by José (Fufi) Santori Coll
We hereby impose the celebration of Puerto Rican Citizenship Day on Sunday, December 2, 2018. That is Juan Mari Bras’ birthday, the well-known Puerto Rican who would have been 91 years.
I realized in 1993 that the first step to decolonize Puerto Rico (PR) was to renounce our United States (US) citizenship imposed on us through the US Jones-Saffroth Act of 1917.
If the Foraker Act of 1900 formalized Puerto Rico as a US colony, the Jones’ Act had a worse consequence of denationalizing Puerto Ricans. That was so, because by imposing on Puerto Ricans a foreign citizenship, it attempted to prevent Puerto Ricans from ever having their own citizenship when decolonized. Its purpose was to avoid Puerto Ricans from honoring the only thing that identifies themselves, their Puerto Rican Nationality.
Speculations about cultural identity and economy come up every time we debate the political future of Puerto Rico. In our case, the 1898 imperialistic US military invasion in which the Anglo-Saxon acquired a territory in the Caribbean Sea for military and commercial strategies adversely affecting the civil and human rights of a Hispanic culture, which has an antagonistic governmental setup different than that of the invader. They came to advance their own interests, and Puerto Ricans’ rights were of no importance to them. Let’s be clear about this, the US government did not come to bring us liberty and democracy.
Let’s also be clear that the US imposed citizenship on Puerto Ricans condemned us to a permanent inferiority to the rest of US citizens, because it does not permit us to reside in our own country and vote for the president, vice-president and members of the US Congress. Puerto Ricans must exile themselves in order to be allowed to do that. Thus, we are in essence politically and legally inferior in our own national territory.
How did I renounce my US citizenship? I first wrote President Clinton a letter: Citizenship is a natural consequence of nationality. Being a Puerto Rican national I should be a Puerto Rican citizen.
I chose to make a notarized sworn statement renouncing my US citizenship, and on my own accord proclaimed myself a Puerto Rican Citizen. I refused and refuse to follow US immigration laws to do that, because my renouncement of US citizenship freed me from having to do so.
I signed my sworn statement on July 15, 1993 in Aguadilla with attorney Eduardo Villanueva being witness to my renouncement. That same year at the “Grito de Lares” celebration on September 23rd, hundreds of Puerto Ricans signed their renouncements to US citizenship, many of them notarized by patriot and attorney Luis Garrastegui. Those who renounced our US citizenship went to the Liberty Theater in Quebradillas on November 19 to get our Boricua Passports. We handed out 1,500 passports within 3 years.
In the meantime, patriot Juan Mari Bras, as a judicial experiment, was preparing a plan to renounce his US citizenship by following US immigration law. I warned him that the US government would not accept it. Surprisingly to me, both his and artist Pablo Mercado were accepted.
It is important to note that renouncing US citizenship is not the same for Mr. Jones born in Georgia and Mr. Perez born in Puerto Rico. Please take notice that Juan Mari Bras renounced his US citizenship in Caracas, Venezuela.
When Mr. Jones receives his Loss of Nationality Certificate, he stops being a citizen of Georgia and also of the US. This is not so of Juan. Since Puerto Rico belongs to, but is not a part of the US, he is permitted to go back to his place of birth, Puerto Rico. Mr. Jones, however, cannot return to his birthplace Georgia, because Georgia is part of the US, the citizenship that he has renounced.
Juan Mari Bras was able to practice law and vote in the 1996 Puerto Rican elections for the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP). Dr. Miriam Ramirez de Ferre challenged his vote, but it was sustained by Judge Angel Hermina. Puerto Rican citizenship was restored for Juan in this way.
Mari Bras’ success prompted 14 Boricuas from the town of Aguadilla to go to the Dominican Republic to renounce their US citizenship. Let’s not forget that attorney Alberto Lozada was also doing the same thing on his own. That case ended up in a Washington DC court.
Aware that this was getting out of hand, the US State Department rescinded Juan Mari Bras, Pablo Marcano’s renouncements, and refused to accept the Boricuas renouncements in the Dominican Republic. Later, the court ruled against Alberto Lozada too.
Puerto Ricans who favor statehood always argue the economic considerations of statehood versus independence. Luis Muñoz Marin abused the independence ideal in his 1948 campaign for governor of Puerto Rico by saying that Puerto Ricans would take Puerto Rico to an economic ruin should they vote for independence.
A study later revealed that should Luis have kept independence option in the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), he would have won anyway. That is why I believe that Muñoz betrayed the independence ideal when he removed it from the PDP program. We need to remember that the PIP received 17% of the votes in 1948. Muñoz would have certainly won, and we would have been spared the colonial mortal suffering of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Once in power, the PDP and its Commonwealth of Puerto Rico dedicated a large portion of its time to glorify Puerto Rico’s assimilation to US, particularly in regards to US citizenship and the idea of a permanent union with the US, and against independence. Therefore, the PDP, with its materialistic offensive, destroyed via US dollars the national conscious of our homeland.
If the assimilation movement grew during those years of industrial and economic bonanza, it was because the PDP’s glorification of the US over Puerto Rico, which set the foundation of some Puerto Ricans wanting to request statehood for Puerto Rico. That has never materialized because, aside from Puerto Ricans not assimilating and becoming bilingual, we treasure our nationality and Hispanic culture.
What is very clear is that the US government considers us Hispanic, and therefore an inferior race. So, dear friends and compatriots, we arrived at the 21st Century, 2016, not just morally and economically bankrupted, but also humiliated before the world by being governed by a US imposed Fiscal Control Board whose only interest is the US corporate well-being, at the expense of sinking forever our national economy.
There was no legal or political justification for a lawyer such as Barack Obama to have signed into law the dismantling of what little bit of democracy that was left in Puerto Rico on June 15, 2016, and leaving us with, and in all practical purposes, a fascist dictatorship.
I believe that there is no doubt about the unconstitutionality of the law Obama signed, and the way that he has dishonestly dealt with Puerto Rico. But also, we must question its territorial clause that is antagonistic to the concept of a constitutional democratic republic. Democracies are not empires, and they can’t possess nations or territories like the US possesses Puerto Rico. Why?
The United States of America constructed itself as a constitutional democracy at the end of the 18th Century. The mere fact of projecting itself like a constitutional government imposed upon itself limitations regarding the possessions of other nations and territories, because it must avoid discriminating against its constituents’ rights, as it does with regards to the territorial clause of the US Constitution. It is in total violation of the definition of a democratic government.
If we directly go to the heart of this judicial maze of contractions, it is the US Territorial Clause that lacks any character of its own US Constitutional Democracy definition, and in negation of its own definition, decided to convert itself in 1900 into an empire like Great Britain.