Washington, D.C- Today the Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold hearings here on H.R. 856, the "United States- Puerto Rico Political Status Act". The bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Don Young, Republican Congressman from Alaska (See related statements), and more than 70 co-sponsors, provides for a process leading to full self-government for Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is a locally self- governing unincorporated territory of the United States. Congress has plenary powers over the island pursuant to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution. The legislation is a response to the request of the Puerto Rico Legislature, through a concurrent resolution, asking Congress to provide for a process of self- determination.

If approved, the bill would provide for a first vote to be held in 1998. (See Chronology) The year has symbolic meaning in the island, since it marks the 100th anniversary of Puerto Rico's annexation to the United States.

Today at 11:00 am the House of Representatives will be holding hearings on HR 856. The list of witnesses is comprised of the following people:

Hon. Pedro Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico
Hon. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá - President of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and Minority Leader in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives for the PDP
Hon. Rubén Berríos - President of the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) and Minority Leader in the Puerto Rico Senate for the PIP
Former Governor Luis A. Ferré - Representing the New Progressive Party
Mr. Jeffrey Farrow, Co-Chair of the Clinton Administration's Inter-Agency Workgroup - Representing the White House

Their testimony will be recorded in this site as it becomes available.

The status issue has been continuously debated in Puerto Rico since the beginning of U.S. control over the island. Despite several efforts over the years, Puerto Rico's status as an unincorporated territory of the U.S. remains unchanged. H.R. 856 is designed to provide for decolonization alternatives consistent with international law.

The legislation has strong bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), Cong. José Serrano (D-NY) and Cong George Miller (D-CA), among many others. Today's hearing will be followed by two hearings to be held in Puerto Rico on April 19 and April 21.

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