The upcoming 2017 status vote in Puerto Rico will include two options: independence and statehood. If independence wins the vote, there will be another ballot to decide between plain old independence and Sovereign Free Associated Statehood. It’s important to note that Sovereign Free Associated Statehood is not a form of statehood. It’s a form of independence.
Let’s look at a few nations that are Free Associated States: the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. These nations, along with the Mariana Islands, used to be part of the Pacific Trust Territory. After World War II, these islands — which used to be owned by Japan — came under the care of the United Nations, and the United States agreed “to promote the development of the people of the Trust Territory toward self-government or independence as appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Trust Territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.”
The U.N. trusteeship was phased out beginning in 1986, and was replaced by Compacts of Free Association for the three FAS that defined U.S. and FAS relations and responsibilities. This responsibility included 15 years of financial support, plus the FAS use of the U.S. Post Office, the National Weather Service, the U.S. dollar, and various other services that helped the FAS (Freely Associates States) to get on their feet after the war. The FAS also get military defense protection from the U.S., and the U.S. gets military bases. The compacts of FSM and the Marshall Islands were renewed in 2004 for another 20 years, after which financial support from the U.S. will end.
There is a big difference between the current FAS and Puerto Rico. Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands were never U.S. territories. They never belonged to the United States as Puerto Rico does, and their people have never been U.S. citizens. The United States doesn’t own these islands and never did. The U.S. simply administered a U.N. trusteeship for the islands, and as you can see from the part of the agreement quoted above, independence was always the goal for these nations.
If Puerto Rico wants to become a Freely Associated State like Palau, it must first declare independence and stop being a territory of the U.S. The current relationship must be ended before a new relationship can begin. Puerto Rico must choose independence and then negotiate a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
We believe that statehood is a better plan for Puerto Rico. Every one of the 50 states is more prosperous and more powerful than any of the Freely Associated States. The people of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. The path from territory to statehood is a natural one. Sign the petition.