Decolonization, democracy and solidarity with Puerto Rico
by Olga I. Sanabria Davila and Hector L.Lopez( member of the Green Party of the U.S.)
The essence of the Puerto Rico issue is the colonial status, therefore, since colonialism is an historical anachronism that has long been declared contrary to international law and human rights, there should be no problem in progressive and left forces supporting the decolonization of Puerto Rico and recognizing the injustices inherent in the colonial relation which the United States has maintained with Puerto Rico since its invasion of the Island in 1898, almost one hundred and twelve years ago.
Commitment to grassroots democracy is totally consistent with support for the decolonization of Puerto Rico as colonialism is also totally contrary to democracy. For the country ruled, democracy is non existent where one country rules over another, if even if there are elections every four years to elect local authorities. Taking into account that in Puerto Rico the United States controls commerce, international relations, immigration, monetary issues, communications, postal matters, defense, labor relations, and others, to truly support democracy in Puerto Rico, its decolonization has to be supported as the first step for the Puerto Rican people to live in a democracy.
The issue of the support of the Puerto Rican people for independence and there not being enough support, therefore, is not an impediment for solidarity with Puerto Rico. Support for decolonization is a matter of principle precisely because colonialism is contrary to human rights, contrary to self-determination and contrary to democracy.
Regarding decolonization, what comes into play is what should be the mechanism in order that the Puerto Rican people FREELY exercise their sovereignty and their right to self-determination which are the INALIENABLE rights of all peoples as recognized by international law, specifically by Resolution 1514(XV) of the United Nations General Assembly (1960), which is considered the Magna Carta of Decolonization.
Further, it must be stated that regarding the future status of Puerto Rico, the only option recognized by international law as inalienable, is the right to independence. International law maintains that all peoples have the inalienable right to self-determination and independence. The Free Associated State status and statehood for Puerto Rico are not inalienable rights. Further Puerto Ricans are a separate people from the people of the United States. Before the United States invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, the nationhood of the Puerto Rican people had been forged during more than four hundred years, during which our culture and national identity became clear and distinct from that of any other people in the world. The Free Associated State status and statehood for Puerto Rico are not inalienable rights. Besides being an inalienable right, because Puerto Rico is a nation, its natural aspiration is for independence.
The plebiscites, referendums and the like carried out in Puerto Rico are not the solution precisely because they have not been free exercises of the will of the Puerto Rican people. They have taken place in the context of colonial rule, military occupation, repression and persecution of the independence forces, economic dependence and colonial legislation and U.S. Congressional legislation. Thus, their results cannot be said to reflect the true will of the Puerto Rican people.
While the United States has maintained that it will accept the will and decision of the Puerto Ricans regarding their status, it has obstructed the process by maintaining that the issue is its internal matter and not recognizing the role of the United Nations. Precisely through these types of processes, it has used its power in Puerto Rico to maintain the present status, which is the option most consistent with its economic, political and other interests in Puerto Rico.
These are the reasons that the Puerto Rican pro independence forces and even some supporting other options continually resort to United Nations Resolution 1514(XV). It is recognized that the United Nations has a role to play. In order for an expression of the will of the Puerto Rican people regarding its future relation to the United States to be a free exercise, it must be supervised by the United Nations because it is understood that otherwise the determining factor in any exercise will be the power relationship.
As regards the present situation regarding the political status, while it is true that a lot of work needs to be done by the pro independence forces in order that support for this option grow substantially, there is in Puerto Rico an overall sentiment that the present situation and the colonial status must be resolved.
Cleavages along which Puerto Rico's main political parties are divided, delineate options which, according to the retoric of leaders of even the pro statehood and pro Free Associated State parties, move the country away from the colonial status. Even those supporting statehood (which would be the culmination of colonialism in Puerto Rico) continually attack the Free Associated State as colonial and the second class U.S citizenship of Puerto Ricans under the Free Associated State as the root of the country's problems.
Meanwhile, within the pro Free Associated State Popular Democratic Party, there is a growing so-called autonomous, pro sovereignty wing, which espouses greater powers for the Free Associated State, including to freely engage in international trade relations, and that outside of certain areas only powers specifically delegated should be exercised by the U.S. over Puerto Rico.
The vibrant social movements active today in Puerto Rico regarding women's rights, civil rights, community empowerment, the environment, youth, sports, culture, labor, cooperative economic endeavors, and many other areas, are in constant encounter with the colonial status as an impediment to their objectives. Thus, these social movements are also a base of the anti-colonial, potentially pro independence movement, that will participate in any future exercise in self-determination supervised by the international community, specifically the United Nations.
These movements and the pro independence movement and organizations overlap in many scenarios, and along with the action of the United Nations and international solidarity, especially that of the people of the United States and our Latin American and Caribbean region, are the basis for the future possibility independence and democracy in Puerto Rico.
The inalienable right to self-determination is for all of the Puerto Rican people to exercise including those who do not support independence, but in order to be legitimate and a true exercise of self-determination with a level playing field for those supporting independence, which is also an inalienable right, the mechanism for its exercise must a fair one that abides by international law, not any plebiscite or referendum.