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The people of Puerto Rico, as natural-born citizens of the United States, possess the same individual liberties as do all other American citizens, including the right to protest and nurture their local culture and linguistic heritage and the right to conduct their affairs in accordance with a local constitution compatible with and subordinate to the U.S. Constitution. Most Governors represent constituencies that include American citizens of Puerto Rican descent. Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans have served our nation with distinction in every U.S. military conflict of this century, earning numerous decorations, including four posthumous medals of honor, and rising in several instances to the ranks of general and admiral. Without admission to the Union, the residents of Puerto Rico have sustained many combat casualties defending U.S. interests in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. Athletes, scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, professionals, and laborers of Puerto Rican origin have been contributing throughout this century to the spiritual and socioeconomic enrichment of the United States.

It is essential that the final, permanent political status of Puerto Rico be democratically selected by the American citizens who reside there. The Southern Governors' Association recognizes and endorse the right of the people of Puerto Rico to freely exercise political self-determination by majority vote on options ranging from U.S. statehood to sovereign independence.

An absolute majority of Puerto Rico's voters supported a platform seeking congressional sponsorship of a political status plebiscite for Puerto Rico. The responsibility for making "all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States" is vested in the U.S. Congress by Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

Therefore, in harmony with its long-standing acknowledgement of the importance of self-determination by the people of Puerto Rico as to the status of Puerto Rico, the National Governors' Association urges the 106th Congress to enact legislation that will, no later than the year 2000, provide a mechanism for political self-determination by the American citizens who reside in Puerto Rico.

Time limited (effective WINTER MEETING 1999-WINTER MEETING 2001).

Adopted Annual Meeting 1978; revised Winter Meeting 1989; revised and reaffirmed Winter Meeting 1993; reaffirmed Winter Meeting 1995; revised Winter Meeting 1997 (formerly Policy A-6).

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