[News] The Fallacy of Statehood Win in Puerto Rico Elections

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 17 11:00:45 EST 2020

Fallacy of Statehood Win in Puerto Rico Elections
November 16, 2020 - by Professor Ana M. López

It is a fallacy that this consultation constituted a majority vote and that
the people of Puerto Rico “staked their claim to admission as the 51st
State of the Union.”

First, elections in a colonial regime cannot be a binding expression of a
people since the people of Puerto Rico are not free to engage in a
democratic process because of 122 years of US military occupation and
colonial rule. What takes place in Puerto Rico every four years is of
little utility to the people of Puerto Rico.  Whomever wins colonial
elections merely becomes an administrator of the colony for the interests
of the US and Wall Street. Additionally, colonial elections have no real
authority, and the elected officials have no real power since all local
economic decisions are made by the Financial Supervisory and Management
Board created by federal legislation (PROMESA, 2016). This fiscal board was
not an elected body by and of the people of Puerto Rico, but is instead
authorized and executed by the US Congress where there is no Puerto Rican
voting representation.  Furthermore, Congress specifically addressed this
so-called plebiscite and stated that it will not be binding.
[image: Lolita Lebron, Capitol Building, image projection, independence,
Puerto Rico]Graphic featuring the image of Lolita Lebron projected on the
side of the Museum of the American Indian with the Capitol Building in the
background. Photo Credit: John Melendez Rivera

*What is the fuss about this statehood win?*

The “yes” or “no” vote for statehood in Puerto Rico on Nov. 3, 2020 is
neither a “plebiscite” nor a “referendum”.  It constitutes a mere
consultation, poll or survey of approximately 50% of the registered voter’s
opinion. Less voters turned out for this election than ever before. A real
plebiscite would be supervised by the United Nations and would outline the
consequences of the peoples’ decision.  Puerto Rico, as a colony of the US,
is reviewed every year by the United Nations Decolonization Committee and
their resolutions have consistently called upon the United States to
immediately transfer power to the people of Puerto Rico to enable the free
exercise of their self-determination and inalienable right to independence
in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV).   Since
“plebiscites” have often been used to annex a territory or country, another
viable alternative is to utilize a people’s constituent assembly for
creating a new government and constitution for an independent nation.  It
would be consistent with how the original 13 United States colonies went
about their independence against Britain.  The indignant question posed to
the Puerto Rican people on Nov. 3, 2020 was also not a referendum. So, what
is the distinction between a plebiscite and a referendum?

*A Plebiscite* *is* *a direct vote of the qualified voters of a state in
regard to some important public question or the vote by which the people of
a political unit determine independence or annexation with another country.
Originally plebiscites were used by the Roman Empire to incorporate
occupied territories and later used by Napoleon Bonaparte to do the same in
Europe for France.*

*In Europe, plebiscites are elections held to decide two paramount types of
political issues- government legitimacy and the nationality of territories
contested between governments. Following the French Revolution in 1789, the
plebiscite was widely popular in France, rooted as it was in the ideas of
nationalism and popular sovereignty. In the 20th century, totalitarian
regimes have employed plebiscites to legitimize their rule. Plebiscites
also have been used as a device for deciding the nationality of
territories. For example, after World War I, the League of Nations proposed
11 such plebiscites, the most notable of which was held in 1935 in the
Saar, where its inhabitants chose overwhelmingly to return to Germany
rather than become a part of France**.*

*In contrast, a referendum is* *the right reserved to the people to approve
or reject an act of the legislature, or the right of the people to approve
or reject legislation that has been referred to them by the legislature.
The referendum power is created by state constitutions and is conferred on
the citizens of a state or a local subdivision of the state. Referendums
provide the people with a means of expressing their opinion on proposed
legislation before it becomes operative as a law. A referendum does not
permit the people to invalidate a law that is already operative but rather
suspends or annuls a law that has not yet gone into effect. In this sense,
a referendum is similar to a governor's **Veto*
*power.* * Also, by referendum, the people may reinstate an act that the
legislature has expressly repealed.*

It is a fallacy that the statehood option promoted by the Partido Nuevo
Progresista (PNP) which received a 52% “yes” vote in the polls represented
a “majority” of the Puerto Rican people. It was not a majority when only
half of the registered voters participated. Almost half of the
participating voters cast a “NO” vote to Statehood. Therefore, only
approximately 26%  of voters casted a “YES” vote. That is clearly NOT a
majority. What is significant is that 50 % of eligible voters essentially
boycotted these colonial elections and did not participate in this farce.
Historically, Puerto Rico has had a high voter turnout culture. In the
1990’s, 93% of registered voters participated.  Over the last 20 years with
the rise of governmental corruption and abuse, the electorate has shown
their discontent with corrupt governance and the dysfunction of the
colonial two party system by not voting.  Recall the summer of 2019 and the
peoples uprising that ousted the Pro-Statehood governor Ricardo Roselló due
to corruption, immorality, an economic crisis, poor handling of hurricane
Maria, allegedly stealing hurricane relief funds, lying about the 4,645
deaths, etc.

When looking at the governor’s election results and the “statehood” status
consultation, it is evident that the Statehood party has received lesser
votes than in previous elections. This year the statehood advocates PNP
received 35% of the votes in the governor’s race due to the insertion of
other political parties. The Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP)
and Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC) combined obtained almost 30% of the
votes and Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) the other 33%.

The 6 million Puerto Ricans dispersed throughout the US live “statehood”
every day and it “isn’t pretty”. The imposed US citizenship of 1917 does
not grant Puerto Ricans the same “privileges and immunities” of the US

We are treated as “second class citizens” and suffer the same social,
economic and racial inequalities that other racial groups are subjected to
like the Black, Mexican and Native American communities. Puerto Ricans go
from being an “external colony” to an “internal colony” community in the
US.  A vote for statehood is not progressive; it is the culmination of the
immoral colonial objective-the extinction of the Puerto Rican nation and
the annihilation of the Puerto Rican nationality.

Finally, the illegality and immorality of making Puerto Rico a state lies
exclusively in the hands of the US Congress and not in Puerto Rico. The
Senate and the House of Representatives will have to vote to approve on
whether it incorporates Puerto Rico into the federal union.  That a nation
could be incorporated into another nation without negative consequences for
the country being absorbed is farfetched. Puerto Rico is a Spanish speaking
country and a part of Latin America historically and culturally. Twenty Six
percent of Puerto Rican voters may think they want to become a state, but
the US Congress has never expressed that interest after 122 years. If asked
appropriately, most Puerto Ricans would want to maintain their nation,
national identity, island territory and culture.  The United States prefers
to maintain the status quo and keep Puerto Rico a colony.

*Professor Ana M. Lopez, has been teaching at Hostos Community College for
31 years, Humanities Department - Latin American & Caribbean Studies Unit.*
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