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The Upcoming Puerto Rico Plebiscite: English Translation of Law Finished

Plans for Puerto Rico’s June 11 plebiscite are firming up, and a new document is laying out the ground rules. The official text of the “Puerto Rico Immediate Decolonization Act” has been finalized, translated into English, and certified.

The act begins with a “Statement of Motives” designed to explain why the new vote is needed, and why the focus is on decolonization rather than simple on status choice, as was the case with the earlier votes.

The Statement of Motives begins with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “No man is good enough to govern another man, without the other’s consent.”

“In the context of United States constitutional law,” the document continues, “the term ‘territorial’ is simply a euphemism to avoid saying ‘colonial.’  In the 21st Century, applying the inequalities of the ‘territory clause’ of the Constitution of the United States to the People of Puerto Rico, who are U.S. citizens at birth, and who, through their vote, have rejected colonialism and claimed equal rights and obligations by virtue of said citizenship, is as archaic and morally questionable as applying other constitutional clauses that allowed race-based slavery and the disenfranchisement of women. The sovereign powers of a democratic government should only be exercised according to the will and consent of the governed.”

The new law acknowledges that Puerto Rico is under the power of Congress as described in the Territorial Clause, but also insists that this must change, for the good of Puerto Rico and the United States as a whole.

“To be a good American,” the law states, “is to denounce and oppose injustice, inequality, and discrimination. The case of Puerto Rico as a colony proves that the goals of equality and democracy in the United States of America have yet to be achieved.”

The act also says clearly that this is a matter of civil rights, not a simple preference among the people for one status or another. “[T]his colonial status disregards the will of the People of Puerto Rico, as expressed in the 2012 Plebiscite, to assume the same duties as their fellow citizens in supporting our Nation; equal treatment in terms of the opportunities afforded to strengthen our socioeconomic development; and to enjoy the quality of life that all U.S citizens should enjoy, regardless of their origin. Such inequality must end.”

Following many definitions and specifications designed to avoid the claims in 2012 that the referendum held that November was “confusing,” the act says,

A Plebiscite is hereby called to be held on Sunday, June 11, 2017, for the purposes of conducting an objective, educational, just, realistic, broad, transparent, and democratic process that allows the People to express themselves regarding a final and decolonizing solution for Puerto Rico’s status…

The two (2) status options that are final, permanent, non-territorial, noncolonial, and outside of the scope of any modality or method of judicial interpretation of the “territory clause” of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2), pursuant to the provisions of Public Law 113-76 (2014), and the requirements established in the “Report of the Committee on Appropriations (2014) concerning said Federal law shall be presented to voters on the ballot according to the texts below:

Statehood or Independence/ Free Association (see the texts of these options)

…The claim made by the citizens of Puerto Rico to the Federal Government upon casting a majority vote for one of the two (2) options described in Section 2(a)(i)(ii) of this Article shall represent their legitimate expression of “self determination,” reasserting their rejection to the territorial and colonial condition.

The act concludes with detailed instructions for preparation of the referendum, voting, and certification of the outcome of the vote.

Read the full text.

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