The virtual Democratic nominee for U.S. president has just clarified his previous position on commonwealth. The myopic visionaries of 1952 commonwealth are still reeling. Like colonial ostriches, some bury their heads in the past and insist nothing has changed.
The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for governor is visibly nervous. With the colonial fig leaf blown off and that commonwealth arrangement’s colonial and territorial nakedness exposed, he behaves like the proverbial ostrich and still insists John Kerry’s revised position on Puerto Rico’s status “needs clarification.” (Friday, June 18.)
Two and a half months ago, Kerry reportedly responded favorably to the PDP candidate’s desperate request to keep the current commonwealth as an option for the resolution of Puerto Rico’s status. (STAR, April 5) My open letter to Kerry in the STAR’s View Point section (April 8) pointed out the logical inconsistency of proposing a solution with that which requires a solution. It noted that the U.S. must dispose of a Puerto Rico governed by the plenary powers of Congress under the Territory Clause of Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. constitution in a responsible exercise of power to implement Puerto Rico’s decolonization in keeping with international and U.S. law.
John Kerry has not gone that far, but his clarification is a small step in the right direction. He has announced that, as president, he would authorize Puerto Ricans to choose a status that “includes national government democracy” from among all options “permitted by the constitution and basic policies of the United States.” (KERRY POLICY PAPER, June 11) Subsequent consensus interpretations suggest that, while Kerry expresses no status preference, he might support inclusion of the commonwealth arrangement in periodic referenda (like those proposed by Bush the Father in 1991) “until the issue is resolved.”
This, however, leaves colonial commonwealth without cover. First off, it logically implies that the current arrangement is no longer acceptable in the long run. Secondly, Kerry’s policy paper explicitly states that Puerto Rico is “an unincorporated territory of the United States and its ultimate status remains undetermined.”
Isn’t this what we independentistas have been saying all along? Bye-bye “compact.” So long “permanent union.” Hello confessed “monumental hoax” on the international community, the Congress, the courts, and the American people. Kerry’s small step has been a kick in the shin to those still enthralled with colonialism in the 21st century; and it could be the beginning of an historical rectification.
Only last month, at a legislative hearing, the PDP standard bearer responded to Puerto Rican Independence Party senator Fernando Martín that he did not consider existing commonwealth to be “colonial” or “territorial.” What will PDP traditionalists like him and his mentor, the incumbent governor, now defend in a future referendum? A re-named unincorporated territory? Will they continue to hire lobbyists with unreported checks to try and keep the status issue dormant in Washington? Or will they continue to spend millions in peace advertisements while tolerating the sacrifice of Puerto Rican youth in the altars of war to placate the false gods of the Pentagon?
Statehood activists, however, need not gloat. Lest they become overly enthused, they should re-read the fine print in Kerry’s revised statement. The notion of periodic referenda means that for statehood to be an option “permitted by the constitution and basic policies of the United States,” Puerto Rico would have to declare its resolve many times over, with increasing intensity and unimpeachable evidence, that Puerto Ricans are no longer a distinct identity, but purely, simply, and 100% loyally devoted Americans. As Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos clearly saw more than 60 years ago, the supreme definition has to be “yanquis o puertorriqueños.”
The inability to serve two masters dictates why a permanent solution can only be found in “a status that includes national government democracy.” The only democratic solution for the Puerto Rican nation is the power to determine its own future through sovereignty. For the U.S. to incorporate Puerto Rico into its unitary federal structure would be an invitation to the permanent strife found in so many multinational states. Furthermore, for Puerto Rico, incorporation would be most undemocratic: 50 American jurisdictions would determine the destiny of a Spanish-speaking Latin American nation of the Caribbean, permanently in the minority.
While Kerry’s revised stance is a small step towards a policy seeking the only democratic solution consistent with the U.S. constitution, its implications are significant as a good beginning for a decolonization process in tandem with a Puerto Rican constitutional assembly on status. Now Republicans will have to come up with something better than presidential task force visitors.