Puerto Rico Statehood Violates International Law (OPINION)

Jan 11, 2021
5:42 PM
Originally published at El Frente PR

(Public Domain)

By John Melendez Rivera

What would Americans do if the United States were invaded by a foreign power, say China? Would they acquiesce to their authority? Would they participate in colonial elections established by the foreign power or would Americans resist and do anything and everything necessary to liberate the United States? After being invaded by the United States six score and three years ago, these are some of the questions patriotic Puerto Ricans ask themselves as we continue to endure the effects of racism and colonization. It is within this context that we must analyze these most recent elections in Puerto Rico, specifically the indignant question of statehood posed by the local colonial administrators in the island to advance their cynical agenda to retain power and continue to plunder and pillage the coffers of the people.

First, let’s make this most crucial point unambiguous and clear-cut: The annexation of Puerto Rico into the United States federal union would be illegal and would violate established international law. There is nothing progressive about that. In fact, statehood is the culmination of colonization, not the solution for decolonization and self-determination. United Nations Resolution 1514 (XV) of December 14, 1960 affirms the inalienable right to self-determination and independence for all peoples and Puerto Ricans are not exempt from that law. Puerto Rican is a nationality, recognized as such the world over; our nation was invaded by American forces in 1898 when we were illegally negotiated as a war concession at the Treaty of Paris without our consent and after we had achieved autonomy from our prior colonizer, Spain. We have endured racist tendencies and White supremacist ideology as evidenced by Supreme Court Jim Crow era decisions known as the Insular Cases, which are still used to define the Puerto Rico/United States colonial relationship. Our nation and its territorial borders have been violated by the United States presence for 123 years as the Puerto Rican people never asked to be invaded and therefore, the only appropriate and legal remedy is for the United States to finally adhere to international law and immediately, unconditionally and unequivocally withdraw from our sovereign nation.

Does the U.S. wish to remain free? Does England, Ireland, France or Canada wish to remain free? If these questions seem preposterous, it is just as preposterous to ask Puerto Ricans if they want freedom, self-determination and independence. In fact, as one of our greatest patriots, Don Pedro Albizu Campos, once said, “to consult a nation if it wants to be free or not constitutes an offense” and is only asked to a people who have been oppressed and who have been subjected to relentless racism and colonization. Since this most indignant status question is continuously asked, let’s analyze the results of the question posed to the Puerto Rican people during this most recent colonial electoral process that occurred in the island on November 3, 2020.

Puerto Rican Senate Bill 1467 (originally proposed on January, 2020) posed the following question to the people: Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the Union as a State, Yes or No? Bill 1467 outlined consequences of the vote—Yes would prompt negotiations for Statehood and No would prompt negotiations for Independence. When this bill became Law 51 in May 2020, and through nefarious tactics, the local colonial ruling party omitted the consequences of the No vote because of fear that the No vote would be successful.

With a mere 52.17% participation rate (1,229,125 ballots out of 2,355,894 registered voters), the outcome was Yes 50.69% with 623,053 votes and No 49.31% with 606,072 total votes (includes blank protest ballots). However, relative to the total number of registered voters (2,355,894), the Yes vote represents the will of just 26% of all registered voters. With the understanding that Puerto Rico is under a colonial state, we must recognize that the low participation rate, coupled with those who never participate in the colonial electoral process must be accounted for; their voice must be heard. In fact, not participating in colonial elections in Puerto Rico is an act of resistance advocated by great Puerto Rican patriots like Ramón Emeterio Betances, Pedro Albizu Campos, and Juan Antonio Corretjer. What this means, in this most recent colonial election, is that the overwhelming majority of the Puerto Rican people, about 74% of the voting electorate along with those that do not register to vote, overwhelmingly rejected statehood either through their No vote or through their right to resist colonial elections by not participating. 

The status question posed in 2017 produced a similar result to the 2020 question, although the Statehood Party cynically attempts to present that outcome as a victory by suggesting that 97% of the people supported statehood. What they leave out in their rhetoric, typical of their usual tendencies to deceive, is that the participation rate was only 23% of the registered electorate as there was an active boycott called for by all who oppose statehood. In other words, 77% of the usual electorate did not support statehood and voiced their opinion through a boycott of the process. Because of the Statehood Party’s nefarious actions and attempts to mislead, they now must explain how they lost well over 45% support in 2020 from the 2017 outcome for a position that is at best misguided and at worst treacherous.

In summary, the current colonial governance in Puerto Rico cannot stand. We demand that the United States adhere to international law, immediately withdraw from Puerto Rico, and begin the process of decolonization and independence as required by UN Resolution 1514(XV). Independence is our inalienable right, just as it was for the Americans when they invoked it during their struggle for independence against Great Britain. We must stop asking this indignant status question to the people of Puerto Rico, although the people have consistently spoken out against statehood but continue to be ignored. Therefore, we must recognize that the only moral, just and legal way forward is for Puerto Rico to be an independent self-governing Republic. The time for freedom for our people has come and it is long overdue. Que viva Puerto Rico Libre. Pa’lante!


John Melendez Rivera studied Economics at New York University, has had several businesses in the United States and worked in the U.S. banking sector for about 25 years. John is a member of Frente Independentista Boricua, a coalition of Puerto Rican Independence organizations in Puerto Rico and the diaspora.