The 2017 referendum will give the people of Puerto Rico a choice between statehood and independence. As the 51st state of the United States, Puerto Rico will have seven voting members in the legislature (as a territory, Puerto Rico currently has one non-voting member)and the full rights and sovereignty of a state. There is no mystery about statehood. We can look to Alaska, Hawaii, or any one of the other 30 states that used to be territories, and see just what happens when a territory becomes a state.
How would independence work? In this last post in our series on the possibility of independence for Puerto Rico, we examine some ideas on the reality of independence for Puerto Rico.
One option is to create a Free Association with the United States, as Palau and the Marshall Islands among others have done. Read about Free Association. The other is to become a completely independent nation, as Cuba and the Philippines did.
There haven’t been many specific outlines of what independence for Puerto Rico would look like, but one comes from Frank Worley Lopez, author of Conservative News and Views on Puerto Rico.
He lists five essential questions for anyone considering independence:
- Where the bread comes from. That is, money and food.
- What kind of government will you have?
- Who will be in charge?
- How do we fight corruption and the possibility of a communist coup?
- How can we trust that the politicians who have destroyed Puerto Rico under the ELA will do their jobs?
Worley suggests that there should be a new currency, the Taino, equivalent to the U.S. dollar. The newly independent Puerto Rico will print out a quantity of Tainos equal to the GDP of the previous year. Puerto Ricans will be asked to trade their dollars for Tainos and the U.S. will be asked to accept Tainos for payment of Puerto Rico’s debt. Worley offers himself as the new head of state, to be called “Cacique de la Republica.”
He proposes that “permission for the United States to invade and take control of Puerto Rico in case of the total collapse of the government and the beginning of a dictatorship” should be part of the new Constitution of Puerto Rico. This invasion would have as its goal just the reestablishment of a republican government, and the U.S. could not take Puerto Rico back as a territory.
The Independence Party of Puerto Rico is less detailed in its plans, at least on its website. “Puerto Rico must become a sovereign republic; that is, it must have full authority over its national territory and its international relations,” the website says. ” Of course, Puerto Ricans will be citizens of the Republic of Puerto Rico, although people should be able to keep the American citizenship that was imposed on us if they want it.” The United States would have to agree that citizens of the republic of Puerto Rico could keep their citizenship.
“In economic terms, ” the statement continues, “it will be convenient, both for Puerto Rico and for the United States, to agree on a treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two countries that provides a transition process to transform the economy of dependence to one of production and labor. Of course, the United States will be forced to honor the rights acquired by the people in Puerto Rico for contributions made or services rendered to the United States prior to the proclamation of independence. The treaty will also contemplate the free trade between both countries as at present, and the free transit of people in both directions, as has been the case until the present.”
The United States, in other words, will fund Puerto Rico’s independence. The picture of independence presented here is, in fact, very much like the pictures of Free Association presented by the “commonwealth” party.
The U.S. might agree to Worley’s plan for despot-triggered invasion or the Independence Party’s “acquired rights.” Such a treaty would of course be subject to change at any time. But no representative of the United States has so far agreed to these plans. If Puerto Rico chooses independence, then Puerto Rico should have plans that rely on Puerto Rico, rather than plans that depend on agreement of the U.S.
The United States has never agreed to any of the proposals for “enhanced commonwealth.” The U.S. has also made it clear that Puerto Rico’s status must be chosen by the majority of Puerto Ricans. Independence has never gotten more than 6% of the popular vote in any of the plebiscites held in Puerto Rico.