -- I came in 1938 to testify before the status commission to object reduction of our sugar quotas in order to benefit Cuba. And at that time I met Ben Dorfman, who was the economist -- chairman of the commission. And he's, after the meeting I had a chance to meet with him, and he said, "Puerto Rico cannot bear the cost of statehood. It will never be able to bear the cost of statehood."

I said, "You're wrong. If we're given the opportunity to do our own job, do our own work, wit the tools that other states have, we will. And I'm going to tell you one thing, Mr. Dorfman, you come to me to my home and I'll show you a farm where I have ten cows and one bull. And you," I said, I said, "You will -- and I will ask you. How many units do I have there? And you, if you are an accountant, you'll say, well you have eleven units." I said, "No, we have 21. I have ten cows, ten calves, and one bull." That is the economist who believes that economy can grow. It doesn't have to depend strictly on the arithmetical sum. And that is how Puerto Rico can grow.

The state of the union grew the same way. For example, New York was not a rich state originally. New York became a rich state when the Erie Canal was opened. The Erie Canal, they diverted all the flow of goods from the lakes through New York. So Puerto Rico has many opportunities to grow with new ideas, with new -- with developing its climate as a tourist center, and many more things that we have not been developing because we were given the chance to have a few jobs through the 1936 legislation which helped the big investor from the mainland in Puerto Rico, they made a lot of profit but they didn't help Puerto Rico to develop itself. So now we want to stop that, we want to have Puerto Rico to have the tools that New York has, that Florida has, that Alaska has to develop itself, and that's the way we look at it.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Governor. I'm going to turn the committee chair over to Senator Craig and the order of Senators for questioning for the balance of the agenda would be Senator Craig, Senator Graham, and Senator Thomas, and I'm going to have to excuse myself, gentlemen. I want to thank you for your very candid statements of your individual positions, and I think that we have accomplished what we intended to do here, and that's have a better understanding of the points of view of the three party officials as well as your governor.

Senator Graham: Mr. Chairman, before you --


Mr. Chairman, before you leave, first I would like to echo the comments that have been made by several of the participants already of appreciation of your holding this workshop, which I think has been very constructive and has helped to illuminate some of the important issues surrounding this issue. I would encourage you to continue this process in an expeditious manner so that we will be able to make a decision and will not be consigned to those poor souls who make decisions by indecision. If this process is going to reach a result that would allow the people of Puerto Rico to have a voice during this very significant one hundredth anniversary year, we will have to make that opportunity possible on a reasonably early date, and so I would urge that we continue the momentum of this workshop towards that goal of an early determination, yes or no, but no decision by indecision.


THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Senator.

SENATOR CRAIG: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Why don't I turn back to Senator Graham for any questions he might have at this time.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Thank you very much, Senator. I was listening to a man that I have admired greatly and have had the privilege to work closely with some of his relatives who came to my State of Florida. I was reminded that it was in 1513 that Ponce de Leon left Puerto Rico, looking for the Fountain of Youth. He didn't find the Fountain of Youth, he did find Florida --

GOVERNOR FERRE: No, he found -- he discovered the United States, and he was a Puerto Rican who discovered the United States. It was a Puerto Rican.


SENATOR GRAHAM: And I might say that we point out to some of our friends from Massachusetts that it was the Ponce de Leon Welcome Wagon that greeted the Puritans when they arrived -




SENATOR GRAHAM: But I believe that the Fountain of Youth is in existence in Puerto Rico, and we are very honored and benefited to have Governor Ferre share his sense of history and his perspective of the future with such eloquence.

I would like to ask what I sense is maybe a defining difference in this legislation. As I understood Governor Rossello, he said that he felt that the definitions of the options that the people of Puerto Rico should have before them should be those definitions that this Congress was in fact prepared to grant to the people of Puerto Rico. He said that if the Congress was not willing to grant statehood, we should not make that one of the options.

I understood your comments, Mr. Acevedo, as saying that you think the definitions ought to be aspirational, what the people of Puerto Rico would like the alternatives to be or what the political parties who represent various factions within

Puerto Rico would like the definitions to be. Have I properly understood a difference in how we should approach the questions of how to present the options and define those options?

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: With all due respect, no. My comment was made with regard to the two bills pending here. The two bills pending are not self-executing bills. And you have heard many people here, and even some members, saying this is not a statehood bill, we just want to give the opportunity to the people of Puerto Rico, but Congress can reject statehood after it wins down in Puerto Rico. So then it's just an aspiration. And I'm saying you should give the same treatment to commonwealth. Or future commonwealth. The same treatment.

I'm for the self-executing bill. I don't have any problem with that. That was the process that was started back in 1989 to make a self-executing bill, but I bet you won't have the votes because of the statehood option. But we don't have any problems to have it self-executing bill and put up in there the development of commonwealth, a new commonwealth for the future, put over there statehood, and put over there independence. So when the governor said that only that that Congress is willing to give should be put on the ballot, he's not talking about these two bills pending here. That's the double-talk. You know.

They say that sometimes but then, when somebody said, "Well, I'm against statehood," they said, "Well, just give us the opportunity to vote and then you can vote against statehood when a petition formally comes, so you have to make a decision." Are there aspirations or is that a commitment from Congress. If it's a commitment, make it self-executing. We don't have any problem with that.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Well, I might say my own feeling is the decision that I want to make, and I would urge my colleagues to make, is that we are prepared to give to the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to decide their political future. And that we accept the legal and moral responsibility of being prepared to execute on whatever we have given the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to select as their political future. So I think it's important that we define each of the options, whether they be one, two, three or more, in a form that we are prepared, legally and morally, to fulfill. And that to me should be the test of how we define what the options that will be made available to the people of Puerto Rico should be.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: I fully agree with you, but then that means that everyone voting for this bill in a way is voting for statehood eventually.

SENATOR GRAHAM: No, well, or independence.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Or independence or --

SENATOR GRAHAM: Or for a continuation --

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Or a new commonwealth, I agree with you.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Or continuation of the commonwealth relationship as the Congress defines that relationship to be.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: I fully agree with you and that's what we're asking for.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Now, do you accept the starting point that I have just stated, which is that what we are essentially proposing to do here is to give to the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to decide their political future, and we as the representatives of the current 50 states of the United States are saying that we will execute as the people of Puerto Rico indicated is their desire. Do you support that principle of self-determination followed by faithful execution?

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: If you provide for self-execution, it will have no chance of passing the U.S. House --

SENATOR CRAIG: I'm not proposing the path today that was tried so ably a few years ago by our former colleague, Bennett Johnson and others, that there be a fully self-executing bill. But I'm saying that the linkage of execution is one of legal and moral obligation, that we should not engage in a fraud and tell the people of Puerto Rico, "You can vote on these options but if you vote for option X or Y, we are going to disregard your vote and not execute it."

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: If the definitions are correctly defined, the answer to your question is yes. The problem is with the definitions. For example, you have to tell the whole truth regarding statehood, what it means to you. You have to tell the whole truth regarding independence, what it means to you. And you will have to tell the whole truth regarding commonwealth. And then the matter starts getting complicated because the commonwealth people have a problem with the sovereignty notion. They insist that the commonwealth as it is now is not a territory nor is it colonial. The House of Representatives, together with the whole world and President Fidel Castro and myself, insist that it is a territory under the sovereignty of the United States, so that's the first question somebody here must ask the PPD. Are we speaking about Puerto Rican sovereignty or American sovereignty when you define commonwealth or whatever name you want to tag on it. That's the question that should be asked.


Once that -- once that question is asked, then we can solve the problem the way you pose. And I hope the question is asked starting today, because if not, we'll be prolonging this issue as you asked the chairman not to do, and then we'll be hoping -- some will be hoping that the lights will go off so we won't be electrocuted in the electric chair. See? And we have to avoid that. We have to face this issue. We've been discussing it for years and years, for a hundred years, but then we have to come to gripes with the problem and resolve the issue of sovereignty. That's why under separate sovereignty option or the Puerto Rican national sovereignty option, however you want to call it, you have two alternatives, independence and something different. It's called free association.

Which some people in Puerto Rico are starting to promote within the Popular Democratic Party, because they realize that the days of the colony are over, even though they insist it is not a colony, but it is and everybody in the world knows it is. It's like the old story of the king that was naked. He said, "Look what beautiful clothes I have," and everybody knew he was naked. It's about time to stop that -- it's a hundred years of bull, and you have to stop a hundred years of bull.


I was referring to Governor Ferre's -- the ten cows and one bull, it's enough bull. That's what I mean.

(Dias): One bull is usually enough.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Mr. Chairman, one last question. The suggestion was made, and I read the Washington Post editorial that made the same, that a majority vote, 50 percent plus 1, would not be a sufficient expression of opinion to alter the current relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. I would be interested in your comments as to what numerical statement do you think would be sufficient to change the status quo of relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, whatever that change might be.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: The question is addressed to me. If the alternative that wins is separate sovereignty, either under independence or free associated states, or some of both, then there's an inalienable right to independence. That's a right of the Puerto Rican people. Once the Puerto Rican people express that right, the United States is bound to obey with 51 percent. But, of course, if what you're going to enter is into a marriage or something worse than a marriage, then you have to have the acceptance of both parties.

And then the United States logically will ask, as the Washington Post asked for, a healthy majority or for a general consensus, because that has been the rule, more or less, historically in the United States. If you want to join the family, we better make sure you don't want to leave the day after tomorrow then things are not so good as they are today. So you will have to pick a number. I could make suggestions, but it will have to be a healthy majority or a general consensus, like Senator Lott said. What number would that be?

Well, you can define it through sense of Congress resolution in the bill of law itself, but you will have to --- but I'm sure you won't accept 51 percent. I'm sure Puerto Rico will not come into the U.S. with a 51 percent margin, because the United States would have to be out of their minds to accept a nation, a Latin American nation who are 49 percent of the people are against statehood. You fought the Civil War once, you don't want to go through that again. So it's definitely in your best interests to ask for a healthy or a substantial consensus.

SENATOR GRAHAM: Governor Ferre, do you have any comments as to what would represent a sufficient expression of opinion by the people of Puerto Rico to warrant an alteration of the current political relationship with the United States?

GOVERNOR FERRE: Well, I think that the people of Puerto Rico have been trained in these one hundred years to look forward to becoming an integral part of the United States on an equal footing with the rest of the nation. And that is our position. We think that Puerto Rico can afford statehood. Statehood is not expensive. Statehood is simply the enjoyment of sovereignty and freedom. And anything that stops freedom is bad. Anything that helps freedom is good. That's the way we look at it. We're going to be free when we are a state of the Union. As a community, of course. We are free as citizens. But as a community, we are going to be free when we are a state of the Union, and that's what we're looking for.

Being free as a state of the Union, then we will be able to stimulate our economy with all the resources that come with the freedom to think and to act.

SENATOR CRAIG: Senator, thank you very much. Gentlemen, I have enjoyed a great deal your testimony and your reactions, and I mean that most sincerely. Because Mr. Martinez, if he were an Idahoan, I would say, "Gee, I find that very emotion out in my state." Even though we've been a state for over a hundred years, I still have a few out there that would say, "Let's be independent." And mean it. But also recognize the tremendous value they have in their citizenship.

Governor, your --

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: You want me to --

SENATOR CRAIG: No, not really. And I don't mean that critical at all by my reaction, just simply to say that, you know, in a nation of free people, freedom and independence is innate. And we don't like controls and we don't like structures. But we also find great security in them at a time when we need security. And so it's always in the eye of the beholder, and in my citizens of the State of Idaho, who are U.S. citizens like you, there are a good many that say, "Let's become an independent nation."4 In fact, that issue is not foreign at all to us. We're only a hundred years into this business of being a state, under what you've mentioned. And so I'm simply saying I'm not surprised by your reaction.

Governor, I'm truly a novice to the issue, compared to you. And your comments are extremely valuable for the committee. And I thank you for being here and for giving those.

MR. VILA, I can and will, for only briefly, take issue with you. You quote from a letter to a Mr. Rodriguez from our majority leader, in your opening statement. I'm a part of the leadership team here in the Senate, and Trent Lott is a good friend and we don't always agree and I don't agree with some of this statements in the letter. And here is a three and a half page explanation that's going to him that quotes case law and fact, and there are some facts here that cannot be denied.

I have the privilege of being a citizen as a result of our Constitution because my state was a state before I was born. All of you are citizens by law, not by Constitution. You are citizens by a permissive act of the Congress of the United States. We could not take your citizenship away from you once you became that. We could choose, if you became independent, to say from this day forward children or grandchildren yet unborn would no longer be citizens, and that would be a reality. And we have that power. But we do not have the power, and I think the Constitution is rather clear, to deny to those who are now citizens that they would someday in the future be non-citizens. I think that's a reality, and I think that the case law and the interpretation of law clearly bears that out. And that would not be the intent of this Congress or any future Congress.

Gentlemen, no matter how hard you try to define what S-472 is or is not, it is not a statehood bill.


Now, while we can agree or disagree on definitions, and that's the job of this committee to sort those out and clarify them if there are misinterpretations that need to be interpreted in a different way, or language that needs to be clarified so that there are no misinterpretations, but what we are talking about is a process, a relatively lengthy process, in which certain things come forward and go forward. And one of them is a prescription of those kinds of things that Puerto Ricans would have to accept or could deny. Even after a vote for statehood, if it were to occur. And a majority finally said, "We want statehood." That does not mean that statehood is automatic or would be automatic. It means that a process would go forward and this Congress, and I humbly must say I have the power to prescribe what the prescription is. And the walk begins. I know. We just went through a centennial in my state and I reviewed all of the procedure and the law under which Idaho became a state. It was not automatic. We had to walk the walk, and the old phrase goes, "Talk the talk."


And in the end, and in the end, Congress could deny us that right, or we could have denied it to ourselves if we had chosen not to be. Now, that's the reality of the process, and it's gone on for a long while. And while I understand the great emotion and the great appreciation for differences, what cannot happen here is a misinterpretation of a constitutional process. Because the Constitution will bear itself out. And I can't shape the Constitution. I can appreciate a frustration about commonwealth, because you are a territory. It was legislative action that created the uniqueness --


That's the reality of the law. And whether this Congress and this country has lived up to the prescription with the legislation prescribed a state of being under territorial status, which is the constitutional pinning, which was commonwealth, then that's reality and we can all debate that.

What we probably can't get to is something new or different, something rarefied that is yet to be defined or something that is creative beyond where this country has never gone before. And I suspect that is something that is near impossible to do.

While I am willing to work with all Puerto Ricans to accomplish a process that is clear and definable, in the end it will not be Puerto Ricans that say, "This is the way we will accept the process." It is the Congress. That's reality. To gain 51 votes in the Senate, is to gain votes based on what the Senate of the United States will accept the process to be, as it was true in the House.


And that means, if we're smart, and I trust we are, then we'll work very closely with you to get that done. And then, if it is fair, a reasonable process will go forward in which Puerto Ricans can make informed and appropriate decisions. That's my goal. And I believe that's the goal of the legislation. And I would hope we could accomplish that as we work this issue through. But I thank all of you a great deal --

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Senator --


MR. ACEVEDO VILA: May I react?

SENATOR CRAIG: I will ask -- I will certainly allow you to respond, but I must ask your brevity because I've got to get to another meeting in five minutes. Please.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: Okay. With regard to your statement on citizenship, you have said that we cannot be deprived of the citizenship we have right now. That under independence Congress can decide whether or not the next generation will no longer be U.S. citizens. I don't have any problem with that. The problem is that on HR-856 it implies that under commonwealth the next generation can be deprived of U.S. citizenship. So apparently we are in agreement on that issue. And when I make the statement --


MR. ACEVEDO VILA: -- about --

SENATOR CRAIG: Let me suggest this --

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: And when I make the statement about the citizen --

SENATOR CRAIG: It implies that it's constitutionally wrong. And therefore it wouldn't bear up.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: But we have to clarify, because that's what



MR. ACEVEDO VILA: -- goes down there.

SENATOR CRAIG: There will be no dispute in that as there is a frustration there.

MR. ACEVEDO VILA: So on that issue I was making reference to the --


MR. ACEVEDO VILA: -- to the House bill. Your bill says nothing about citizenship, and I think that's an issue has to be addressed and I understand maybe we're going to have a workshop on that on that whole discussion.

And then with regard to what happened in 1952, we believe that Congress offer a compact to the people of Puerto Rico and it was accepted. I have the case law cited on by brief. But we don't want this process to be a trial on what happened in 1952. We want to look to the future.


MR. ACEVEDO VILA: And we think it's possible to have a relationship based on the will of the people of Puerto Rico, a relationship of our close association with the United States, with U.S. citizenship as a bond that has not to be under the territorial clause. That's our belief, that's the belief of our people, that what we want -- we don't want colonialism. That's the reason I - statement. Nobody is for the definition of commonwealth that is on that bill. Because that's colonialism. We're against it. We're not for that. But we firmly believe that we can craft a definition for the future of our new commonwealth, enhanced commonwealth, fully democratic commonwealth, with those elements I have been mentioning in term of recognizing that the ultimate power to enter into this relationship resides on the people of Puerto Rico. And that we can get into this special relationship with U.S. citizenship as one of the bonds for our relation. That's what we are asking for. We don't want a trial on the 1952 process, but on the other hand, if we see something that goes against our belief --

SENATOR CRAIG: I don't anticipate that we'll have a trial on the 1952 process, either.

MR. Berrios: Senator --

SENATOR CRAIG: Yes. Mr. Martinez.

MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: I was waiting for just one word, sovereignty, but it wasn't mentioned. But I'll go ahead and say what I want to --


MR. BERRIOS MARTINEZ: If you define --

SENATOR CRAIG: Well, let me suggest that I believe my State of Idaho is a sovereign state amongst a group of sovereign states that form a nation.


MR. Berrios: Senator, I was -- all right, Senator. I think there is a very big difference which I must point out for the record between Idaho, Nebraska, with all due respect, and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a Latin American nation. Statehood is for Americans, whether they live in Idaho or Nebraska. The difference between Nebraska and Idaho --- it might be great, but it is in the order of Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola, they belong to the same grid. Puerto Ricans are Puerto Rican nationals in the historical, political sense of that word. And when you go into the Puerto Rican issue you cannot judge the Puerto Rican issue as if you were dealing with Idahoans or Ohians. It's with Latin Americans who live in Puerto Rico who happen to be, by imposition, American citizens. It's a different nation. And you are not a nation of nations, but E pluribus Unum, and that difference should be borne in mind. And we don't want sovereignty like Idaho, we want sovereignty like a sovereign republic. Not like Idaho, which is a residuary sovereignty or much less a theoretical bull- sovereignty of commonwealth.

SENATOR CRAIG: Well, I thank you very much for that. Maybe I should not have compared you with an Idahoan but with a New Mexican.




GOVERNOR FERRE: May I remark --

MR. Berrios: That's not Coca Cola, that's not --

SENATOR CRAIG: No. No, no. Your comparison with Nebraska and Idaho is a valid one. But I must tell you that if I were a Senator serving from the State of New Mexico I would not be elected in New Mexico because I don't speak Spanish.

MR. Berrios: But New Mexico --

SENATOR CRAIG: And that's the character and the uniqueness of what was once a sovereign area.

MR. Berrios: But, New Mexico is Dr. Pepper. It's a beverage also.

SENATOR CRAIG: Oh, all right. Okay.


MR. Berrios: We are so different.

SENATOR CRAIG: Maybe I'll let you win this debate. Yes, Governor.

GOVERNOR FERRE: What I wanted to mention, Mr. Senator, is that we heard the words of our good colleague, Mr. Barrios, but with all that eloquence that he can use he has not convinced more than 4 percent of Puerto Ricans to be independent.


So you can see that the importance is who have the vote and the vote is of those who want to continue to be part of the United States.

MR. Berrios: With the help of U.S. troops and the FBI, it's easy to win an election. But to get 4 percent is a miracle.

SENATOR CRAIG: Governor, I can read and I can count, and I had already noted the numbers.


GOVERNOR FERRE: Of course, Mr. Senator, what I would like to just mention is that the beauty of our democracy is that after we become a state of the Union, my colleague can continue to talk about independence.

SENATOR CRAIG: Sure. Well, thank you all very much. The privilege of being chairman is that I get the last word. And I will do that by thanking you all, and especially the panel, for your forthrightness and your concerns, and let me say that this workshop stands adjourned, the record will remain open for two weeks for any additional material that the participants may want to make a part of the record.

Thank you all very much for attending.


(End of proceedings.)

[an error occurred while processing this directive]