BUDPR Demands Action on Puerto Rican Sovereignty at the United Nations

In a statement to the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, BUDPR member Rafael Olivera Cintrón laid out the urgency of Puerto Rican independence and the responsibility of international institutions.

JUNE 20, 2024 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Rafael Olivera Cintrón, a member of Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora (BUDPR), delivered a powerful speech today at the 2024 session of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, warning that “the clock is ticking” for the Puerto Rican people and urging the UN to take action.

“As Puerto Ricans living in the diaspora, we watch with despair from afar the consequences of U.S. colonial rule over Puerto Rico,” said Olivera Cintrón, highlighting the island’s crippling health care, energy, housing, and environmental issues. “Independence is not only a moral imperative; it is the only solution to these crises,” he said.

Olivera Cintrón, who also delivered BUDPR’s statement to the committee in 2023, underscored that these and other consequences of colonialism “now threaten the very existence of our nation and our people.” He cited the historically low birth rate in Puerto Rico and projections from the U.S. Census Bureau that show the island’s population could be cut by more than half by the year 2100.

“Will there even be a Puerto Rico for my children? Or my children’s children? Will we survive as a people? Or will colonialism wipe us out until being Puerto Rican is some kind of distant memory,” Olivera Cintrón added.

Ending his speech with a rousing call to action, Olivera Cintrón challenged the committee and the United Nations to play an active role in Puerto Rico’s decolonization.

“Take bold, concrete, and creative action to make Puerto Rico a priority for the United Nations. Do it now, with the moral and material urgency that this issue demands. And keep doing it every day until Puerto Rico enjoys what every nation in the world deserves: freedom and democracy,” he said.

This is the third consecutive year that a representative of Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora has testified at the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization. This international advocacy is especially timely at this moment, when the U.S. Congress has completely ignored the issue of its colonial rule over Puerto Rico—even abruptly canceling a hearing on Puerto Rico status legislation that was set to occur just two days before the UN session.

“Our advocacy at the UN is part of our strategy to denounce Puerto Rico’s colonial status and demand independence in every community and at every institution to build a broad movement for decolonization,” said BUDPR president Alberto Medina. “We do not place all our hopes on the UN, or any single institution, coming to Puerto Rico’s rescue. But colonialism is a violation of international law, and the international community can and should do its part to resolve the profound injustice of Puerto Rico’s political subordination.

After the Decolonization Committee’s session, Olivera Cintrón and other New York-based members of BUDPR were slated to join an afternoon demonstration alongside other pro-independence organizations at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza outside of the UN headquarters, and to host an evening ‘Puerto Rico Libre’ social event with other leaders and activists.