Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez’s Self-Determination Act of 2020 for Puerto Rico is an Exercise in Dishonest Paternalistic Colonialism

On June 27, 1970, the infamous Henry Kissinger stated: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.” This gross imperialistic and paternalistic statement was made as part of Kissinger’s campaign to stop socialist Salvador Allende from becoming president of Chile. Despite the illegal and criminal CIA campaign Allende was elected president of “South America’s longest functioning democracy” on on Sept. 4 of the same year.

He didn’t last long in power. A U.S. campaign to destabilize the economy was matched with the funding of right-wing paramilitary groups to wreak havoc in Chile and bring about its social collapse. Then, in 1973, the Chilean military (under the guidance of the CIA and the US State Department) intervened with the excuse of restoring order and instituted a military dictatorship until 1990!

This is just one of too many instances in which the United States government has intervened in the future of people it deems incapable of making good choices, and, in the case of Puerto Rico, govern themselves.

After taking over Puerto Rico in 1898 , the United States government set up a tutelary colonial state because the prevalent racist beliefs held by its leaders got them to conclude that Puerto Ricans were too inferior culturally and racially wise to govern themselves.

The Self-Determination Act of 2020 authored by the two most powerful Puerto Ricans in Congress, representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez, is the worst example of this type of dishonest paternalistic colonialism in a long time. It is worse than PROMESA, and more like like those 1898-1900′ decisions that made Puerto Rico an American colony.

Let’s start with a summary of the #PuertoRico Self-Determination Act of 2020.


1. It is based on the following; “On November 18, 1953, the United Nations recognized Puerto Rico as a self-governing political entity under the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 748.”

2. The bill establishes that all peoples have the right to self-determination and ‘‘by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’’.

3. It claims that “The status convention provides a deliberative, comprehensive, and uninterrupted space of dialogue that can define the future of Puerto Rico.”

4. It recognizes the Legislature of Puerto Rico “inherent authority to call a status convention, constituted by a number of delegates to be determined in accordance to legislation approved” by the ELA, to propose to the people of Puerto Rico a self-determination option.

5. FEDERAL FUNDING will allocate $4 to each candidate for delegate for every $1 that the candidate receives as a campaign contribution that is, (A) less than $100; and B) donated by a resident of Puerto Rico.

6. The Delegates will:(a) debate and draft definitions on self-determination options for Puerto Rico, which shall be outside the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution; (b) draft accompanying transition plans for each self-determination option; (c) choose a self-determination option (and its accompanying transition plan) to present to the people of Puerto Rico through a referendum vote held in Puerto Rico.

7. The delegates choose the option the people vote on.This is similar to Public Law 600- which created the ELA in 1952. And, where the problems with bill start.

The CONGRESSIONAL BILATERAL NEGOTIATING COMMISSION instructs Puerto Rican delegates on their choices.

8. The Bill establishes a CONGRESSIONAL BILATERAL NEGOTIATING COMMISSION to provide advice and consultation to delegates of a status convention will include:(a) the chairs of the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate; (b) the ranking members of the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate; (c) one member selected by the majority leader of the House of Representatives; (d) one member selected by the minority leader of the House of Representatives;(e) one member selected by the majority leader of the Senate; (f) one member selected by the minority leader of the Senate; (g) the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico; (h) with the consent of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and majority leader of the Senate, a member from the Department of Justice.-these are not elected officials and will have undue say in the option chosen to be presented to the Puerto Rican electorate-

9. It calls for a referendum vote by residents of Puerto Rico MAY ONLY be on the self-determination option CHOSEN by the delegate of the status convention under the supervision of the CONGRESSIONAL BILATERAL NEGOTIATING COMMISSION.

10. Congress retains the right to ignore the results of the referendum. “If the referendum is approved by the people of Puerto Rico, Congress MAY approve a joint resolution to ratify the self-determination option approved in the referendum vote held under this Act.”

11. If Congress fails to act, “…the Puerto Rico status convention created under this Act may meet again and send or resend a self-determination option to Congress.”

This is a bad bill because at the heart of it lies the premise that the residents of Puerto Rico can’t choose their politcal future and status directly in a congress-sponsored binding referendum.

This is the same type of paternalist colonial mentality that turned Puerto Rico into an American colony in 1898.

This bill should be boycotted because it is an exercise in colonialism that perpetuates the already colonial status quo. Because only one choice will be presented to the Puerto Rican electorate- those who don’t like the option chosen by the delegates and the bilateral commission (whose members are not elected), can simply boycott the referendum and claim the voter turnout doesn’t support a status change.

Congress then, will agree or disagree with that claim depending on the status presented in the referendum.

Congress also retain the right to do NOTHING after the referendum. Nothing at all!

So, in sum, not only does this bill make the Puerto Rican electorate a supporting character in their own story, but it also includes too many mechanisms for Congress to manipulate the choice presented to the Puerto Rican electorate, AND to ignore their will even if after including all these mechanisms and undue influence- the Puerto Ricans choose an option that the Democratic leaders in Congress don’t support.

This is a betrayal of democratic principles and values.

Call on @NydiaVelazquez @AOC @BernieSanders @SenSchumerto to withdraw this piece of paternalistic colonial legislation.

The residents of Puerto Rico are capable enough to decide their politcal future in a direct referendum.

Let’s make sure that the will and the voices of the people of Puerto Rico are not drowned by yet another act of dishonest paternalistic colonialism.

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