Burundanga de Zocotroco
Much Ado for Bilinguals
Me resulta imposible encontrar un término que capture tan explicativa como elocuentemente, la esencia de la relación entre Puerto Rico y los Estados Unidos como la palabra Burundanga. Igual aplica aquello de que cuando una mariposa bate sus alas en Washington aquí se forma una tormenta.
Si algún asunto resulta acuciante para una parte sustantiva de los boricuas es el tema del Estatus. Para la mayoría de nosotros, el ser un territorio no incorporado, propiedad, pero no parte de los Estados Unidos es una afronta insostenible, nada ausente de consecuencias.
La subordinación política se refleja en un ordenamiento económico donde la colonia exporta la riqueza a la metrópolis; lo que está íntimamente asociado con la subordinación de los derechos civiles que se nos privan; siendo el principal derecho la representación y el voto. La condición colonial priva el derecho a la libre determinación, expropia el capital que producimos y el patrimonio que heredamos.
El intento de resolver este entuerto ha tenido algunas medidas que han resultado inconsecuentes. En virtud del acontecer político en el Norte, el asunto de derechos cobra renovada importancia y sugiere una ventana de posibilidad para los partidos y ciudadanos tratar de adelantar sus causas. El sector estadista, apoyados en el resultado de la consulta, recién adelanta el Acta H.R. 1522 que proponen la Comisionada Residente de Puerto Rico y el congresista de Florida Daren Soto. Por su parte, las congresistas Nydia Velázquez y Alexandria Ocasio Cortez sometieron a la Cámara el Proyecto de Ley en que proponen la convocatoria a una Asamblea Constituyente de Estatus.
Con el ruedo abierto del Comité de Asuntos Territoriales entran el juego los constitucionalistas de acá y allá con sus respectivos argumentos que pretendemos resumir. A tono con mi uso y costumbre, me tomo la libertad de citar ampliamente los documentos remitidos por los abogados de distintas posiciones antes los proyectos. Edito, a mi discreción, el lenguaje en que fueran escritas, abusando de la indulgencia de los puristas y confiando en la curiosidad de los bilingües.
Last November, in an unmistakable effort to determine their political future, a clear majority of Puerto Ricans(525%) voted “yes” in their own referendum on statehood. Now that Puerto Ricans have publicly and officially asked for statehood, it is time for the United States officially to offer it. The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.
The Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act responds to the November referendum with an offer of statehood and sets the terms for admission, but it makes admission contingent on a second referendum in which Puerto Ricans would ratify their choice. Were they to do so, the President would issue a proclamation admitting Puerto Rico as a state within one year of that vote.
Like all Americans, we support self-determination. But unlike the supporters of the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, we believe that genuine self-determination requires the United States to offer Puerto Ricans a real choice. By “real,” we mean constitutional and non-territorial. Puerto Rico’s self- determination options must be constitutional, for the obvious reason that neither Congress, nor Puerto Rico, has the power to implement an unconstitutional option. And they must be non-territorial, because a territorial option is not self-determination. There are two, and only two, real self-determination options for Puerto Rico: statehood and independence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly and recently refuted the controversial “compact theory.” In Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle (2016), the Court ended seven decades of debilitating debate over the question of whether Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status created a permanent union between two separate sovereigns with an unequivocal “no”.
The Court made it clear; Puerto Rico is, and always has been, a U.S. territory and Congress retains plenary power to govern the island under the Territory Clause of the Constitution (Art. IV, §3, cl.2). As long as Puerto Rico is neither a state of the Union nor an independent nation, it will remain a territory.
By inviting Puerto Ricans to define non-territorial options other than statehood or independence, the inaptly named Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act disserves its purported goal by perpetuating the pernicious myth that such options exist. They do not. But while both statehood and independence would fulfill the goal of self-determination, only one of those options would guarantee U.S. citizenship: statehood.
In the 123 years since the United States annexed Puerto Rico, Congress has never offered Puerto Ricans the choice to become a state. Instead, the United States has allowed Puerto Rico to languish indefinitely as a U.S. territory, subjecting its residents to U.S. laws while denying them voting representation in the government that makes those laws. We strongly support a congressional offer of statehood to Puerto Rico, and we urge Congress to pass the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act immediately.
We, the undersigned legal and constitutional scholars (23), write to express our strong opposition to the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, H.R. 2070, and any Senate companion bill that may be presented for it, and to register our equally strong support for the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, H.R. 1522, and its Senate companion bill, S. 780.
We are professors of Constitutional Law at ABA approved law schools in Puerto Rico (12) agree with most of the historical background information provided in the letter and the significance of Congress taking affirmative steps to address the issue. However, it is equally important to acknowledge the highly contested nature of what the people of Puerto Rico support.
Even if we agree for the sake of the argument that there is “an overwhelming consensus” in rejecting territorial status and the wish to remain U.S. citizens, it would be fair to also acknowledge that another key point of consensus is that Puerto Rico possesses and sees itself as having a national and cultural identity distinct from the US.
In fact, there is a very basic political disagreement among Puerto Ricans regarding the nature of the problem itself. While many, especially statehood supporters, view it as a question regarding the civil and political rights of U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico, others, mostly those supporting some form of sovereign status for the country other than statehood, regard it as involving the right to self-determination of a distinct nation (Puerto Rico, however politically subordinated it may be at this moment) and a distinct people (Puerto Ricans, however geographically dispersed).
In this context, still another point of contention is the extent to which the political status of Puerto Rico should be addressed merely as a matter of U.S. domestic law or as a question governed by well-established norms of international law concerning self-determination and decolonization. Those norms are part of the law of the United States, either as international customary law, or as treaty law since the International Covenant on Civil and Political Human Rights entered into force for the United States in 1992.
We also believe it would be fair to acknowledge that a key point where no overwhelming consensus exists is precisely a preference for statehood. The letter states the following: “Last November, in an unmistakable effort to decide their political future, a clear majority of Puerto Ricans voted ´yes´ in their own referendum on statehood.” The precise fact is that with a turnout of 54.72% to vote, the result of the November status referendum was 52.52% in favor of statehood and 47.48% against it. Whether those results show a clear majority for the type of irreversible decision that statehood implies, is a contested issue.
The significance of these results in favor of statehood cannot be denied or diminished. However, to conclude that the issue is settled for the people of Puerto Rico is inaccurate. under the assumption that the people of Puerto Rico have already made a definitive decision and that there are no other options available.
The letter makes a basic assumption that there are only two solutions to the current situation: statehood and independence. Some of us may ultimately agree with that assessment, which is not free from political preferences. However, there are people in Puerto Rico, not necessarily commonwealth supporters, who are willing to accept, and even endorse, a third option: what may be loosely called the status of free association.
This would require a freely agreed covenant between a sovereign Puerto Rico and the United States regarding whatever aspects of the relationship the two entities deem appropriate to submit to mutual agreement, including such things as citizenship, free movement of people, trade, defense, economic assistance and others. This is not only a legitimate solution recognized by the United Nations and the international body of law regarding decolonization, but it is a type of relationship which the United States has embraced with a number of formally sovereign countries in the Pacific.
The letter also seems to fully dissolve the question of the status of Puerto Rico into the issue of citizenship. Although citizenship is definitely one aspect of the problem, the political status question cannot be reduced to a matter of preserving U.S. citizenship or not. In fact, the assertion that the only way to guarantee U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans is through statehood is a highly problematic one.
The idea of a political status convention as a mechanism to address the status question in a deliberative, detailed and, ultimately, consensual manner is not new. It was born in Puerto Rico out of numerous proposals made throughout several decades by political and civil society groups of diverse nature. The Puerto Rico Bar Association for years has been elaborating and endorsing the notion of a convention aided by studies and reports prepared by a special commission whose members have included independence, commonwealth, free association and statehood supporters. In fact, all political parties in Puerto Rico, except for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP), have at one time or another endorsed the idea of some type of convention to deal with the problem.
One thing is very clear, and it is something on which we could all agree. In the 123 years of its relationship with Puerto Rico, the United States government has never made a clear, binding, offer to Puerto Ricans regarding statehood, independence or free association spelling out the terms and conditions of each choice, from the U.S. perspective, in a way that may assist the people of Puerto Rico to make an informed decision regarding their political future with the fullest awareness possible of the expected consequences of their determination. We can only hope that the discussion generated by the bills pending in Congress may be a fruitful step in that direction.
And there you go. Serán muchos y prestigiosos los de allá pero con cuidado que acá tambien hay materia gris y constitucionalistas que juegan en cualquier liga. Claro que en resumidas cuentas, se reduce al cristal con que se mira y cada cual escoge el argumento que major le hace sentido o se acomoda a su jucios, prejuicios y postjucios.
Grijalva se zapateó de dar una respuesa y remitió el asunto al Departamento de Justicia a ver cual de los proyecto cumple con requistos legales. Otra posposicion y otro augurio. Si se puso el pie en la puerta, tal vez permanezca abierta, pero también tiene ese aire de repetición e intrascendenca que el dramaturgo Inglés titulo: Much ado about nothing.
Somewhere over the rainbow…
Copyright por José M. Umpierre. Foto del Capital Norteamericano copyrighted por Barrio Dog Productions, Inc. Foto de viejo San Juan por el autor. Los demas fotos en el dominio público.