Memorandum by the Adviser, United Nations Planning Staff (Chase)1

  • Subject:
  • Self-Government for Puerto Rico

I have already communicated to you my apprehensions about growing Congressional pressures which might be brought to coalesce in a concerted attack upon the position of the US in the UN, or at least upon the character and composition of the UN, once the honeymoon period has ended with the new administration, if not earlier.

This morning I attended a meeting of the Colonial Working Group which discussed the communication to be made on January 25 by the US to the Secretary General about the attainment of self-government by Puerto Rico six months earlier, and the consequent cessation of transmission of information by the US under Article 73e. Among the various matters discussed was the question of probable objections by UN members to the “inadequacy” of the new status of Puerto Rico. It appears that UND feels that there might be considerable and extensive objections from the LA and A–A blocs. This morning the representative of L at the meeting confirmed that L had not been able yet to decide that it could certify to the attainment of self-government by Puerto Rico, and had thus not yet concurred in the papers being formulated for delivery on January 25.

There seemed to be substantial agreement in the group that the Netherlands may have made a tactical error in submitting its notification of intent to cease supplying information on Surinam by supplying with its notification too copious documentation.2 There was strong sentiment expressed around the table that it was highly desirable, perhaps indispensable, that the new Governor of Puerto Rico be placed [Page 1439]among the US Delegation which would handle the Puerto Rican question at the UN; everyone seemed to believe that his excellence in debate would be of the greatest usefulness in fending the expected attacks on the US action. There was some sentiment, however, that his presence might lead either some of the LAs, A–As, or the Soviet bloc to try to bring about a call for the simultaneous presence at UN deliberations of representatives of the independence movement in Puerto Rico to give testimony opposing that of the US “stooge”, the Governor of Puerto Rico. Finally, the question was raised of what the US should do were the LAs and A–As to question the action of Congress, a speculation engendered by their very careful scrutiny and questioning of the Netherlands documentation about Surinam. Some participants in the meeting considered it possible that the LAs and A–As might even go so far as to propose a resolution calling upon the US Congress to reconsider its action on Puerto Rico.

I feel that we cannot afford to overlook the probability that should Congressional action establishing self-government for Puerto Rico encounter an extensive and spirited opposition of substantial portions of the LA and A–A blocks, the reaction on the Hill will be very inimical to the position of the US in the UN. Most likely it would feed the fires of hostility already being breathed forth by such Republican Senatorial leaders as Bridges and Bricker; it is not impossible that the latter would be induced thereby to add to the measure that he has just introduced into the Senate another to the effect that no UN action could have any effect upon an act of Congress. If it becomes established that we shall indeed encounter opposition of the character foreseen, I recommend that we lose no time in holding advance discussions with appropriate Congressional groups where we would attempt to blunt the unfavorable effects of feared action in the U.N.

Mr. Gerig suggested that I draw up this memorandum and submit it to Mr. Sandifer. I therefore attach an extra copy for transmission by you to Mr. Sandifer in your discretion.3

  1. Addressed to William Sanders, Special Assistant and Planning Adviser, Bureau of UN Affairs.
  2. For documentation and information on this matter, see pp. 1205 ff.
  3. Notation at top of document, written by Sanders to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations (Sandifer): “I am checking with Ben Gerig on where we go from here.” Gerig was Director of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs.

    In fact there was a meeting on Jan. 12 of the Non-Self-Governing Territories Committee, to consider aspects of the Puerto Rican question vis-à-vis the United Nations. The Committee was of the opinion that a minimal submission of documentation should be made, because of the problems raised for the Netherlands with regard to Surinam. This documentation should include a letter from the Governor of Puerto Rico requesting cessation of information to the United Nations, a declaratory memorandum from the United States regarding cessation, and a text of the constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. (Jan. 6 draft position paper, handwritten notation on p. 1 of Annex C (not printed, file 350/1–1553)