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Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 21:57:07 -0500 (CDT)
Organization: AOL http://www.aol.com
From: raulmax@aol.com (Raulmax)
Subject: Puerto Rico: Vieques
Article: 63901
Message-ID: <bulk.19042.19990513121737@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

La ponencia del PIP en la Comisión de í Energí del Senado de EEUU, Puerto Rican Independence Party Chairman, Senate Energy Committee

By Ruben Berrios Martinez, 6 May 1999

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:

The day after tomorrow, Saturday May 8, in an act of civil disobedience, former Senator Fernando Martín, Vice president of the Puerto Rico Independence Party and myself shall violate federal law by trespassing into federally restricted military target practice areas in the island municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Such action is the first step in a broader strategy of civil disobedience designed to force the US Navy to permanently discontinue its abusive military maneuvers, bombings and target practice, and get out of Vieques.

The US Navy, through its occupation of 26,000 of the 33,000 acres of Vieques has jeopardized the life, health, safety and tranquility of the 9,000 Puerto Ricans living there, and has strangled Vieques' economic development for over half a century. In recent weeks, in what can at best be regarded as negligent disregard for the human rights of Puerto Ricans in Vieques, US Navy bombs have been responsible for the death of one civilian and for having wounded several others. Needless to say, the recent developments have sparked indignation among all sectors of Puerto Rican society.

In the same spirit in which we defied the Navy's abusive behavior in the island municipality of Culebra in 1971, leading to our imprisonment and the subsequent withdrawal of the Navy from that island, we stand ready today to again defy the Navy's abusive practices with the moral force of militant non-violence, even at the price of personal liberty. But the tragedy of Vieques is not an isolated incident in the history of US colonialism in Puerto Rico. On the contrary, the problem of Vieques is at the heart of the problem which brings us before this Committee

The main reasons for the US invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898 were geopolitical and military, and the US Navy has always been a crucial factor in the determination of US policy towards Puerto Rico. Throughout this century its attitude has always been to oppose change and to support the status quo. We are here today because in the dawn of the 21st century Puerto Rico is still a territory of the US. And Puerto Rico is a territory because the US government and the US Congress have failed to fulfill their constitutional duty to dispose of the territory, as well as their legal obligation under international law to decolonize Puerto Rico.

Since 1953, Congress has refused even meager petitions for reforms to the present status. And since 1989, Congress has repeatedly failed to authorize a federally sponsored referendum, even when all Puerto Rican political parties have unanimously endorsed such a petition. Let us not pretend any longer! The reason for such inaction is the unwillingness of the Congress, under a Democratic majority in 1991 and under a Republican majority last year, to include statehood in a federally mandated referendum.

The Congressional excuse for such inaction has always been the same: that Puerto Ricans should take the initiative before Congress acts. However, we have held two referendasup>__in 1993 and in 1998sup>__and Congress still refuses to act. In the 1993 referendum, the absolute majority of Puerto Ricans favored sovereign nationhood, either through association, based on a bilateral pact outside the Territory Clause, that could not be altered unilaterally by Congress, or through independence. Moreover, the absolute majority rejected statehood. And Congress refused to act. In the 1998 referendum held last December, even though the inclusion of a "None of the Above" column frustrated a majority mandate, an absolute majority of the voters once again refused to vote for statehood.

As regards territorial status, all political parties in Puerto Rico have rejected that alternative. The Puerto Rican voters have rejected both statehood and territorial status, neither of which, contrary to Independence, represents an inalienable right of the People of Puerto Rico. But still US Congress has failed to act. The US seems thus to be developing a new type of colonial policy in flagrant violation of the will of the Puerto Rican people. It consists of a systematic process of inaction, combined with public hearings and hollow rhetoric regarding self-determination, which always ends up in the continuation of territorial status by default. It is a colonial policy attuned to public relations objectives of the late twentieth century. But the time of antidemocratic strategies and attitudes is no longer tolerable. It is no longer tolerable to hear the same excuses, nor to ask Puerto Ricans to take the initiative. For that we have done.

The US exercises juridical, political and economic power over Puerto Rico. Responsibility is a function of power and the US has failed to fulfill its responsibility under both US and international law. The time has come for the US to seriously face Puerto Rico's status and decolonize the island.

What should Congress do in order to fulfill its juridical and political obligation regarding Puerto Rico?

Since statehood and territorial status have been twice rejected by Puerto Ricans in less than a decade, Congress should take “no” for a final answer regarding both of those options. In light of these realities Congress should formally declare its determination to decolonize Puerto Rico and offer a choice between a sovereign, non colonial, non territorial Free Associated State, on the one hand, and Independence, an inalienable right which therefore must always be present as an option, on the other. There are various procedural mechanisms to achieve this goal, ranging from Constituent Assemblies to plebiscites, but the end result should be the achievement of sovereign nationhood.

In the meantime, and as an urgent matter, the United States government should manifest its good will and commitment to genuine self determination by liberating the Puerto Rican political prisoners held in federal prisons and announcing the definitive withdrawal of the US Navy from the island of Vieques.

There is, of course, an alternative course of action. The administration can continue its ambivalent discourse and conduct towards Puerto Rico. Congress can continue its inaction. The Navy and its Commander in Chief can persist in bombing Vieques, threatening its people, and damaging its environment; and the US Government can imprison those of us who through civil disobedience refuse to bow to injustice. But whatever happens, rest assured that in the end colonialism will be defeated and Puerto Rico will become a sovereign nation. It is up to you to let the people of Puerto Rico and the world community know which side you are on, colonialism or liberation.