Maduro Raises Puerto Rico issues in UN speech

From Caribbean Business

Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro touched on Puerto Rico’s political status during an address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

He called on the UN to act of its own decolonization findings on Puerto Rico.

In June, the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization again called on the United States to expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence. It reiterated its position that the 2012 status plebiscite was a rejection of the current commonwealth status.

The 29-member panel has taken up the issue of Puerto Rico’s status every year for four decades, but the UN General Assembly has not acted on the resolutions.

By a draft resolution approved by consensus during its annual meeting in June, the panel reaffirmed the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence, and reiterated that the Puerto Rican people constituted a Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own unequivocal national identity. It called for the island to be able to take decisions, in a sovereign manner, to address its economic and social needs.

The decolonization committee has now agreed on 33 resolutions and decisions on the Puerto Rican issue, the latest 15 of them presented by Cuba and adopted by consensus.

The UN committee continues to take up the issue of Puerto Rico’s unresolved political status despite the fact that it doesn’t hang the “colony” tag on the island.

In 1917, Puerto Ricans were collectively made U.S. citizens via the Jones Act, and in 1952 the U.S. Congress turned the territory into a commonwealth after ratifying the island Constitution. The U.S. government then declared the territory was no longer a colony and stopped transmitting information about Puerto Rico to the United Nations Decolonization Committee. As a result, the UN General Assembly removed Puerto Rico from the UN list of non-self-governing territories.

Petitioners before the panel have pressed the international community to recognize Puerto Rico’s colonial status and place it on the list.

Maduro also compared jailed Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López to the late South African President Nelson Mandela.

He said López is the “oldest political political prisoner in the world,” saying he is doing time in a federal prison for “the lone sin of fighting for the independence of his homeland.”

During a visit to Hostos Community College the Bronx on Tuesday, Maduro called López the “Mandela of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

López, 71, has been behind bars for nearly 33 years, nearly half of a 70-year sentence. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison after a 1981 conviction on federal charges including seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery and interstate transportation of firearms. He received an additional 15 years in 1988 after being convicted of conspiring to escape from a prison in Kansas. Continue reading here.