How a Virtuous Argument Ceded its Moral Authority
Any day of the week that Puerto Ricans get to hear the status arguments of Independentistas in the island, they know it is going to be a good day for supporters of equality. The Independentistas‘ attacks on the unequal “Commonwealth” status and the Enemies of Equality capture their long-held view of a sovereign Republic of Puerto Rico in a light consistent with other long struggles for equality.
Take, for example, Fufi Santori’s latest piece in El Nuevo Dia entitled “Pactos sin futuro,” (Pacts without a future). In it, Santori dismantles the Popular Democratic Party’s entire argument that the current unequal status was entered into in “the nature of a compact” and that, as such, it is a bilateral “pact” between two politically equal entities (i.e. the U.S. and its territorial possession of Puerto Rico). It may seem to boil down to semantics, but if the PPD’s version of what occurred with the establishment of the “Commonwealth” status stands unchallenged (as a “Compact”), it would validate the notion that a people can be cajoled into accepting perpetual colonialism through a democratic vote.
In quite the Socratic mode and with Independentista eloquence, Santori goes on to note that a law–in this case Public Law 81-600, which established the “Commonwealth” with Congress’s consent–“in the nature of a compact” does not necessarily translate to an actual compact. He points to the fact that the U.S. Congress, where Puerto Rico has no equal representation, amended Puerto Rico’s democratically drafted constitution. Among other points, Santori questions how a nation (the U.S.) can establish a “pact” with that which it owns (Puerto Rico).
Independentistas use the words of patriots who happen to be poets and some have used the tactics of terrorists though they have called themselves freedom fighters, but theirs is a lost cause.
Puerto Ricans accept the movement as any other reality of status politics, but are very clearly not supportive of their final status solution. Subsequently, the romanticized version of the Independentista is beginning to give way to the realities of the modern independence movement of Puerto Rico.
Once upon a time, all forms of Puerto Rican nationalism rested upon the shoulders of an independence movement–whether against Spain or the U.S.; today, however, things are different because the statehood movement has inculcated in its supporters an equally powerful sentiment of nationalism, but simply for a different nation: the USA.
In addition, with the establishment of the “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico, and over 100 years of American presence, the independence movement has been popularly–not governmentally–marginalized. Their philosophy might not have changed much, but their tactics have. Most obviously, and importantly, the vast majority of independence advocates has refrained from violence and has, instead, taken it to the ballot box. However, that very insistence on democratic venues for “conflict (status) resolution” has eroded all viability the independence movement once enjoyed. So the impending question is, then, through what means will they achieve their end?
Let us continue doing the math.
Regardless of past intimidation by some in the public and the government, and unfair treatment of the viable option of independence, the fact is that today the movement as embodied by the PIP (Puerto Rico Independence Party) cannot achieve any political support greater than 5 percent at the ballot box; in fact, the PIP has lost its electoral certification for failing meet the minimum percentage threshold of 5 percent.
Further, the PIP wields very little power at the local, statal, and national levels, which makes access and exposure just as difficult as it is for any American “third” party. In addition, although they (Independentistas) have a constitutionally valid status alternative that guarantees democratic sovereignty through political nationhood and will always be included as such, they find themselves placing third behind a status alternative that provides neither democratic- nor political‑ nor citizenship equality. Moreover, the movement has to argue against American statehood, which is the only legitimate option that delivers to Puerto Ricans what it is they want: perpetual and equal American citizenship and sovereignty (albeit through federalism).
So the question is, again, through what means will they achieve their end?
We at La Chuleta Congelá’ have made it very clear that the only way to end the inequality of citizenship in Puerto Rico that the “Commonwealth” territorial status has engendered is through a straight statehood-versus-independence plebiscite.
The fact that a plebiscite offers voters “pre-determined” answers to the status problem does not make it any less democratic because, as it is, the status problem has constitutionally “pre-determined” solutions: statehood or independence. There is nothing in the solution to the status problem that is “unknown,” “mysterious,” or “incomprehensible.”
Puerto Rico is not equal and the only way it will be equal is to join the American union of states and share in the benefits and the sacrifices, or to declare its independence from the United States. The only mechanism the Puerto Rican people have at their disposal is a direct, democratic, majority rules plebiscite with only those options that the U.S. Constitution recognizes.
The U.S. Constitution recognizes statehood, territorialism, and independence.
If the point of the plebiscite is to capture the sentiment of the Puerto Rican people on what it is it supports as a sovereign and equal form of government, and the premise for that “point” is that the current status is neither sovereign nor equal, then it does not follow that Puerto Ricans who support the “Commonwealth” status have a “right” to vote for it because they have no right to subordinate their fellow citizens to perpetual citizenship inequality.
As an Independentista once said, “You cannot ask Puerto Ricans to self-determine themselves out of self-determination” by placing the same unequal status that they are asked to change on equal footing with legitimate status options.
The two parties that have the two legitimate options for a free and equal Puerto Rico are the New Progressive Party (statehood) and the Puerto Rio Independence Party (PIP) and they both agree that what Puerto Ricans currently enjoy through the “Commonwealth” is but the crumbs off the Union’s table. Nevertheless, because the Puerto Rican people in the island territory can recognize misery from a mile away, they refuse to accede to independence.
This is where the Independentistas‘ hope for a means to their end hits the wall and the answer to the overarching question posed here materializes.
They cannot achieve a majority for independence, so by following the process spelled out above, they would be, in essence, acceding to statehood because that choice would win by a landslide.
For these reasons, the Independentistas‘ only “solution” (their means) is to wait it out and convince the U.S. Congress that before anything is done with Puerto Rican self-determination it (Congress) must set Puerto Rico free so that, then, an independent Puerto Rico can make a decision on whether it wants to be an independent country or a state of the Union. In other words, an “attractive” package that makes Puerto Rico an independent republic through Congressional dictum and against the express wishes of the Puerto Rican people to retain American citizenship. The proposal also doubles as a ploy that makes Puerto Rican statehood more difficult, if not impossible. Bravo!
So has been the transformation of a once-romantic and -virtuous cause into one for which there is a body but no moral rectitude. The principles of self-determination are now under attack by their own progenitor. Instead of accepting that Puerto Ricans will choose their status preference democratically and that such a choice will stand as a political reality, Independentistas are now employing their own version of stall tactics.
Shame on them!