STATEMENT BY HON. RAFAEL HERNANDEZ COLON
GOVERNOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO
AT THE CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS REGARDING
THE "US-PR POLITICAL STATUS ACT"
Honorable Chairman and Members of the Committee
You come - a hundred years after the military occupation of Puerto Rico to offer us full self government.
In order to achieve this objective, we do start from zero.
In 1952 we created our Constitution wherein we stated, and Congress approved, as a compact 1 that:
"The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is hereby constituted. Its political power emanates from the people and shall be exercised in accordance with their will, within the terms of the compact agreed upon between the people of Puerto Rico and the United States of America.
We consider as determining factors in our life our citizenship of the United States of America and our aspiration continually to enrich our democratic heritage in the individual and collective enjoyment of its rights and privileges"
These are the words of compact between the people of Puerto Rico and the Congress. A compact the Congress proposed to rid the United States of the shame of colonialism before the international community recognizing that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The commonwealth option framed by this bill would violate this compact by placing Puerto Rico under absolute powers of Congress as it was before 1952. The definition presented to the Committee by the Popular Party would straighten the course of history.
We can hardly believe that this bill sustains the proposition that Congress can strip away American citizenship from the Puerto Rican people 2. We can hardly believe that it ignores all judicial precedent upholding the compact between the U. S. and Puerto Rico 3 . We can scarcely believe that it sides with the charges of colonialism in Puerto Rico annually leveled at the U. N. against the United States by Fidel Castro 4
When on July 4, 1776 the 13 colonies proclaimed their Independence from the British King, the men assembled in Philadelphia, stated unto the world that they held these truths to be self evident:
That all men are created equal.
That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights amongst which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We Puerto Ricans subscribe to these beliefs. We also believe that we have been created equal no less and no more than you who visit us And we believe that we are also endowed by our creator with the same inalienable rights to life and to exercise our liberty in whatever way we deem appropriate in order to pursue our happiness.
Deciding the political institutions under which a people will live is the supreme act of liberty. In this choice rest our opportunities to mould a future for our integral development economic, social cultural political and spiritual.
But the bill's pre-conceptions as to Commonwealth leave little room for democracy. It is framed in concrete from prejudiced legal opinions presented as unbreakable limits to policy.
2 The provisions on citizenship of this hill are the same as those in HR 3024. See: Rept 104-712 House of Representatives, lO4th Gong. 2d. Sess. on HR 3024 p. 14.
3 See EXHIBIT I for a comprehensive discussion of the cases on the Commonwealth by lose Trias Monges former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Pico.
4 For an example amongst many of these attacks over 30 years see EXHIBIT II
With regards to our political freedom these opinions are the equivalent to the arguments invoked by Justice Taney to deny Dred Scott's personal freedom the protection of the federal judicial power.
The time for colonial paternalism is long past. If the Puerto Rican people wish to freely join the Union, so be it. But, do not impose this choice upon us by stonewalling your judgement with one sided legal memoranda against a new Commonwealth.
The only real possibilities of achieving full self-government lie in statehood or in full autonomy as anew commonwealth.
The choice between sending Senators and Congressmen to Washington, or broadening our autonomy to govern ourselves through our elected representatives here in San Juan, is for us to make. You, of course, have the right to say no. If you do not want us as a state, it is a political, not a legal decision. The same with the broader autonomy we seek.
Do not patronize us with a process that stifles our liberty and your creativity
Including all the desired options is up to your will. Give all the people a chance to participate in this plebiscite, and lets get on with it.