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Statement of Witnesses—Continued
Prepared statement of
the Senate-Puerto Rican Independence Party, Senate of Puerto Rico,
Prepared statement of
Prepared statement of
Puerto Rican Independence Party, Puerto Rico House of Representa-
Prepared statement of
Prepared statement of
Agostini, Juan Antonio, Spokesman, Direcive Board, prepared statement
of Cardona, Hector Reichard de, Chamber of Conmerce, of Puerto Rico,
prepared statement of Fermin, Manuel Arraiza, Presidente, Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico,
prepared statement of Gonzalez, Hon. Ferdinand Lugo, Representative, District 19, Mayagüez,
Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, prepared statement of Ramos, Luis Vega, President, PROELA, prepared statement of
PUERTO RICO STATUS
SATURDAY, APRIL 19, 1997,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
San Juan, PR. The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:55 a.m. at the Drama Theater at the Centro De Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferre, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Hon. Don Young (Chairman of the Committee) presiding.
Mr. YOUNG. The Committee will come to order.
It is my intention to make an opening statement; and then I will recognize Mr. Miller, then Mr. Kennedy, then Mr. Underwood and, in closing, Commissioner Romero-Barceló.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. DON YOUNG, A U.S. REPRESENTA
TIVE FROM ALASKA; AND CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
Mr. YOUNG. It is a pleasure to be in Puerto Rico to continue the work of Congress in resolving Puerto Rico's status. I believe the hearings today in San Juan and Monday in Mayaguez on the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, H.R. 856, are an important part of the process leading to a response of the Puerto Rican House Concurrent Resolution 2 of January 23rd of this year, asking for a federally authorized vote on Puerto Rico's political status before the end of 1998.
As a person from Alaska, when we approached Puerto Rico yesterday I was stunned again by the shear beauty of the island's mountains, the greenness of those mountains, the white beaches and blue tropical sea, as I looked out over those beaches today and last night.
Another fact that struck me as I looked out over historic San Juan was the realization that the population of this city is twice the size of the entire State of Alaska. What an island! It is no wonder the islands of Puerto Rico have been so prized and the object of many battles during the past centuries, including the SpanishAmerican War in 1898.
In fact, the principal reason we are here today dates back to when the U.S. flag was being hoisted nearly 100 years ago. A legitimate question has since been raised and has yet to be answered: Should the United States flag in Puerto Rico remain as it is today, be eliminated, or replaced by a flag with an additional star? Each choice has a corresponding effect on how it shall be applied to the United States Constitution and nationality and citizenship.
While the U.S. Constitution follows the flag, Congress determines the extent of the application, and today in Puerto Rico the U.S. Constitution applies only in part. United States nationality also follows the flag and the U.S. Constitution, which in Puerto Rico today is both U.S. nationality and statutory U.S. citizenship. This is one of the fundamental questions with related issues we are attempting to resolve through these hearings.
Last month, the House Committee on Resources began the consideration of the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, H.R. 856, with testimony in Washington from six Members of Congress, the Governor of Puerto Rico, the three political party presidents of Puerto Rico and the Administration. Their views are only the beginning of the record which will be added to by the statements which will be presented here today in San Juan and Monday in Mayaguez. It is not the location of the hearings where the statement is given that is important. It is the substance of the testimony that is important.
During congressional consideration last year of the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, numerous thoughtful and meaningful suggestions were offered in testimony. Before the end of the 104th Congress in 1996, over 30 major and minor changes were incorporated into the bill, which was reintroduced this year as H.R. 856. I expect many of the proposals presented during these hearings will result in additional changes to the current bill, H.R. 856.
However, the bill's fundamental structure for resolving Puerto Rico's political status has broad bipartisan support in Congress. The multi-staged approach is sound and offers the best approach to address the many legal, economic and political issues that are a part of this self-determination process. A multi-staged process will ensure that each step taken is manageable and practical, both for the United States and Puerto Rico. In addition, the bill guarantees that the people of Puerto Rico will have the final say in each stage of the process. Although after these hearings the Congress will enact the law defining the terms of the process and any change in status, the people of Puerto Rico will have the final say in approving each step in the path to full self-government.
In order to obtain a broad cross-section of the views of the people of Puerto Rico regarding their political status preference and this process, a large number of witnesses have been invited to appear before this Committee. I appreciate the cooperation of each participant in complying with Congressional rules which are required in other hearings throughout the nation.
Before we begin with our panel of the distinguished witnesses and hearing opening statements representing the three political parties of Puerto Rico, followed by elected officials and other leaders, I want to share a part of a letter I received after our hearings on this bill in San Juan on March 23rd of last year from Pilar Barbosa Rosario, Official Historian of Puerto Rico. This is still in my possession. It says:
"Greetings to my friend Don Young.
"As daughter of Jose Celso Barbosa and Official Historian of Puerto Rico, I try to be impartial and see other points of view. But when you are almost 99 years of age and have done research for 45 years, from 1921 to 1966, on Barbosa's private and public life, it is quite difficult to maintain completely neutral in our historical interpretations.
“Let me congratulate all persons involved in preparing the hearing. The hearing was well organized and the people involved, Congressmen, visitors and Puerto Ricans, we all learned a lot.
"To me it was a demonstration that in spite of our colonial status Puerto Ricans have developed and adapted American democracy to our own political ideologies. They are a product of our relations with the U.S. but adapted to our Puerto Rican way of life, different from U.S. and different from other Caribbean nations and Hispanic-American countries. To us Puerto Ricans that is not surprising but to our visitors from the U.S., Hawaii or Latin America, it is something unique-it is Puerto Rican.
“So help us God that Pilar Barbosa could live three more years to see what all this results in. So help me God, it is now or never.
"Sincerely yours, Pilar Barbosa Rosario."
I was saddened to hear of our loss earlier this year with the passing of Doña Pilar. What a grand lady and fellow citizen. Her opinion regarding this process to resolve Puerto Rico's political status deserves respect and should be treasured, particularly as one who was born in the 19th century, before the United States flag was raised in Puerto Rico.
I believe her hopes for the results within 3 years will happen. Now definitely is the time for Congress to formally start the process to permit the people of Puerto Rico to vote to continue local self-government under Commonwealth, separate sovereignty or statehood. There is a serious determination in Congress to solve Puerto Rico's status problem as a top priority of national importance. I also believe that everyone who participates in these hearings on the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, or any other part of the bill's self-determination process, will contribute to the final resolution of Puerto Rican status, and will in fact 1 day "see what all this results in.”
The gentleman from California.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. GEORGE MILLER, A REPRESENTA.
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Mr. MILLER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am delighted to be here this morning for these hearings, to be in Puerto Rico; and I want to thank our colleague, Carlos Romero-Barceló, for the invitation to come to Puerto Rico to conduct these hearings and thank him and the people for their hospitality.
My statement will be very short. I think these are very important hearings; I think these are very timely hearings; and, hopefully, these hearings are such that they will allow us to draw to a conclusion the question that has remained open so very long, both here in Puerto Rico and in the United States, and that is the status, the permanent status, of Puerto Rico.
That is a decision that I have tried to maintain from the outset. It is a decision for the people of Puerto Rico. It is a decision that will then have to be accepted by the Congress of the United States; and, therefore, we must have a very frank and a very open process to help us arrive at that decision.
I believe that after many false starts, many misrepresentations, that this process is, in fact, different. I believe that this process can, in fact, at the end provide for the status determination of Puerto Rico.
I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses. I hope they bring to these hearings a spirit of cooperation and of helping us to make the determinations. There are many considerations that we will have to make at the conclusion of these hearings so that this process can carry forth the commitment for the resolution of this issue after its conclusion, and I look forward to these hearings and the ones on Monday and look forward to hearing from the witnesses today.
Thank you very much.
REPRESENTATIVE FROM RHODE ISLAND
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling these hearings and thank you for introducing the United States-Puerto Rico Status Act, H.R. 856, which I have been proud to cosponsor with you.
This legislation has inspired what Governor Rossello has called "a defining moment for Puerto Rico.” For almost a century, the people of Puerto Rico have contributed to the social, economic and cultural history of the United States of America. They have fought alongside other Americans in war, and they have shared our times of domestic struggle. It is only fitting that the Congress act to extend to the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to enjoy the full and complete measure of the rights and privileges that are commensurate with the full application of the Constitution.
As Governor Ferre has said, with citizenship comes certain rights and responsibilities. And as a strong proponent myself of adding the shining star of the Caribbean to our own flag of the United States, I want to say that I eagerly await the plebiscite that is sanctioned by this legislation.
It has been my long-standing belief that times have changed for Puerto Rico. Where Commonwealth status was a good beginning, I believe that living for today means living for statehood. The time is right for the island to take its place at the table of States and receive its share and entitled share of opportunities. If we want to talk about equality for all Puerto Ricans, we should give them a voice in the government that affects their lives.
As my good friend Carlos Romero-Barceló has said, "Our Nation cannot continue to preach democracy throughout the world while it continues to disenfranchise and deny political participation and economic equality to 3.8 million people of its own citizens.”
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you once again for conducting these hearings. I look forward to the testimony we will receive today; and, again, it is great to be back in this beautiful island of Puerto Rico.
Thank you very much.