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LETTER FROM PRESIDENT KENNEDY TO GOVERNOR MUNOZ

The status issue of Puerto Rico, that started in 1952, has still neither been resolved nor established to everyones satisfaction.


[Released July 25, 1962. Dated July 24, 1962]

Dear Governor Munoz:

I have your letter advising me of the celebration on July 25 of the tenth anniversary of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This is indeed a great occasion. The achievements of the Puerto Rican people in this short period have been remarkable. Puerto Rico has furnished an example to the world of the benefits that can be achieved by close collaboration between a larger and a smaller community within the framework of freedom and mutual agreement. I am confident that I speak for the people of the United States as well as their government in expressing my pride and pleasure at Puerto Rico's achievements.

I am aware, however, as you point out, that the Commonwealth relationship is not perfected and that it has not yet realized its full potential, and I welcome your statement that the people of Puerto Rico are about to begin the consideration of this with the purpose of moving towards its maximum development. I am in full sympathy with this aspiration. I see no reason why the Commonwealth concept, if that is the desire of the people of Puerto Rico, should not be fully developed as a permanent institution in its association with the United States. I agree that this is a proper time to recognize the need for growth and, both as a matter of fairness to all concerned and of establishing an unequivocal record, to consult the people of Puerto Rico, as you propose to do, so that they may express any other preference, including independence, if that should be their wish.
Sincerely,

JOHN F. KENNEDY

Note: In his letter, dated July 10, 1962, Governor Munoz pointed out that from the beginning the Constitutional Convention had recognized that there was room for growth within the Commonwealth relationship. He suggested the following as suitable lines along which Puerto Rico should proceed:

1. The indispensable principle of the Commonwealth is self-government for Puerto Rico in permanent association with the United States on the basis of common loyalty, common citizenship, mutual dedication to democracy, and mutual commitment to freedom.

2. The moral and juridical basis of the Commonwealth should be further clarified so as to eliminate any possible basis for the accusation, which is made by enemies and misguided friends of the United States and Puerto Rico, that the Commonwealth was not the free choice of the people of Puerto Rico acting in their sovereign capacity, but was merely a different kind of colonial arrangement to which they consented.

3. The governmental power and authority of the Commonwealth should be complete and any reservations or exceptions which are not an indispensable part of the arrangements for permanent association with the United States should be eliminated. Methods should be devised for forms of participation, appropriate to the Commonwealth concept, by the people of Puerto Rico in federal functions that affect them.

Governor Munoz continued by stating that it was his intention to request the Commonwealth legislature to enact a law pursuant to which proposals to perfect the Commonwealth within its association with the United States would be submitted to the people of Puerto Rico.

He added that he proposed to recommend that advocates of both independence and of federated statehood for Puerto Rico should be afforded the opportunity to present these alternatives to the electorate, so that no doubt whatever might be entertained either in Puerto Rico, in the United States, or elsewhere that the basic principle of self-determination had been thoroughly carried out.

Governor Munoz's letter was released with the President's reply.

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