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711C.02/3–3153: Circular airgram

The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Offices 1

restricted
  • Subject:
  • Attainment of Self-Government by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

For information of all posts listed:

Since 1946 the United States has transmitted annually to the United Nations information on Puerto Rico pursuant to Article 73(e) of the United Nations Charter which relates to territories whose peoples “have not yet attained a full measure of self-government”. The new Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which entered into force on July 25, 1952, was developed by the people of Puerto Rico and their duly elected representatives and conforms with their wishes as expressed in popular referenda and elections. The new Constitution was approved by the Government of the United States.

With the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the people of Puerto Rico have attained a full measure of self-government. Accordingly, and in response to a request from the Government of Puerto Rico, the Government of the United States decided that it is no longer appropriate for it to submit information on Puerto Rico pursuant to Article 73(e) of the Charter. The United Nations was informed of this decision on January 19, 1953, by a letter from the United States Mission to the United Nations to the Secretary General. Subsequently, on March 20, 1953, a further communication was sent to the United Nations, enclosing for the information of the Members of the United Nations, (a) the text of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, (b) a memorandum by the Government of the United States of America concerning the cessation of transmission of information under Article 73(e) of the Charter with regard to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and (c) a letter dated January 17, 1953, from the Governor of Puerto Rico to the President of the United States.

Copies of the various documents referred to above are transmitted herewith for the information and use of the post. These documents, it will be observed, constitute a detailed account of the development of self-government in Puerto Rico, of the steps taken vis-à-vis the United Nations and of the basis therefor. All posts may make use of these documents, as appropriate, in responding to questions. The documents will no doubt be communicated in due course by the Secretary General to all Members of the United Nations and be distributed in the usual way as United Nations documents.

[Page 1445]

For action of posts indicated:

You are requested, unless you perceive objection, to call upon appropriate officials of the Government to which you are accredited and leave with them for their convenience one set of the documents transmitted with this instruction as advance copies of the documents which will be circulated in due course by the Secretary General of the United Nations. You should point out that this progress of Puerto Rico to self-government is in accordance with the objectives set out in the United Nations Charter and the traditional policies of the United States. You should note that the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico under the Constitution of July 25, 1952, and the consequent attainment of a “full measure of self-government” by the people of Puerto Rico is a source of pride and satisfaction to the Government of Puerto Rico and to the United States Government. You may wash to emphasize that the new status of Puerto Rico has been established with full agreement of the Government and people of Puerto Rico and in accordance with their expressed wishes and to refer in this connection, as appropriate, to portions of the letter of the Governor of Puerto Rico and of the memorandum by the United States.

You are also requested to report any comment which may be forthcoming from officials of the Government to which you are accredited concerning (1) the establishment of the Commonwealth and the attainment of self-government by the people of Puerto Rico and (2) the decision of the United States Government to cease reporting to the United Nations on Puerto Rico. This information will be of particular value to the Department in preparing for anticipated discussion in the United Nations of the documents transmitted herewith. It is expected that this discussion will take place in the first instance in the General Assembly’s Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, scheduled to convene in August 1953, and subsequently in the Eighth General Assembly.

The following is for your information and for use in your discretion: The Department believes that possible critical reactions to the decision of the United States to cease reporting to the United Nations on Puerto Rico will fall into two main categories: (a) Statements to the effect that the United States alone cannot make such a decision and that the concurrence of the United Nations is required. On this point, it is the view of the United States that each administering member of the United Nations has the right to determine the constitutional position and status of territories under its sovereignty. The United States also considers that the decision regarding cessation of reporting under Article 73(e) on specific territories rests solely with the administering members concerned. We recognize, however, that the United Nations will be interested in discussing the Puerto Rican case and that the General Assembly, under its broad powers to discuss and recommend [Page 1446]under Article 10 of the Charter, may not only wish to consider the case of Puerto Rico but probably also to adopt a resolution on the subject. We have accordingly submitted appropriate documentation for the information of United Nations Members and will be prepared to answer various questions which may be raised. (b) Statements to the effect that since the United States retains, with respect to Puerto Rico, control over foreign affairs and defense, the Commonwealth has not in effect achieved a “full measure of self-government”. On this point, a clear distinction exists between “independence” and a “full measure of self-government”. “Independence”, while one of the principal means, is not the only means by which a “full measure of self-government” may be attained. The United States holds that the retention by the United States Government of responsibility for the foreign affairs and defense of Puerto Rico is in no way incompatible with the achievement of “a full measure of self-government” by the people of Puerto Rico. The memorandum by the Government of the United States, enclosed herewith, indicates the manner in which self-government is exercised by Puerto Rico under the Constitution of July 25, 1952. Special significance is also attached to the fact that the Commonwealth status achieved by Puerto Rico is the governmental arrangement which the people of Puerto Rico themselves sought. The letter of the Governor of Puerto Rico expresses this forcefully as follows:

“The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, therefore, represents the government that the people of Puerto Rico have freely adopted. It reflects our own decision as to the type of institutions and the kind of relationship to the United States which we desire. There can be no doubt that in the full sense of the term, in form as well as in fact, the people of Puerto Rico are now self-governing. We have chosen our institutions and relationship with the United States. We have determined the nature and distribution of the powers of government. We have created our own Constitution under which we established our own government …”

Dulles
  1. Two sets of documents were transmitted to 52 posts for action; one set to 17 posts for information, including Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Curaçao, Kingston, Martinique, and Port-of-Spain.