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Editorial: Declaration Of Hispanic Organizations In Support of Puerto Rican Self-determination


Washington, D.C.
September 16, 1998

We, the undersigned leaders of the Hispanic comnmumty across the United States, celebrate during National Hispanic Heritage Month the many ways in which Hispanic Americans contribute daily to strengthen our Nation's social, moral and economic fabric. In this spirit, we strongly believe that Congress has a responsibility to ensure that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, like all American citizens, are afforded equal opportunities to participate in the political process of this great Nation by extending them the right of self-determination. Failure to extend this fundamental principle to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico would undermine the immense efforts and strides Hispanics, and all other ethnic groups throughout our history, have made to fully participate as equals in this democracy. Toward this goal. `we undertake to work together to advance the following principles:

Self-determination is a fundamental right and principle of our demncracy. essential in our pursuit for political, social and economic equality. The right of self- determination should be extended to our fellow Hispanic American citizens in Puerto Rico.

Latinos from across this Nation - including the more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans who have served in the Armed Forces since 1917 - have time and again, responded to our Nation's call to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend the right of democratic self- determination throughout the `World- We call upon Congress to recognize our contributions in war by extending the very same right we have been asked to defend to our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.

Like all other Latinos elsewhere in the Nation, Hispanics in Puerto Rico are striving to define their role in American society. In the best traditions of American democracy, our government should honor their desire by affording them the right to define themselves with the power of the vote.

We salute the U.S. House of Representatives for advancing the political empowerment of all Hispanics by approving in early March, legislation to enable our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico to exercise their right of self-determination. We commend the chief sponsors and supporters of Puerto Rican self-determination legislation in the House and in the Senate for recognizing that this issue transcends ethnic and cultural diversity and embodies our most cherished democratic values: justice, equality and acceptance.

We urge the Senate Leadership and all Senators to fulfill their responsibility to promote the rights of all our citizens, and to celebrate the diverse contributions Latinos have made to American society by enacting Puerto Rican self-determination legislation during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Tragically, these objections are often voiced by some Members of Congress who represent states and Congressional districts with slgnificant Hispanic populations.

If we as a community allow Congress to ignore Puerto flico'w struggle for acceptance in American society, wu will encourage Oongrees as well to ignore other issues that also embody the principles of fairness, equality, and democracy that are vital to us all.

We ask you and/or your organization sign the attached "Declaration of Hispanic Organizations in Support of Puerto Rican Self-Determination" that we propose to present to the Leadership of the United States Senate during Hispanic Heritage Month. The message we would send together Is simple and straightforward, namely that as a community we are united against those who would deny us the most basic rights of democracy.

To that end, we urge you to contact Brent Wilkes at (202) 408-0060, or the individual who contacted you about this matter, and communicate your support for this "Declaration in Support of Puerto Rican Self-Determlnation.


Hispanic Coalition for Puerto Rican Self-Determination
Francisco Ibarra, National Commander American GI-Forum
Rick Dovalina, President, League of United Latin American Citizens
Andres Tobar, Executive Director, National Association of Hispanic Publications
George Herrera, President, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Al Zapanta, Chairman, National Hispanic Policy Forum
José Rivera, National Chairman Republican NationalHispanic Assembly

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