Nicolás Maduro Moros, the president of Venezuela, used the occasion of the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s Communist revolution on January 9th to call on Puerto Rico to secede from the United States, so that it can join the community of Latin American nations, and in particular the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños, or CELAC).
Venezuela will be hosting the annual CELAC summit later this month, and with that mind, Maduro said, “I have asked Foreign Minister Elías Jaua Milano to prepare a document to propose, in the name of Venezuela, the incorporation of Puerto Rico to CELAC. May Puerto Rico take the path of Latin America. ... One day we will see the birthing of a Republic of Puerto Rico and we will go together to consolidate its independence. It would be our greatest homage to the giants: to Bolívar, Martí, and to Chávez. ... If we really consider ourselves sons of Bolívar, sons of Chávez, let us never let go from our hearts the cause of Puerto Rico’s independence.”
|Maduro used Venezuelan and Cuban flags as a backdrop to make his point.|
|Me and Mini-Me: Maduro (right) rode to power on Chávez’s coattails.|
|Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and Evo Morales in 2011|
|Zulia, Venezuela’s westernmost state|
|A rare pro-independence voter in the 2012 Puerto Rico referendum|
The cause of Puerto Rican independence has become much more marginal since its heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s, when it was energized by the popular revolution in neighboring Cuba and inspired by the Civil Rights movement and by the Black Power and Red Power movements in the mainland U.S. Puerto Rican separatism has always had a left-wing flavor, its infiltration and near “neutralization” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) at the time, plus, more recently, the end of the Cold War and a general American political shift rightward in the 1980s and ’90s, have left the movement rather moribund.
|Puerto Rican independence activists in the 1960s|
However, an even third of voters opted for a “free association” status, similar to that enjoyed by three former U.S. colonies in the Pacific: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Those three nations have something significantly more than quasi-independence; they are members of the United Nations General Assembly. (Other examples of “free association” states are the New Zealand territories of Niue and the Cook Islands and the United Kingdom satellite states the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey—none of those five being U.N. member states, however.) Perhaps once Puerto Ricans realize there is a third way—with some of the advantages of statehood, nearly all the advantages of independence, and none of the diplomatic isolation that has plagued Cuba—then that current 49% approval of either independence or “free association” status could coalesce into a serious movement. Perhaps. But if so, it will have to come from below, and it won’t be because Maduro and Castro’s thundering paranoid rhetoric convinces them of what they are supposed to want.
|This is actually the flag of the Venezuelan state of Zulia ...|
|... which is allegedly not inspired by the American superhero the Flash.|