71 UNGA: Cuba at the Decolonization Committee, on Agenda item: The Question of Puerto Rico.

Mr. President,

This session of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples is undoubtedly a historic day.

We are deeply honored by the presence of Oscar López Rivera, as Petitioner, a fighter against colonialism for the self-determination and independence of his people, who was in United States prisons for more than 35 years for fighting for the freedom of his homeland.

Oscar, guilty merely for being an indomitable patriot, who was the oldest political prisoner in our Hemisphere, synthesizes the resistance, nobility,  pride and courage of the Puerto Rican people.

Today, on behalf of Cuba, our delegation extends you our most warm welcome. We hope to receive you in Cuba with an embrace of solidarity from our people, the other wing of the same bird, which Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodriguez del Tió expressed in her famous poem to represent the indestructible friendship and unity of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Your example and your words today should be a call on our Committee to redouble our work in support of the legitimate aspirations of colonial peoples struggling to exercise their right to self-determination.

Mr. President,

Since the imposition of the misnamed Commonwealth in Puerto Rico, which is not free at all, over 60 years ago, the United States Congress exercises full authority and is provided with full powers over Puerto Rico in matters such as defense, international relations, foreign trade, monetary policy, among others.

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was nothing but a farce and the way that the United States Government found to exercise its total domination over this sister Antillean island and in order to mask an act of clear colonial domination.

The political farce created more than half a century ago and denounced by Puerto Rican patriots and by those of us who supported their cause has been dismantled by the Supreme Court of the United States, Congress and even the Administration itself, when they clearly and unequivocally pointed out that Puerto Rico lacks sovereignty and is completely subject to the powers of Washington; or in other words, it is an American possession, a colonial territory.

Although on November 6, 2012 the vast majority of the Puerto Rican people expressed their rejection of their current status of political subordination, there has been no progress of any sort in the colonial situation of Puerto Rico.

On 11 June, another farce was set up, through a purported consultation on the options for self-determination, in which the current territorial status was imposed by the United States Department of Justice. Only 23 percent of voters participated in this consultation, which shows the rejection whatsoever by the different political forces. This consultation was not a legitimate exercise of self-determination as it was not designed to promote decolonization in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960.

Mr. President,

Since our last debate in this Committee to date, the economic and social situation of Puerto Rico has worsened. The country faces a depressed economy and a public debt of $70 billion, which is impossible to settle without dramatically compromising the quality of basic services such as education, health and safety of the population. The Fiscal Control Board imposed by the United States Government has implemented expenditure and austerity control measures that have been qualified as "draconian" by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics.

According to data provided by the Department of Labor of Puerto Rico, the rate of unemployment in the country is 12%. In the period 2009-2013, 56% of the children and 45.1% of the total population were living below the poverty line, 8% of the population is illiterate, and over 300 schools are to be closed the next school year as part of the economic adjustment plan.

Mr. President,

Cuba reaffirms the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and the applicability of the fundamental principles of that resolution to the question of Puerto Rico.

Resolution 1514 (XV) stresses that the right to self-determination requires the transfer of powers, without conditions or reservations, thus rejecting the imposition of the laws and regulations of the metropolis and the economic and political subordination inherent to colonialism, which can influence electoral and consultation processes so as to ending the possibility of the people to make a truly free decision based on their welfare and interests.

The final solution to Puerto Rico´s fate is not an internal United States issue. It is incumbent on the Special Committee on Decolonization and the entire international community.

Therefore, at the last Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States held on January 25 in the Dominican Republic, the Heads of States who met there reiterated the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico; took note of the decisions relating to Puerto Rico adopted by our Special Committee on Decolonization and reaffirmed that this is a matter of concern to CELAC.

Furthermore, at its Summit held in Margarita Island, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on September 17-18, 2016, the Non-Aligned Movement reaffirmed the right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence; and called for actively working for the United Nations General Assembly to consider the case of Puerto Rico in all its aspects. The movement also called for the immediate release of Oscar López Rivera.

Mr. President,

At the last session of the Decolonization Committee, representatives of all Puerto Rican sectors, without exception, including those who advocate their annexation to the United States, admitted that the colonial situation of Puerto Rico must be tackled expeditiously and in accordance with the UN mandate.

Cuba has a historic commitment to the self-determination and independence of the brotherly people of Puerto Rico. Over several centuries, the Puerto Rican people and its patriots have given moving examples in the struggle for self-determination and independence, not only of Puerto Rico, but also of Cuba.

Many have wanted to separate us, but the peoples of Cuba and Puerto Rico are twinned forever for centuries of history.

The unwavering and deeply rooted vocation of independence of Puerto Ricans has been tested and proven. More than 119 years of colonial domination have not been sufficient for the people of Puerto Rico to be assimilated or surrendered, nor has been its people taken their culture, their identity and their national feelings.

Thank you very much.