"CALM, CLEAR PERSPECTIVE ON P.R. STATUS"
THE SAN JUAN STAR, VIEWPOINT, TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 1996, PAGE 44.
In his August 10 Readers Viewpoint letter R.H. Lluch asked if "Puerto Rico is a nation, territory, possession, colony, commonwealth, a free associated state (ELA), some abstruse political state or entity." No doubt Lluchs question is also in the mind of most people in Puerto Rico these days. I hope the following commentary contributes to clarifying the existing confusion on the subject matter.
First of all, I wish to point out that things must be seen as they really are and not as we would like them to be. Therefore, we must call things by their own name free of emotion, sentimentalism, political and ideological fanaticism and above political frontiers, adjusting them to the historical truth and reality.
I fully agree with those political scientists who assert that in an inhabited region there is an ethnic and sociological entity composed of people who speak the same language, have the same customs, traditions and a common origin and place of birth. This is known in Spanish as a pueblo. When this pueblo becomes a free, independent and sovereign state, it becomes a political and juridical entity with international recognition and acceptance and is known as nation. So, we have today, for example, a group of pueblos which are free, independent and sovereign states, and which form part of an institution known as the United Nations.
It is may judgment that Puerto Rico is a pueblo, an ethnic and sociological entity, but not a free independent and sovereign state and a political and juridical entity which could be characterized as a nation with the international recognition and acceptance which is given to such term at present.
Whether some political sectors like it or not, the historical truth and juridical reality is that Puerto Rico is a pueblo which belongs to but is not a part of the U.S. juridically and constitutionally speaking. Our island is still a possession and an unincorporated territory of the United States, with its sovereignty and political future in the hands of the U.S. Congress. This has been the case since Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States under the provisions of the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Irrespective of the so-called 1952 "bilateral pact" (the reality has clearly indicated that such a pact never existed) between Puerto Rico and the United States, and U.S. Law 600, which brought about the present commonwealth status (Estado Libre Asociado) and Puerto Ricos Constitution, which was amended by the U.S. Congress and was subject to its approval. The reality is that this island is still governed by the U.S. Congress, which continues to unilaterally approve laws affecting Puerto Rico.
We continue to be an unincorporated U.S. territory as clearly ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court since the famous Insular Cases at the beginning of the century and said ruling has been upheld to date by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts. Our resident commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives continues without voting rights and U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico are still deprived of the full political rights to which they are entitled under their citizenship. As was expressed by José Trías Monge, one of the architects of the present political status and former chief justice of Puerto Ricos Supreme Court, "after 1952, Puerto Rico continues to confront a colonial status and Puerto Ricans have the distinction of having the longest history of colonialism in the world."
In addition to the question, "what are we," there is the question, "where are we headed," not mentioned by Lluch but also very much on the mind of the people of Puerto Rico today. In response to this question, I regret saying we are headed nowhere and will continue in this political status limbo until there is a consensus among us as to what political status we want. We are headed nowhere as long as our political parties and leaders shamefully continue with the daily bickering, finger pointing, name calling, mudslinging, nitpicking, and political rhetoric and childish political propaganda which offends our intelligence, as evidenced by recent politically motivated television videotapes.
As long as we continue with this political campaign trash and pulling each others hair at congressional status hearings, the U.S. Congress will not take us seriously and will not approve a realistic, workable and just political status legislation which would permit us to intelligently choose a political status which could bring to Puerto Rico long-range political and economic stability and assure Puerto Ricans a well deserved peace, tranquility and security. We have reached a point of "to be or not to be."
Either we favor the real permanent union with the United States under statehood, or we favor absolute independence with the possibility of subsequently entering into a free association pact with the United States under a treaty between two independent and sovereign nations, as has been the case of free association pacts between the United States and the Marshall Islands. These are the three decolonization political status options internationally recognized as established in the United Nations Resolution 1541 approved on December 14, 1960 and to which the United States was one of the signatories.
What we cannot continue doing is support an intermediate political status, like commonwealth, and pretend enjoying maximum autonomic powers from the United States demanding economic parity with the states, enjoying U.S. citizenship, a common market, currency and defense, but no obligations to the United States such as contributing to the federal treasury by paying federal taxes. This status of having the best of two worlds amounts to political gigoloism, and is offensive to the intelligence of the members of the U.S. Congress and is not in line with the self-respect, dignity and decency of the people of Puerto Rico.
To conclude, I wish to mention what the late Luis Muñoz Marín said in his memorable speech in Barranquitas on July 17, 1951: "What we have to guard against in this world we live in is not to confuse love for our patria (pueblo) with small, futile and naive concepts of nationalism and national state."