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ASSOCIATED PRESS NEWSWIRES
Rosselló Seeks U.N. Support To Compel Washington
by Nicole Winfield
July 6, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Frustrated that the U.S. Congress failed
to resolve Puerto Rico's status, the commonwealth's pro-statehood
governor urged the United Nations to get more involved and compel
Washington to act.
Gov. Pedro Rossello asked the U.N. decolonization committee Tuesday
to reverse a 1953 decision by the General Assembly and place Puerto
Rico back on the list of non-self-governing territories whose
status is to be resolved by 2000.
Puerto Rico was removed from the list when it adopted its present
constitution and became a U.S. commonwealth. The former Spanish
colony was ceded to the United States in 1898 after the Spanish-American
Rossello said Tuesday that placing Puerto Rico back on the list
of 17 non-autonomous territories was the "only way to provoke
the U.S. Congress - after more than a century of colonialism -
to fulfill the responsibilities required by its own Constitution
and the U.N. Charter."
Specifically, Rossello wants Congress to clarify Puerto Rico's
options and stand by the results of a referendum on its future.
Two locally organized plebiscites have failed to produce a majority
backing statehood, but Rossello claims the statehood numbers would
increase if Congress set out the options itself and promised to
recognize the results.
The decolonization committee passed a resolution Tuesday evening
urging the U.S. government expedite a process for self-determination.
But the document omitted any mention of Rossello's request to
be added to the list.
Unless the committee adopts another resolution on Puerto Rico
before its session ends July 28, Rossello's only other option
this year is to persuade one U.N. member state to bring the matter
directly to the General Assembly.
Cuba, which chaired the committee meeting Tuesday, has campaigned
annually to add Puerto Rico to the list and could be the possible
Even if the General Assembly decided to put Puerto Rico back on
the list, it has no enforcement authority to make the United States
abide by the three options offered territories: independence,
free association, or integration - which in this case would be
David L. Scott, an adviser at the U.S. mission, said he had no
comment on Rossello's effort, but noted there was an ongoing "dialogue"
between the government and Puerto Rico about how to resolve the
The United States, which walked off the decolonization committee
in 1971, has tried to keep the issue of Puerto Rico's status outside
the United Nations, saying it is an internal matter.
The White House has said it wants to enable Puerto Ricans to choose
their ultimate status, including the continuation of the current
status, statehood, or nationhood - either fully independent from
the United States or associated with it.
An administration official noted that President Bill Clinton wanted
to clarify the options but that legislation to do so had failed
in the Senate after passing the House.
Rossello told reporters after his testimony to the panel that
Puerto Rico clearly wasn't autonomous and represented "the
unfinished business of democracy for America."
"I hope that there's honest recognition that Puerto Rico
still has the characteristics of a colony, where we do not participate
in the decisions that directly affect the nearly 4 million U.S.
citizens that reside in Puerto Rico," he said.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote for president
and have no vote in Congress. They do not pay most federal taxes,
receive some federal benefits, and can be drafted into the U.S.
The United Nations committed itself to eradicating colonies by
2000 in a 1960 declaration. The territories still on the list
are Western Sahara, American Samoa, East Timor, Guam, New Caledonia,
Pitcairn, Tokelau, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands,
U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar,
Montserrat, St. Helena, and the Turks and Caicos.
Several territories have no interest in becoming independent,
but others are in the process of determining a new status, including
independence: the United Nations, for example, is organizing ballots
in Western Sahara and East Timor.
The French territory of New Caledonia was added to the list in