Esta página no está disponible en español.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
José Trías Monge, 83, Puerto Rico Chief Justice, Dies
By PAUL LEWIS
June 27, 2003
José Trías Monge, a former chief justice of Puerto Rico who helped create the island's commonwealth relationship with the United States but later denounced it as thinly disguised colonialism, died on June 24 in Boston. He was 83.
Comunicado de Prensa GOBERNADORA EXPRESA PESAR POR LA MUERTE DEL JURISTA JOSE TRIAS MONGE Y ORDENA LUTO NACIONAL POR CINCO DIAS Enlace:
Comunicado de Prensa
GOBERNADORA EXPRESA PESAR POR LA MUERTE DEL JURISTA JOSE TRIAS MONGE Y ORDENA LUTO NACIONAL POR CINCO DIAS
As undersecretary of justice from 1949 and secretary from 1953 to 1957, Mr. Trías Monge was in effect constitutional adviser to Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín, leader of the Popular Democratic Party, as well as one of the most influential members of the constituent assembly that drafted the Constitution, which took effect in 1952.
Under it, the island bound itself voluntarily to the United States, acquiring about the same degree of self-government that mainland states enjoy. Its terms made Puerto Ricans United States citizens, although they cannot vote in national elections and are represented in Congress by a nonvoting commissioner. On the other hand, Puerto Rico was made exempt from most federal taxation.
The commonwealth status contributed to transforming a largely agricultural society into a more urbanized and industrial one, with improved working conditions and services. Although challenged by advocates of full statehood or independence, the commonwealth endured plebiscites in 1967 and 1993.
In 1974, when the new leader of the Popular Democratic Party, Rafael Hernández Colón, recaptured the governorship, he named Mr. Trías Monge chief justice of the Supreme Court, a post he held until 1985.
In 1997, Mr. Trías Monge surprised many people with "Puerto Rico: The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World" (Yale University Press), in which he appeared to negate much of his life's work by accusing the United States of keeping Puerto Rico in colonial bondage.
"How can the nation most identified with the values of freedom and equality in the world keep such a shoddy political ghetto as Puerto Rico in its own backyard?" he asked in the book.
Although Mr. Trías Monge did not accuse the United States of economic exploitation or political repression, he argued that Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States remained inherently colonial because American laws applied to Puerto Rico without Puerto Ricans' having representation in Congress while Congress can unilaterally alter provisions of the commonwealth Constitution.
"A slave's consent to bondage does not make him free," he wrote.
The book provoked a debate among constitutional lawyers. Some pointed out that in 1953 the United Nations General Assembly agreed that the United States did not need to continue filing reports on Puerto Rico as a dependent territory, as described in the United Nations Charter, because it had become a self-governing entity. But many delegates evidently had doubts about the extent of the freedom, because the final vote was 26 in favor to 16 against, with 18 abstentions.
Mr. Trías Monge was born on May 5, 1920, in San Juan, P.R. He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico before going to Harvard, where he received master's and law degrees, and then Yale, where his doctorate thesis was on judicial reform in Puerto Rico.
Before joining the government, he returned to the University of Puerto Rico to teach law. He wrote on legal subjects, including the five-volume "Constitutional History of Puerto Rico."
His first wife died several years ago. Surviving are two sons, Enrique and Peter; a foster daughter, Candida; and his second wife, the former Viola Orsini.