Nikolas Kozloff has two good articles in recent issues of Counterpunch and although Machetera is annoyed with Counterpunch at the moment for other reasons, she will recommend and even link to Kozloff’s articles – one which has to do with the secessionist maneuvers across not only Bolivia but Venezuela and Ecuador, and the other, which talks about Puerto Rico, race, and which way it might swing in tomorrow’s Democratic primary.
Puerto Ricans are used to feeling disenfranchised in the electoral process. Island residents are U.S. citizens but they cannot vote in the general presidential election. They have no voting representation in Washington, D.C. though the island sends a symbolic, nonvoting delegate to Congress. Because Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous commonwealth and not a state, only Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland may cast ballots for president in November.
This is a bit of an understatement. Puerto Ricans are used to feeling disenfranchised because Puerto Rico is a COUNTRY that has been disenfranchised by the U.S. in every way possible, not just electorally, for like, forever. The U.S. presidential candidates don’t even hide their disdain; as Kozloff points out they are masters of the vague and meaningless statement: Obama saying it all “comes down to…respect.” (well that certainly clears things up) and Clinton saying:
“I believe all people are entitled to a representative form of government…and the people of Puerto Rico should have the right to determine by majority vote the status you choose from all the options…My only commitment is to work…to give you the right to make that decision.”
Hillary’s statement is actually a pretty eloquent summary of everything that’s wrong with the attitude of the United States toward Puerto Rico. What she’s talking about is a false choice; as Arundhati Roy once put it, something like choosing between regular Tide and the oxy-boosting version. Independence is the only option that matters for Puerto Rico, and probably reparations. Then again, she did say “all the options.”
Fortunately, just when you were wondering what’s next for Puerto Rico, along comes Ricardo Alarcón to keep things in perspective.
Puerto Rico’s Turn – An Insulting Spectacle
By Ricardo Alarcón
On June 1, primary elections will be held in Puerto Rico. For that reason, politicians and journalists will travel to the island to pay to it an attention they never paid before and to turn their visit into part of the spectacle of marketing of politics that in the United States is called “democracy.” In this case, however, the spectacle becomes insulting.
The Democratic candidates will compete there for the favor of voters who are not part of U.S. society and therefore have no vote in the U.S. general elections next November. In theory, Puerto Ricans can decide who the Democratic candidate will be but cannot vote for him, or her, or the Republican rival, or any other candidate to the presidency of the United States.
Once the farce is concluded, politicians and journalists will pack their bags and go away, not to deal again with Puerto Rico for the next four years. Once again, they’ll try to ignore the interests and aspirations of its noble and generous people.
This time, however, it won’t be so easy. The following week, on June 9, the United Nations’ Committee on Decolonization will again discuss Puerto Rico’s status, as it has done every year since 1972. Many voices have been raised there, and in other U.N. entities, to demand that the United States put an end to its colonial regime and return to the Puerto Rican people the right to decide their fate, a right that was wrested from them more than a century ago.
It was not necessary to travel to another country to hear that demand. It was repeated, one summer after another, for more than three decades, from the skyscraper on Manhattan’s First Avenue, in the heart of New York. But the major U.S. media and its politicians pretended not to notice.
This year, their disdain will be a bit more difficult. Before the Committee will speak representatives from the whole of Puerto Rican society, including representatives of all the parties and political movements on the island, along with the Socialist Internationale and the Conference of Political Parties of Latin America (COPPAL), which brings together the main parties in the continent, including several parties that now are governments.
They will raise a petition for the U.N. General Assembly to discuss in depth the case of Puerto Rico, as we unanimously agreed at the International Conference of Solidarity with Puerto Rican Independence, which we held in Panama in 2006 and reiterated this year in Mexico. In the name of all those who participated in those two events, Dr. Rodrigo Borja, former President of Ecuador, will address the Committee.
This Latin American demand echoes the one made in Havana in 2006 by the chiefs of state and government of the nonaligned countries.
Latin America is living through a new era, and Puerto Rico is not absent from it. Its turn, Puerto Rico’s turn, is very near. It is coming much faster than some people in the North, drunk with demagoguery and ignorance, think.
Ricardo Alarcón is Cuba’s Vice President and President of its National Assembly.