"PIP FINDS SUPPORT IN LATIN AMERICA, NOT PUERTO RICO"
THE SAN JUAN STAR, VIEWPOINT, AUGUST 5, 1998
There is nothing new in the current efforts of the pro-independence leaders who are seeking support among foreign politicians on behalf of the socialist republic of Puerto Rico. Their objective has always been to build up diplomatic pressure to force the United States to relinquish its sovereignty over the island, even if such an action goes against the will of Puerto Ricans.
Each year, in the month of August, there is a pilgrimage to the headquarters of the United Nations, in New York. There the Puerto Rican separatists usually join efforts with diplomats of communist Cuba and of other Third World countries, to obtain a resolution in the U.N. condemning the United States for the colonial character of our island. However, after more than four decades of diplomatic maneuvers, the resolution has still to be passed by the General Assembly.
Gordon K. Lewis, writing in 1963 ("Puerto Rico: Freedom and Power in the Caribbean"), described the international lobbying by separatist leaders at that time: "Much of the present-day activity of the independentista groups, naturally enough, concentrates upon the same appeal to international opinion. There is an appeal to the Foreign Ministers Conference at Santiago de Chile to look into the Puerto Rican case; a message of fraternal greetings to the Cuban revolutionary government; a declaration of support for Venezuelan and Honduran delegates in their effort to put the Puerto Rican matter on the agenda of the Third Conference of the Inter American Cultural Council; and efforts to persuade the General Assembly to include Puerto Rico in its debates on colonialism. There is, too, the occasional support that come from a visiting friend from a Latin American political movement..."
Thus, there should be no surprise at the announcement by the Puerto Rican Independence Party that there would be delegates from the Socialist International and the Conference of Latin American Political Parties taking part in the activities to mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. military invasion of the island.
The foreign politicians of those groups were to meet at a "Congress on Puerto Rican Independence" which was expected "to pass resolutions favoring Puerto Rico's self-determination and independence for the island" (STAR, July 24, 1998).
Upon making the announcement about holding the Congress, the president-for-life of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Rubén Berríos, gleefully exclaimed: "Here is the Latin American plebiscite!"
If the political destiny of four million Puerto Ricans were to be decided by Latin American politicians, there would be no doubt about their decision in favor of independence. But, if Puerto Ricans are allowed to decide for themselves, in a democratic process, they will overwhelmingly reject separation from the United States.
There are certain facts which the visiting foreign politicians seem to ignore. Facts that we are sure were not told to them by their hosts of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.
Puerto Ricans believe in representative democracy, and since 1900 they have been exercising their right to vote. Our people believe in the rule of the majority with due respect for the rights of the minorities. That may explain to our foreign visitors why the PIP was able to hold its protest in Guánica without any repression or interference from the government. No one went to jail or was put before a firing squad."
Puerto Ricans are mature voters who enjoy a free press and who are aware of their fundamental rights as American citizens.
Certainly, in terms of what an authentic democratic system is, Puerto Ricans can give many lessons to the visiting Latin American politicians.
An important lesson they should learn is that their support for independence is against the will of the Puerto Rican people.
Puerto Ricans have always been respectful of the political will of the Latin American countries. They should reciprocate by respecting the will of Puerto Ricans.
Since its foundation in 1946, the PIP has always been a minority party. We have 78 municipalities, but the PIP has never elected a single mayor in 13 elections. We have 40 representative and 48 senatorial districts, yet there has never been a single district legislator elected by the Independence Party.
The meager electoral support for the PIP has been dwindling during the last decade. In the general elections of 1988, its candidate for governor, Rubén Berríos, received 99,206 votes, or 5.54 percent of the total vote.
Four years later, in 1992, the PIP's candidate for governor received 79,219 votes, equivalent to 4.21 percent of the total vote. It means that in those four years, with more voters registered, the PIP lost 19,987 votes.
A year after those elections, in 1993, the Independence Party participated in the status plebiscite, but its formula received 75,620 votes, or 3,599 fewer.
The trend continued in 1996, when David Noriega, nominated for the governorship on the Independence Party ticket, garnered only 75,304 or a mere 3.8 percent of the total vote.
The visiting foreign politicians went to Guánica on July 25 to participate in the pro-independence activity. Did anyone tell them that the PIP was utterly defeated in that town, where their candidate for mayor received less than two percent of the vote?
Were they informed about the fact that the voters of Guánica gave a majority support to all the candidates of the New Progressive Party?
There was a great deal of irony in the PIP activity at Guánica. It was dedicated to deceased Dominican leader José Francisco Peña Gómez. At the precise moment when the orators were praising independence for Puerto Rico, hundreds of citizens from the sovereign and independent Dominican Republic were in their country, boarding fragile boats, risking their lives, to sneak across the Mona Channel, hoping to find a better life in this American territory.