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I come before you today to speak in support of legislation that is important to me both as a Puerto Rican, and as a citizen of the United States of America. The Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, H.R. 4765, provides to the Puerto Rican people a right that we as Americans cherish dearly and seek to share with peoples around the world—the fundamental right of self-determination.
Ever since Puerto Rico became a part of the United States after the SpanishAmerican War in 1898, the Puerto Rican people have had a dual identity—they are an island nationality in the Caribbean, and a component of the American Nation. Although we have been in this relationship for 92 years, the fact remains that Puerto Ricans did not choose to become a part of the United States. For better or worse, the incorporation of Puerto Rico into the United States was unilaterally imposed.
Since 1898 the Puerto Rican people have had two opportunities to express their opinion as to what sort of relationship should exist between Puerto Rico and the United States.
In 1952 the people of Puerto Rico were invited either to enter into a Commonwealth relationship with the United States or to retain its then current status. In this instance, the Puerto Rican people “chose" what was offered to them. Independence and statehood were not options.
In 1967, a plebiscite was held in Puerto Rico on three political status alternatives: independence, statehood and a continuation of commonwealth status. Unfortunately, the plebiscite legislation was considered unfair by a substantial percentage of the electorate. After a contentious plebiscite marred by a substantial boycott on the part of proponents of independence and statehood, the Commonwealth option prevailed.
The Puerto Rican people have been waiting patiently these last 23 years for another opportunity to freely, fairly and collectively determine the political status of their island. And if I may say so, Mr. Chairman, there could not be a more appropriate time for this vital democratic exercise in self-determination than right now.
In the past year the entire world has been swept by a surging wave of democratic fervor. Virtually every country in Eastern Europe has seen its unelected government replaced by a popular, democratic one. The constituent republics of the Soviet Union are proclaiming their independence and recognizing each other as independent countries. The wall dividing the Germanys has crumbled and the two countries are on the brink of reunification. Even long-suffering South Africa shows some signs of change.
As the newest Member of Congress and as the only Puerto Rican elected from the 50 States, it is very gratifying to me personally, and to my constituency, to see the great progress that the House of Representatives has made on this issue. To the credit of the Congress, all three options are being presented to the Puerto Rican people on an equal basis. Of notable importance as well is section 3 of the bill, which would allow the three political parties to reach an agreement which, after approval by the Commonwealth legislature, would grant the right to vote to nonresident Puerto Ricans.
It is highly significant that the three political parties of Puerto Rico, each favoring a different status option for the island's political future, have all endorsed the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act. This tremendous degree of harmony among the rival parties is unprecedented and bodes well for the ultimate success of the legislation.
Section 5, paragraph (d) of the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act enunciates, and I quote, "a commitment that the United States Congress will vote on legislation establishing appropriate mechanisms and procedures to implement the political status selected by the people of Puerto Rico."
This commitment is good not only for the people of Puerto Rico, but for the credibility of American democracy in this era of stunning democratic progress. As we in the United States strive to encourage and foster these developments around the World, it is essential that we hold true to our principles at home and provide the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to decide the political status of our island.
Mr. MOAKLEY. Thank you.
Mr. SOLOMON. José, you were as eloquent as you have always been; you are one of the finest Members we have on that other side of the aisle.
You mentioned the Berlin Wall coming down. It came down because of self-determination, American foreign policy, and I think that is what we are talking about here. I will support whatever the
Puerto Rican people choose to do. I don't have any Puerto Rican constituency, but I have some great friends there whom I served with in the U.S. Marine Corps; I still visit with them when they come to Washington every year, and they are wonderful people.
But I don't have a specific position, because I believe in the American foreign policy of self-determination. If they choose to be independent, I will be one of their strongest backers. If they choose to become a State, I will be one of their strongest backers, and so on. We wish you a lot of good luck. Mr. MOAKLEY. Any questions?
Mr. PASHAYAN. I have no questions. I found your remarks very interesting.
Mr. MOAKLEY. Thank you very much, Congressman Serrano.
We have a vote on. We will recess and come back after the vote, and by that time we should have a quorum, and then it is the intention of the Chair to vote it out of subcommittee into the full committee.
So the Subcommittee on Rules will be in recess subject to the call of the Chair. [A brief recess was taken.]
MARKUP OF H.R. 4765 Mr. MOAKLEY. The Subcommittee on Rules will come to order. Please be seated.
A quorum of the subcommittee is now present. The Chair will entertain a motion from the gentlelady from New York, Mrs. Slaughter.
Mrs. SLAUGHTER. I move to report H.R. 4765 favorably to the full committee with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, which is before the members. The amendment is identical to the text approved by the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Mr. MOAKLEY. You have heard the motion. Any discussion? Any amendment? If not, on the motion, all those in favor say aye. Opposed, no. The ayes have it, the motion is adopted.
Just for the edification of the public, that concludes the subcommittee's consideration. I want to thank all those testifying for the outstanding job they did in portraying the entire spectrum of issues, and thanks to the officials who are in the audience and were so interested making their feelings known to the subcommittee and also to the chairman.
I have been advised by counsel we have to prepare a committee report, so we won't be able to take up the bill today in the full committee, but we will take it up. We will do it as soon as the report is finished, early next week.
The Subcommittee on Rules will now adjourn.
(Whereupon, at 10:25 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
[The text of the amendment adopted by the Subcommittee on Rules is as follows:
mitished; ubcom, at
AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE TO H.R. 4765
Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the following:
i SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. 2 This Act may be cited as the "'Puerto Rico 3 Self-Determination Act''. 4 SEC. 2. REFERENDUM ON STATUS OPTIONS. 5 (a) There are hereby authorized to be appropriated 6 $13,500,000 to the Executive Office of the President for 7 grants to the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico for a 8 referendum which is to be held on September 16, 1991, or on a 9 later date in 1991 agreed to by a majority of the members of 10 the Dialogue Committee on the Status of Puerto Rico 11 (hereafter in this Act referred to as the “Dialogue 12 Committee''), as established by executive order of the 13 Governor of Puerto Rico on June 29, 1989, on the following 14 question:
Which political status do you favor for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on terms to be consented to by the people of Puerto Rico and the Congress of the United States?
none of the above statuses. (b)(1) of the amount authorized to be appropriated by 5 subsection (a), the State Elections Commission is authorized
(A) expend $7,500,000 for costs of conducting the referendum, including $1,500,000 to facilitate the participation of Puerto Ricans not resident in Puerto Rico in the referendum as authorized pursuant to section 31C); and
(B) disburse $6,000,000 to the Dialogue Committee to be expended for the purpose of informing the people of Puerto Rico regarding the three status options, such
amount to be equally divided among Puerto Rico's
(2) Funds appropriated under paragraph (1) shall be made available for the necessary expenses, including the travel 19 and transportation of persons, services as authorized by 20 section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, communications,
utilities, printing and reproduction, supplies and materials 22 and other related services, and administrative costs. 23 (3) To be eligible to receive payments under paragraph 24 (1)(B), a recipient shall-
(A) agree not to incur expenses related to the
referendum in excess of amounts established by the electoral laws of Puerto Rico for expenditures by the parties in general elections as of September 19, 1990;
(B) agree to keep complete records as to receipts and expenditures related to informing the people of Puerto Rico regarding the status question and furnish to the State Elections Commission such information as it may
(C) agree to financial audits and examinations of such funds by the Comptroller General of the United
(4) Under such regulations as the Comptroller General of 13 the United States shall prescribe, the Comptroller General 14 shall audit and examine transactions made with funds made
15 available under this subsection.
16 (c) The referendum shall be conducted pursuant to the 17 laws of Puerto Rico. 18 (d) Those Federal laws that apply to the election of the 19 Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico shall, if appropriate, 20 also apply to the referendum. Any reference in such Federal
21 laws to elections shall be considered, where appropriate, to
22 be a reference to the referendum, and any reference in such 23 laws to candidates for office shall be considered, where 24 appropriate, to be a reference to the political status 25 options under the referendum.