Friday, December 09, 2005
No one is more binary than my buddy Tom A. (name withheld so I can avoid being hit on the racquetball court an excessive amount of times) who has his classic line -- "......it is a simple question, yes or no?" I was reminded of Tom's "efficient" style of decision making yesterday while reading the Financial Times and USA Today (December 8, 2005) which had short articles covering modern day imperialism as noted below:
Financial Times -- "Sarkozy abandons trip in face of protests" caught my attention as both a political scientist and observer of French politics since the article focused on M. Nicolas Sarkozy's, France's Interior Minister, cancelled trip to the Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The article highlighted the fact that "France's overseas territories have a population of about 1.5 million citizens, who are eligible to vote in French elections." M. Sarkozy had to cancel his trip due to local protests and planned diplomatic snubs in Martinique and Guadeloupe in protest of a French law which states -- "the school syllabus should recognize, in particular, the benefits of the French presence to overseas territories." BENEFITS of French colonialism?? As an anti-imperialist the two French colonial examples that come to mind immediately are -- 1.) the Vietnam War and 2.) the failed state of Haiti which is the POOREST nation in the Western Hemisphere - http://www.viphaiti.org/. The political implications of these protests against M. Sarkozy's visit are that the 1.5 million votes could affect his pursuit to be President of France in the 2007 elections.
USA Today (via the Associated Press) -- reported that a, "Puerto Rican statehood group said it would ask President Bush to give soldiers and veterans from the US territory the right to vote for president. The group said Puerto Rican troops, who are citizens, should be allowed to vote since foreign born soldiers granted US citizenship have that right. " A short overview of Puerto Rico's political history (courtesy of the CIA Fact Book) follows -- Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose to retain commonwealth status.
In both cases -- France and the USA -- I would encourage political leaders to end the "half pregnant" status of territories, departments, commonwealths, etc. around the world. Having traveled extensively in the Caribbean I would rather see the various French territories form their own political union or individually to be recognized by the United Nations General Assembly (no, I did not convert to being pro-UN but it is the "club" for nation states). Regarding Puerto Rico -- yes in three previous plebiscites voters have decided to "retain commonwealth status" but instead of 3 choices on future ballots perhaps they should only have 2 choices of either 1.) statehood in the USA or 2.) sovereign nation-state/independence so we end their half pregnant status which of course is medically impossible but is a classic political phrase I have heard over the years.
Whether Puerto Rico becomes the 51st US state or becomes a sovereign Caribbean nation (with military and naval base leasing agreements with the USA) which belongs to the recently ratified CAFTA free trade agreement their citizens would have a clear political future allowing for greater economic opportunity beyond the current special provisions created for Puerto Rico in the US Internal Revenue Code - http://welcome.topuertorico.org/economy.shtml
For an exceptional overview of the history and results of imperialism I highly recommend reading the book Paris 1919.