Independentistas and Estadistas Want to End Puerto Rico’s Territorial Status, NOW!
Since the Spanish Empire made its official claim over Puerto Rico on August 12, 1508 through the invasion by Juan Ponce de Leon and his small army, the Caribbean island has not known true sovereign autonomy. Today, 112 years after the July 25, 1898 invasion by American Gen. Nelson A. Miles and his 16,000 troops, Puerto Ricans enjoy a type of autonomy that is less than that granted by the Spanish during the last months of control over its Caribbean province. All told, the territory of Puerto Rico has had 142 Spanish-appointed governors, 27 American-appointed governors, 10 Puerto Rican-elected governors for a total of 179 governors in 502 years. Not one of them was governor of a politically sovereign Puerto Rico.
The idea of self-determination does not call upon Puerto Ricans to vote any specific status; instead, self-determination means that the people of Puerto Rico have a right to end their 500 years of subservient governance. However Puerto Ricans choose to end this longest of territorial streaks, it is legally certain that their choices under the current constitutional regime (i.e. the American constitution) are limited to statehood, independence, or remaining a colonial territory.
In the American framework of republican government, there is no room for any other political entity such as an enhanced “Commonwealth.” No doubt, an “enhanced Commonwealth” can exist, but it may not be called sovereign, permanent, or equal. Actually, anything constructed for Puerto Rico out of the carcass of “Commonwealth,” enhanced or otherwise, should be viewed as an affront to democratic progress and a promulgation of the separate-but-equal standards of a different generation.
In Puerto Rico, there are three parties and two of the three represent constitutionally viable, permanent, non-territorial options: statehood and independence. The statehood party represents roughly 50 percent of the electorate and independence roughly 3 percent. Therefore, a majority of Puerto Ricans does not consent to the territorial status, which they voted for in 1952. When instituted in 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was designed to be a temporary status until the Puerto Rican people had mature as a body politic through the responsibilities inherent in local self-governance, but with the passage of time and the gaining of political victories the “Commonwealth”-sponsoring party–the PPD–has found it difficult to relinquish its power. In fact, the PPD has moved beyond merely defending the “Commonwealth” through an elaborate, ever morphing campaign for “The Best of Both Worlds.”
It is time for the Puerto Rican people to move forward on a bill currently sitting in their House (as H.R. 2497) and Senate (as S.B. 1407).
“An act to authorize the holding of a plebiscite whereby the People of Puerto Rico shall be able to express their will to resolve the issue of their final political status from among non-colonial, non-territorial formulas recognized and accepted under the Constitution of the United States, and for other purposes.”
This piece of legislation spells out the end of the Estado Libre Asociado (as the misnomer of “Commonwealth” has been called and characterized since 1952 in Spanish), a lie that has captured the hearts and minds of many honest Puerto Ricans. The Popular Democratic Party, after all, is the product of true nation-loving American citizens who consistently qualify American citizenship as the most important aspect to their vote for a status, but the leadership of said party has usurped everything the People of Puerto Rico gave them some 58 years ago.
The leadership of the PPD has maliciously utilized the political distances between San Juan and Washington and the 50 state capitals (compounded by the differences not in political processes but political ideology) to portray the dependent territory as a sort of “Partner” of the United States of America and a member of the international community. The charade is up for the PPD leadership!
Now, the PPD is responsible not for defining the other status options (principally the possibility of statehood) but for defining what it is it wants. What is the PPD selling Puerto Ricans? Is it, in fact, the current territorial status or an enhanced version thereof? If so, then the PPD leadership must provide a smoke-and-mirrors-free argument for why Puerto Ricans should renew the 1952 vote that gave the U.S. Congress moral authority to rule Puerto Rico under the Territorial Clause.
Puerto Ricans did not self-determine themselves out of self-determination in 1952; instead, they agreed to relinquish some of their democratic rights in the short-term while they developed a political decision on a permanent status. However, if Puerto Ricans are asked to choose from permanent options and, somehow, the current territorial status of “Commonwealth” (enhanced or otherwise) makes it onto the ballot with other permanent options, then the sum of said plebiscite will be a distorted view of status politics in Puerto Rico, which we can now appreciate after the 1993 and 1998 plebiscites.
It is time the PPD and its supporters (well-intentioned or not) decide whether they want Puerto Rico to be a Republic or an American state, and stop holding a majority of Americans in Puerto Rico in political status limbo. Self-determination supporters want a REAL vote to end the current territorial status. NOW!