"FREE ASSOCIATION REQUIRES SOVEREIGNTY FIRST"
THE SAN JUAN STAR, VIEWPOINT, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1996, PAGE 46.
The people of Puerto Rico are still mistakenly let to believe that free association could be separate from the independence status option formula for us to be voted in a status plebiscite. Under these circumstances, I am motivated to comment on the place of free association in the Young status bill and in the United Nations 1960 Resolution 1541 regarding internationally accepted decolonization status formulas.
The updated Young status bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 28 and is known as U.S.-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, H.R. 4281. It will be reintroduced for the consideration of the 105th U.S. Congress, which convenes in January 1997. As it stands as of this writing, the updated Young bill (which eliminates a requirement for statehood the teaching of the English language in our public schools) contains in essence the following three status options: (Space limitations do not permit outlining the full text of the provisions under the options.)
1. Commonwealth. Although not a decolonization status formula, it was included to give those who in the exercise of their right to self-determination, wish to vote in favor of retaining the present commonwealth status. It is provided under this formula that Puerto Rico continues with the present Commonwealth structure for self-government with respect to internal affairs and administration and continues as a locally self-governing unincorporated U.S. territory. I personally feel this option should not be included because it is not a legitimate decolonization formula. The same applies to an enhanced commonwealth and even to the winning Commonwealth status formula in the 1993 plebiscite (which has been rejected by Congress). Lets not forget that as long as Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory, the U.S. Congress can impose English as an official language, unlike the case of Puerto Rico as a state, because language is a constitutional prerogative left to the states to decide.
2. Statehood. Under this status, the people of Puerto Rico will be self-governing, with their rights secured under the U.S. Constitution, and will have equal rights and benefits, as well as equal duties and responsibilities of citizenship as those in the states. U.S. citizenship will be protected and secured. Puerto Rico will be represented by two senators in the U.S. Senate and will have representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives proportionate to population. English will be the official language of business and communication in federal courts and agencies as made applicable by federal law to every other state. (My comment: This is presently the case in Puerto Rico.) U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are enfranchised to vote for President and Vice-president of the United States.
3. Separate Sovereignty for the United States. If this is the winning status in a plebiscite, Puerto Rico will become a separate sovereignty from the United States which could lead to absolute independence or a free association with the United States under a negotiated treaty between the sovereign nation of Puerto Rico and the sovereign nation of the United States.
As a nation with absolute independence or as a nation with a free association pact with the United States, Puerto Rico will be a sovereign nation with full authority and responsibility for its internal and external affairs and will have the capacity to exercise in its own name and right the powers of government with respect to its territory and population. The constitution and laws of the United States will no longer apply in Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico will owe allegiance to the sovereign nation of Puerto Rico and will have the nationality and citizenship thereof. U.S. sovereignty, nationality and citizenship in Puerto Rico will end. Birth in Puerto Rico and relationship to people with statutory U.S. citizenship by birth in the former U.S. territory (Puerto Rico) will not be a basis for U.S. nationality or citizenship, except that people who had such U.S. citizenship will have a statutory right to retain U.S. nationality and citizenship for life by entitlement or election as provided by the U.S. Congress based on continued allegiance to the United States, provided such people do not have or maintain allegiance, nationality and citizenship rights in any nation other than the United States. The representatives of the nation of Puerto Rico in the United States will be accorded full diplomatic status.
With respect to Free Association, the updated Young bill has the following provision:
It must be noted that the real and accepted decolonization status options are statehood, absolute independence or subsequently a decision by the Republic of Puerto Rico to enter a free association pact with the United States (which amounts to an associated republic). This is very much in line with the three decolonization status options internationally accepted and contained in Principle IV of the 1960 United Nations Resolution 1541, of which the United States is signatory.
It must also be noted that before Puerto Rico enters into a treaty of friendship and cooperation or an international bilateral pact of free association with the United States, Puerto Rico must first have its own sovereignty separate from the United States, and it must be a juridically internationally accepted nation, because a free association pact is a treaty by two sovereign nations. In other words, contrary to what we are being led to believe, in order to achieve free association, the people of Puerto Rico must first vote favoring Puerto Rico as a sovereign nation with all that such status entails, as described in the Young updated status bill and recognized by the international community. This was exactly the case of the free association pacts which the sovereign nations of Marshall, Micronesia and Palau, in the Pacific, have with the United States and which can be terminated at any time by mutual consent or unilaterally by any of the governments. It must be kept in mind that people in these Pacific nations do not enjoy their own citizenship and also that of the United States (dual citizenship).
I have read recently of another status option alternative which, it has been said, should be included in the Act in reference in this writing. It has been called by those who claim Puerto Rico is a nation, "The Free Associated State of Puerto Rico, a sovereign entity with dual citizenship, with the present level of federal funding in exchange for military installation is, embodied in a bilateral compact and recognized by the United Nations." It is my perception that such alternative status will not be included in the updated Young status bill, nor will it be acceptable to the U.S. Congress and the White House. For one thing, except in a few individual cases tolerated by the U.S. Congress, dual citizenship has been considered not in the best interest of the United States and not within the U.S. constitutional system. Speaking of the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico, it will be recalled that when our Constituent Assembly, back in 1952, attempted to translate into English "Estado Libre Asociado" as "Free Associated State," the U.S. Congress turned down such translation saying the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico would have had a juridical implication which did not come within the U.S. constitutional system. As a result, the Constituent Assembly approved Resolution 62 adopting "commonwealth" as a convenient translation for "Estado Libre Asociado." But "commonwealth" as such has no juridical significance, as is the case of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and other states.
The bottom line of all this is that we have reached a point of "to be or not to be" in our relations with the United States and must realize that we cant have our cake and eat it too. Either we form a real permanent union with the United States through statehood with all its benefits, obligations, and responsibilities, or we favor a separate sovereignty with the United States leading to either the nation of Puerto Rico absolutely independent, or the nation of Puerto Rico with a free association with the United States under a treaty between these two sovereign nations, and which some political analysts call an associated republic, as is the case of the nations in the Pacific already referred to under the free association pact with the United States.