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NiLP FYI Masthead  

Deconstructing the

Puerto Rico Status Vote

 

Note: Tuesday's vote on the future political status of Puerto Rico has resulted in greater confusion on this issue than previously existed. Most of the media coverage on the referendum results was very misleading in announcing a clear-cut vote in favor of statehood when the actual results, with close to 500,000 basically boycotting the vote by leaving that part of the ballot blank, made the results unclear. On top of that, the slim majority that voted for a change the current status was, despite politicians like Bronx Congressman Jos� Serrano and others trying to spin it, decidedly indecisive.

 

Instead of tabulating the status preferences soley of those who expressed support fo a change of status in the first question, the close to 500,000 blank votes could be mostly made up of "yes" votes in that question. This seems to indicate that the status preferences of the remaining300,000 or so votes not wanting a change in status were counted as status preferences. It would probably be useful at this point if the elecion commission wold run a crosstaulation of the two status questions to untangle these diferent votes. If this was hard to follow, well, what can I say!

 

On top of the ambiguity of the vote on these two status questions, the loss by the pro-statehood Governor and the election of the pro-Commonwealth challenger clearly mean that any major push for statehood will not be forthcoming. Instead, the slight majority voting for status change could be seen as a potential constituency for a more "enhanced" Commonwealth. And history has shown tht without a strong push (and even with) by the political leadership of the Island, the US Congress will definitely not even seriously consider this issue.

 

Then there is the gigantic missing factor that the Stateside Puerto Rican population, who now outnumber the population of Puerto Rico, were not allowed to weigh in on the status issue. When elections in Iraq and more and more countries are allowing their Diasporas to vote in homeland elections, there is the issue of why Puerto Ricans should be treated so differently. In fact, as we see in one of the articles below that asks the Puerto Rican community of Cleveland, Ohio their reactions to the Puerto Rico vote, the question should be asked why the US media did not do the same in other major Puerto Rican centers like New York, Chicago and elsewhere.

 

We hope the articles below provide you with more food for thought on this complex and perennial issue facing the Puerto Rican people, both in Puerto Rico and its Diaspora.

---Angelo Falc�n

 

CONTENTS

* "Puerto Rico vote endorses statehood with asterisk" By Ben Fox, Associated Press (November 7, 2012)

* "Puerto Rico Vote for Statehood Questioned" by Jack Kenny, New American (8 November 2012)

* "Puerto Rican Statehood Unlikely to Pass Through Congress, Aides Say," Fox News Latino (November 8, 2012)

* "Puerto Rico votes for statehood, but Cleveland-area Puerto Ricans don't see it happening" By Michael O'Malley, The Cleveland Plain Dealer (November 7, 2012)

* "Puerto Rico's Status Vote Far From Definitive" By Juan Antonio Ocasio Rivera (November 8, 2012)

 

Puerto Rico vote endorses

statehood with asterisk

By Ben Fox

Associated Press (November 7, 2012)

 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Ricans have supported U.S. statehood in a vote that jubilant members of the pro-statehood party say is the strongest sign yet that the Caribbean island territory is on the road to losing its second-class status.

 

But Tuesday's vote comes with an asterisk and an imposing political reality: The island remains bitterly divided over its relationship to the United States and many question the validity of this week's referendum.

 

Nearly a half million voters chose to leave a portion of the ballot blank. And voters also ousted the pro-statehood governor, eliminating one of the main advocates for a cause that would need the approval of the U.S. Congress.

 

"Statehood won a victory without precedent but it's an artificial victory," said Angel Israel Rivera Ortiz, a political science professor at the University of Puerto Rico. "It reflects a divided and confused electorate that is not clear on where it's going."

 

President Barack Obama had said he would support the will of the Puerto Rican people on the question of the island's relationship to the U.S., referred to simply on the island as its "status," and this week's referendum was intended to be the barometer.

 

But the results aren't so clear cut. It was a two-part ballot that first asked all voters if they favor the current status as a U.S. territory. Regardless of the answer, all voters then had the opportunity to choose in the second question from three options: statehood, independence or "sovereign free association," which would grant more autonomy to the island of nearly 4 million people.

 

More than 900,000 voters, or 54 percent, responded "no" to the first question, saying they were not content with the current status.

 

On the second question, only about 1.3 million voters made a choice. Of those, nearly 800,000, or 61 percent of those expressing an opinion, chose statehood - the first majority after three previous referendums on the issue over the past 45 years. Some 437,000 backed sovereign free association and 72,560 chose independence. Nearly 500,000, however, left that question blank.

 

"We made history with this plebiscite," said Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the island's representative in Congress and a member of both the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and the Democratic Party.

 

The certified results will be sent to the White House and the congressional leadership, and it would be up to them to begin the process of possibly admitting Puerto Rico into the union.

 

"The ball is now in Congress' court and Congress will have to react to this result," Pierluisi said. "This is a clear result that says 'no' to the current status."

 

Gov. Luis Fortuno, a member of the pro-statehood party who is also a Republican, welcomed the results and said he was hopeful that Congress would take up the cause.

 

But Fortuno won't be around to lead the fight: Voters turned him out of office after one term, and gave the governship to Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party, which wants Puerto Rico to remain a semi-autonomous U.S. commonwealth.

 

Garcia has pledged to hold a constitutional assembly in 2014 to address the island's status, followed by another referendum with support from Congress.

 

Margarita Nolasco, the vice president of the Puerto Rican Senate from the pro-statehood party, said she feared the commonwealth forces would seek to undermine the plebiscite.

 

"At the beginning of the last century, statehood appeared to be an impossible dream," Nolasco said. "After a century of battles and electoral defeats, statehood just became the political force of majority that Puerto Ricans prefer."

 

Besides pointing to the defeat of the governor, albeit by a margin of less than 1 percent, skeptics point to other signs that statehood is not ascendant in Puerto Rico.

 

Luis Delgado Rodriguez, who leads a group that supports sovereign free association, noted all the voters who left the second question blank, raising questions about their preference. He said those voters, coupled with those who support independence and sovereign free association, add up to more than those who favored statehood.

 

"This represents an overwhelming majority against statehood," he said.

 

The results are also murky because everyone could vote in the second round no matter how they marked the first question - and the choice of "sovereign free association" is not the same as the current status. So people could have voted for both no change in the first round and any of the choices in the second. Nearly 65,000 left the first question blank.

 

"With that kind of message, Congress is not going to do anything, and neither is President Obama," Rivera said.

 

Puerto Rico has been a territory for 114 years and its people have been U.S. citizens since 1917. Residents of the island cannot vote in the U.S. presidential election, have no representation in the Senate and only limited representation in the House of Representatives.

 

It's a situation that frustrates many, as does the long-simmering political uncertainty. Independence was once the dominant political movement on the island but no longer: Only 6 percent of voters opted to sever ties from the U.S., a prospect that scared voters like 31-year-old Jose Ramos.

 

"I prefer that the United States helps us, because to stand on our own two feet, no," said the father of three. "I don't want this to become a republic. That scares me."

 

 

Puerto Rico Vote

for Statehood Questioned

by Jack Kenny

New American (8 November 2012)

 

Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory since 1898, voted in favor of statehood for the first time Tuesday, with 61 percent of the island's voters opting for inclusion as the 51st state in a non-binding referendum. Yet the same voters gave a narrow victory in the governor's race to Alejandro Garcia Padilla, whose Popular Democratic Party opposes statehood. Padilla appears to have edged out incumbent Luis Fortuno of the New Progressive Party by less than one percent of the vote.

In a two-part question, voters rejected, by 54 to 46 percent, continuation of their current commonwealth status. On the second question, 61 percent of the voters chose statehood as the alternative, with 33 percent opting for a semi-autonomous "sovereign free association" and only six percent in favor of complete independence. It was the first vote in favor of statehood, something island residents voted against in 1967, 1993, and 1998. A troubled economy and an exodus of residents from the island had a significant effect on the vote this time, Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock told Cable News Network.

 

"I think people just came to realize that the current relationship simply does not create the number of jobs that we need," McClintock said, noting that 58 percent of Puerto Ricans now live on the U.S. mainland. "When you have a political status that scares away half of your population, it is time to reject that political status," he said.

 

Not everyone on the island is convinced, however, that statehood is truly the choice of a majority of the residents. Some say the question concerning the continuation of the commonwealth status was badly worded, leading many to vote "no." The choice of alternatives was left blank on a third of all ballots cast. And the option favored by the Popular Democratic Party - to consider a report by the Obama administration, offering several options to the status quo, before voting on an alternative - was not on the ballot.

 

Puerto Rico residents were made citizens of the United States in 1917, nearly 20 years after the U.S. captured the island from Spain in the Spanish-American War. The island is not included in the Electoral College, however, so its residents cannot vote in presidential elections. They are represented in Congress only by a non-voting resident commissioner in the House of Representatives. Tuesday's vote was non-binding, though it would likely have some influence on members of Congress. Statehood for the island would require a two-thirds affirmative vote in each chamber.

 

Given the tax and spending issues currently facing the nation, with existing tax cuts due to expire in the coming "Taxmageddon" of January and a sequester threatening continued funding of both military and social programs, statehood for Puerto Rico appears likely to remain on the back burner for the time being - at least until Puerto Ricans themselves more clearly sort out the option they prefer.

 

"It isn't clear what change we want," Jorge Benitez, a political science professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras told CNN, "but we want change."

 

 

Puerto Rico Statehood

Experts Challenge Results

By Christina Ng

ABC News (November 8, 2012)

 

A vote in Puerto Rico over the island's status as a U.S. territory has triggered a fierce debate over whether a majority voted to become the 51st state.

 

The island territory has been debating the issue for decades and pro-statehood politicians are celebrating Tuesday's vote claiming it was the first time in 45 years that Puerto Ricans have voted for statehood.

Others, however, are challenging that conclusion and argue that the vote indicates opposition to statehood.

"Puerto Ricans in general are just dissatisfied with the current government," Yarimar Bonilla, a Rutgers University assistant professor of anthropology and Caribbean studies, told ABCNews.com. "They voted against the government in place and they voted for change."

 

A slim majority of voters in the Caribbean island territory chose statehood in a plebiscite, which is a non-binding referendum in which people express their opinions for or against a proposal.

 

CLICK HERE for more on referendum results.

 

The ballot included offices including the governor as well as its territory status. It's not known how many voters skipped the territory question.

 

The territory question had two parts. The first part asked voters if they favored their current status as a U.S. territory. About 54 percent of voters said no, that they were not happy with the status quo.

From there, everyone could answer a second question that gave three options: statehood, sovereign free association or independence. Sovereign free association is not the same as the current status.

 

Only about 1.3 million voters answered the second question. Of those, 61 percent chose statehood, 33 percent chose the semi-autonomous choice and 6 percent chose independence, according to the AP. Nearly 500,000 people left the question blank. The population of Puerto Rico is nearly 4 million people.

 

It was the first time statehood won a majority of votes in similar referendums in the past 45 years.

 

"Statehood didn't win," Bonilla said. "There was a vote of whether people wanted to change the current status or not and the majority voted for change in current status. However, that wasn't a win for statehood."

 

"If you take into account the number of people who want to continue with the status that they have now and the amount of people who voted for an option other than statehood, then statehood doesn't have a majority vote," she said.

Additionally, the people voted to oust Gov. Luis Fortuna, a member of the pro-statehood party, along with other pro-statehood leaders.

 

"The state party was defeated in the general election," Edgardo Melendez, a Hunter College professor in the Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies told ABCNews.com. "The statehood governor lost. They lost both chambers of the legislature. This is a general victory for the Popular Democratic party, which supports commonwealth."

 

But those who are pro-statehood are elated with the victory.

 

"We made history with this plebiscite," Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi told the AP. Pierluisi is Puerto Rico's representative in Congress and a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and the Democratic Party.

"The ball is now in Congress' court and Congress will have to react to this result," he said. "This is a clear result that says 'no' to the current status."

 

The results of the vote will be sent to Congress and to the White House. It would be up to Congress to initiate a process to make Puerto Rico the 51st state.

 

"Nothing is going to come of this," Bonilla said. "There's no consensus. You have a divided population. There's no way Obama can say that the Puerto Rican people have spoken in a united voice for anything."

 

Bonilla said the ballot was designed by the statehood party, not by Congress.

 

"If you compare what statehood got in this election with previous plebiscites, it's not such a big difference," Melendez said. "There is no real growth in the statehood option so we have to be very, very careful in saying this is a victory for statehood because it's not."

 

 

Puerto Rican Statehood

Unlikely to Pass Through Congress,

Aides Say

Fox News Latino (November 8, 2012)

 

Despite Puerto Ricans voting for the first time in support for U.S. statehood in a non-binding referendum Tuesday, island residents shouldn't start designing a 51 star U.S. flag anytime soon.

 

With the looming fiscal cliff and other issues coming before Congress, legislators see little pressing need to pass anything related to the island's status at this moment.

 

Just over 61 percent of voters on the island favored seeking to make Puerto Rico the 51st state, while 33 percent supported an enhanced commonwealth arrangement. Just 5 percent were in favor of full independence.

 

Statehood would require the approval of the U.S. Congress.

 

The opposition Popular Democratic Party, whose candidate Alejandro Garc�a Padilla won the gubernatorial contest, favors maintaining commonwealth status.

 

The referendum was the initiative of now-outgoing Gov. Luis Fortu�o, whose New Progressive Party advocates for statehood.

 

Fortu�o's loss throws the statehood issue into question. Even if Puerto Rico's non-voting Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi (D), continues to push for statehood in the U.S. Congress, the effort seems futile given incoming Gov. Garc�a Padilla's stance on the issue.

 

"The new government doesn't support statehood," one House aide said, according to the Hill.

Some people on Capitol Hill also voiced concern that Fortu�o only supported statehood so he could draw more voters to the polls and save his fledgling re-election campaign.

 

With the U.S. Congress looking almost identical to the pre-election Congress, the statehood issue also faces another major hurdle.

 

Republicans, who retained control of the House, are generally opposed to Puerto Rican statehood. This makes any push by pro-statehood Puerto Ricans very difficult as they would have to make it through the GOP-controlled House to move on to the Democrat-controlled Senate.

 

Since the 2010 status report that outlined options the island might pursue, the Obama administration has so far remained mum on the issue.

 

Puerto Rico came under Washington's sway in 1898 and island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.

 

Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy.

 

Tuesday was the fourth time in 45 years that Puerto Ricans have been asked to express themselves on the status question.

The first referendum, in 1967, produced a majority of just over 60 percent in favor of remaining a U.S. commonwealth. In 1993, support for commonwealth status had shrunk to a 48.6 percent plurality.

 

Five years later, 50.3 percent of Puerto Ricans casting ballots rejected all three options - statehood, independence and commonwealth - and checked the box marked "none of the above."

 

Efe contributed reporting to this article.

 

 

Puerto Rico votes for statehood, but Cleveland-area Puerto Ricans don't see it happening

By Michael O'Malley

The Plain Dealer  (November 7, 2012)

 

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Despite a first-time election victory in Puerto Rico on Tuesday for those pushing U.S. statehood, members of the local Puerto Rican community interviewed Wednesday predict the effort will go nowhere.

 

The referendum that solidly rejected the island's status as a U.S. territory in favor of becoming the country's 51st state was non-binding and would have to be approved by Congress.

 

But that approval, say local Puerto Ricans, is a long shot because the issue is too complex, too much of a political hot potato and too far off Congress's radar.

 

Jose Feliciano, chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable, a Cleveland-area nonprofit group working to empower Latinos, said it would be likely that Democrats would win significant congressional representation if Puerto Rico became a state, thereby raising opposition from Republicans.

 

Furthermore, he said, "there's not enough public sentiment for it in the United States."

 

"This is a huge sell," said Feliciano who was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico, and supports statehood.

 

"The American public is tied up with issues of the U.S. economy, and the world economy," he said. "And you're taking on a state with a significant unemployment rate? Many would look at that as an economic challenge."

 

The bilingual island - English and Spanish - is a U.S. commonwealth whose people are U.S. citizens. If they live on the island, they can vote in presidential primary elections, but not in general elections. If they live in the United States, they can vote in both.

 

About 3.5 million people live on the island and about 4 million live in the states. Puerto Ricans pushing statehood refer to the island as a "colony," likening it to the 18th century American colonies that revolted against their English governors.

 

Since Tuesday's referendum vote was the first victory for statehood, following years of defeats, the issue, said Feliciano, is at least "worthy of a congressional debate," but he added, "I'd be surprised if that happened."

 

Juan Molina Crespo, director of the nonprofit Hispanic Alliance on Cleveland's West Side, agreed, saying there is not enough political clout among the Puerto Rican community to get Congress' attention.

 

"We're somewhat of a voiceless and faceless minority," he said. "There is no real thought or resources addressing this issue politically and economically. It's an afterthought."

 

Puerto Rico-born Gerardo Colon of Cleveland, the Latino coordinator for the Cleveland schools issue in Tuesday's election, believes Puerto Rico should go beyond statehood. He wants an independent nation.

 

"We are the only fools that think a colony is good," said Colon. "It's foolish to think that we cannot make it. We have the resources. We should be independent."

 

Margie Colon of Cleveland - no relation to Gerardo - said the fight for statehood has been going back and forth for years, yet going nowhere.

 

She leans toward keeping her birthplace a commonwealth. She's afraid that if Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will lose its culture and language.

 

"The United States does a lot for Puerto Rico," she said. "We need the help and we want the help. But we don't want the United States to take away our culture."

 

 

Puerto Rico's Status Vote

Far From Definitive

By Juan Antonio Ocasio Rivera (November 8, 2012)

 

Much is being said about the vote in Puerto Rico and in particular, the vote on the island's future political relationship with the United States.   Interestingly, some news outlets are simplifying the results, presenting them as overwhelming votes for statehood or reporting that Puerto Ricans want to be a part of the United States. A closer look at the dynamics involved in the referendum yield a more complicated scenario.

 

Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898, when American naval fleets bombarded San Juan during the Spanish-American War and subsequently invaded through the island's southern coasts. Islanders, having been involved in their own struggle for independence from Spain as well as having taken a blood oath with the Cuban independence struggle, either fought skirmishes with the invading American troops or welcomed them with open arms, imagining that they would be blessed with the liberties promised by American political ideals. Instead, martial law was established, Spanish citizenship outlawed, currency devalued, and independence supporters persecuted.

 

In the end, Puerto Rico was to remain a colonial territory, a possession, this time under the tutelage of the United States. Over time, the relationship developed amidst turmoil and controversy. In response to Puerto Rican Nationalist agitation and growing violence between island police forces and nationalist revolutionaries demanding independence, and international pressure, the US in 1952 developed the current political status known as the Commonwealth. The status, which allowed the island to develop its own local government, did not change the fundamental political relationship with the US, as Congress continued to maintain full political responsibility over the island. To this day, Puerto Ricans continue to call for some type of change to this political status.

 

Several times over the course of this history, the island has been offered opportunities to express its opinion regarding the political status issue via local referendum. Each one has yielded the same general result with the status quo Commonwealth status winning the consultation, although with the caveat at times of what the Carter Administration referred to as a campaign of "dirty tricks" being conducted by the CIA in their fraudulent meddling with the 1967 gubernatorial election and referendum there.   This casts doubt on the legitimacy of the results as does the consistent interference with the island's independence movement by the FBI and the island's local police forces.

 

In recent years, the issue of the political status of Puerto Rico flared up once again with the release of the Bush Administration's report on the issue, which confirmed once again that the island was a colonial territory of the US and claimed, among other things, that the US had the legal right to promptly surrender the island to any other nation. Alarmed by the colonialist nature of this position, island political leadership began pressuring Congress for a first: a referendum on status organized and sponsored by Congress itself, making the results binding.     The Congressional behemoth, paralyzed by fears of a Spanish-speaking Latin American nation with a history of radical nationalism becoming the 51st state, did not respond and left the issue to be addressed by the island's local government.   Pro-statehood officials at the helm of the Commonwealth then organized this two-step vote in order to gauge the will of the people.

 

The design of the vote went something like this:   The governor of Puerto Rico, a pro-statehood Tea Party supporter who supported draconian economic measures and laid off 30,000 government workers at the outset of his administration, and his statehood party, designed the so-called plebiscite. They determined that since the Bush administration report called the Commonwealth status territorial and colonial, and since everyone knows colonialism is wrong and must be remedied, the status vote should only include options that are not colonial in nature. Thus, the options were determined to be: statehood, independence, and a version of Commonwealth supported by some and named "enhanced Commonwealth".   This last option would signify some kind of relationship with the US but with greater autonomy and power wielded by the island over herself.

 

However, the pro-Commonwealth party protested the measure, insisting that the majority of Puerto Ricans want the status quo and denied that the current status was colonial in nature. This caused fracture and division in their party, as some internally pushed the party to adopt a stance supporting more autonomy and power for the island.

 

While the independence movement continued to call for the island's independence as a remedy for the invasion and conquest of the island and rejected statehood as just another form of colonialism, the Puerto Rican Independence Party then proposed that a two-step vote be taken. One step designed to allow the people to declare their rejection or acceptance of the current political status and the second step allowing those who reject the status quo to declare their future status preference. The pro-Statehood administration accepted this proposal and the measure was passed over the objection of the Commonwealthers who promptly declared they would abstain from the process and called on their supporters to either abstain or conduct protest votes (either submit a blank vote or write a protest message on the ballot).

 

The initial results on Election Day were quite interesting. Incumbent Governor Luis Fortuno, a favorite of the US Republican Party, was voted out of office as the electorate, angry over layoffs, social turmoil, spiraling crime rates, corruption, and high unemployment, decided to place their confidence in pro-Commonwealth candidate Alejandro Garcia.

 

The so-called plebiscite results were equally as interesting. The first question resulted in a mild rejection of the status quo with 54% voting NO on continuing the Commonwealth status and 46% voting YES.   A closer look reveals that if one includes protest votes in the total then the true support for NO drops to 51%. The second question is now the subject of raging debate.

 

First reports placed Statehood with 61% support, followed by enhanced commonwealth with 33% and independence with 6%.   Why would the electorate vote a pro-Commonwealth governor into power but reject the Commonwealth status? Why would they vote a pro-Commonwealth governor into power but select Statehood as their preferred status?   What would have happened if the vote included the normal actual status quo Commonwealth as an option? Would it have won the vote?

 

A closer examination of the ballots now reveal something else.   If again one includes the blank votes submitted by Commonwealth supporters (470, 032 votes) and invalidated votes (17, 673) then the number of total votes changes, leading one to conclude that statehood received a total of 804, 637 votes (45%) and non-statehood a total of 998, 892 votes (55%).   Under this scenario, the majority of the electorate on the island does not really support statehood. Additionally, it is interesting to note that approximately 40% of the electorate voted to support Puerto Rico's sovereignty (either in relation to the US or as an independent country).

 

Also, it is evident that even if folks voted YES in support of the status quo in the first question thus eliminating the need for them to vote in the second part for a preferred status option, many went ahead and voted in the second part of the referendum anyway since no control measure was placed over that process. This may have skewed the true sentiments of the electorate.

 

Well known sports figures on the island tweeted their opinion following the results, declaring their desire to continue to represent the island during Olympic events, an implicit rejection of statehood. The island would lose its independent Olympic representation if it becomes a state.   The results provoked a flurry of commentary across the island, as some expressed a desire to become a state based on the their perception that the island would receive a marked increase in federal tax dollars - a perception strongly promoted by the island's pro-statehood party, and others denouncing statehood as a death sentence for the island's rich culture, Latin American history, Spanish language, and fervent national identity.

 

In the end, the vote was a referendum, a consultation on the opinion of the electorate. It is non-binding meaning Congress has no obligation to act on the results and as in the past, will likely ignore the results. Governor elect Garcia has called the status vote "a mess" and has stated he would ignore the results and instead call for a Constituent Assembly in January 2014. This mechanism entails organizing a national convention designed to discuss status options and present alternatives to Congress in an effort to negotiate a status with the United States.

 

In the end, it is clear that the current Commonwealth status has reached its end. With Puerto Rico in severe social, economic, environmental, and political crisis having occurred within the Commonwealth system with no real solutions being available within that system, it is evident that this political status is no longer functional and effective for the development and success of the island and its population. Its limitations have taken a severe toll on the island. Additionally, any system of government that is colonial in nature is one that is wrong, obsolete, and according to the UN, a crime and an impediment to world peace.

 

Whatever one may think about this issue, the truth is that it continues to be a deeply complicated and passionate one. The complexities cannot be escaped from or evaded. Statehood supporters claim they have a right to statehood and have begun to use civil rights language, since they feel they are Americans, are proud of their American citizenship, proud of the participation of Puerto Ricans in the US Armed Forces, state they want equality and economic parity with the rest of the states, and wish to deepen this relationship with the US.

 

Commonwealth supporters express pride in being Puerto Rican but also deeply value American citizenship, express they have the best of both worlds, reject the notion that Puerto Rico is a colony, value American military defense over the island, and talk of a permanent relationship with the US.  

 

Independence supporters express a wish to have full control over the island's economic, political, territorial, and social affairs, wish to have international representation by joining the United Nations and full economic partnerships with other countries, and refer to the island's continued colonization as a relic of the past akin to slavery and imperialism, as well as calling for freedom of their political prisoners and an end to FBI interference in their movement.

 

However, there is one element not being mentioned. This being a process of decolonization, it is striking that the United Nations has not been invited to take part in this process.   Whereas the United States traditionally rejects the UN's annual call for Puerto Rico's independence and self-determination, it has also admitted that the island is a colonial territory that has never undergone a process of self-determination.

 

Since the US has acknowledged that the UN is the body legally responsible for decolonization of territories, it is disheartening that it would continue to isolate the United Nations from this process, especially considering the complexity of the issue involved here and the expertise that the UN wields. International law dictates that the international community is charged with leading and organizing such a process and here Puerto Rico sadly struggles with her political future after being militarily invaded with no help allowed from the community of nations. In spite of calls made for Puerto Rico's freedom from dozens of countries in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, there is no concrete step taken by the colonial power to remedy their act of colonization and break the chains of political bondage.

 

As the Caribbean archipelago of Puerto Rico once again grapples with visions of the future which are affected by experiences of the past, one can only hope that the final result is one of justice, deserving of a people subjected to over 500 years of colonialism and who yearn, just as everyone does, for a brighter future and a better tomorrow.

 

Sources:

Juan Antonio Ocasio Rivera is an activist and social worker who has written widely on Puerto Rican issues. From Brooklyn, he now lives in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. He can be reached at JOBoriken@aol.com.