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
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
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
George Herrera, President, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Al Zapanta, Chairman, National Hispanic Policy Forum
José Rivera, National Chairman Republican NationalHispanic