The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has held several referenda—including major ones in 1967, 1993, 1998, and 2012—on the question of its future status. Today, the island nation is as self-governing as any of the 50 United States of America, but it has no voting representatives in Washington and Puerto Ricans cannot vote for U.S. president without relocating to one of the fifty states. Most of the previous referenda have offered Puerto Ricans three choices: (1) admission as the 51st state—61.13% opted for that in the 2012 vote; (2) “free association” (the status currently enjoyed by three former U.S. colonies in the South Pacific, which rely on the U.S. for defense but have United Nations seats) (33.33% in 2012); or (3) independence (5.54%). (See a previous article for a fuller discussion.) The 2012 referendum was non-binding, so while most national politicians advocate statehood in principle, it is essentially blocked by the divisiveness and intransigence of the U.S. Congress, whose job it is to approve the addition of any new stars to the flag.
|Puerto Ricans have their own Olympic team, but can’t vote for their own president|
(you know, just like Cuba).
One Puerto Rican, Frank Worley-Lopez, founder of the Libertarian Party of Puerto Rico, has a proposal for a way toward more self-determination that mixes some of the benefits of the others. In a recent editorial, he calls the idea “micro-independence.” It involves giving something to different camps in the status debate by partitioning Puerto Rico, with one half becoming a U.S. state and the other half becoming an independent nation, with or without the “free association” apron-strings currently loosely tethering the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia to the mother country. But if you’re picturing a bisected island which mimics the line that runs through neighboring Hispaniola to separate Haiti from the Dominican Republic, the partition wouldn’t need to be exactly into halves. As Worley-Lopez puts it, “Even if the portion that becomes an independent ‘micro-nation’ is only a handful of the island’s 78 municipalities, it would still allow those who truly support independence to achieve their stated goal, while allowing others to reach theirs.” (Puerto Rico does not have counties or the equivalent.)
Secondly, there is the question of how to draw the new border. Worley-Lopez seems to suggest asking each municipality to pick a side. In reality, this may not end up creating a very clean line. It might be a wild gerrymander, with lots of exclaves. This could lead to disruptions at the administrative and economic levels; it could also prove to be more divisive at the community level than even the multiple-choice referenda have been.
|Referenda in Puerto Rico do not follow clear regional patterns.|
|Switzerland’s Jurassians had to leave some territory behind|
when they seceded from Bern in 1979.
|Quebeckers, too, have had to contemplate what their independent state|
might look like it if they couldn’t secede with all of its territory.
|Scattered bits of Catalonia have already seceded—but not as a final goal.|
|I love Azerbaijan so much, I am happy that there are two.|
|One face of “micro-independence”: a “People’s Republic of Donetsk”|
separatist posing in his Archie Bunker chair.
“Venezuela’s President Maduro Urges Puerto Rico to Declare Independence, Join Latin American Bloc” (Jan. 2014)
“Puerto Rico Votes for Statehood—or at Least for Some Kind of Change” (Nov. 2012)
[You can read more about Puerto Rico, Jura, Quebec, Catalonia, South Azerbaijan, and other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]