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martes, 17 de febrero de 2009

Will voting rights in DC open door for United States' colonies in Caribbean and Pacific?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic by Michael Richardson Boston Progressive Examiner The U.S. Senate is scheduled to debate giving the District of Columbia a voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives next week. Delegate Eleanor Homes Norton (D-DC) has told reporters that she believes the votes are there to pass the legislation. The Obama fever gripping the Congress during President Barack Obama's 'honeymoon' period may be enough to propel the bill to passage. Obama's recent opponent, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has declared he believes such legislation would be unconstitutional because the District of Columbia is not a state. Residents of the District gained the Presidential vote with passage of the 23rd Amendment however lack voting representation in Congress. Puerto Rico, an American colony since the Spanish-American War, was captured after the 'Rough Riders' took San Juan hill. Three days after the U.S. invasion General Nelson Miles gave a speech to island residents promising them the fruits of democracy. "The people of the United States, in the cause of liberty, justice, and humanity, its military forces have come to occupy the island of Porto Rico….They have not come to make war on the people of the country, who for centuries have been oppressed; but on the contrary, to bring protection….and bestow the immunities and blessing of our enlightenment and liberal institutions and government." However, racism in the United States coupled with the 'sugar lobby' kept Puerto Rico in a territorial status with the U.S. citizens unable to vote in federal elections. A three-way tug-of-war between those urging independence, statehood, and the second-class status quo have perpetuated the lack of voting rights for U.S. citizens residing on the island. A decade-long legal fight by Gregorio Igartua to gain the Presidential vote is now in international court after being denied by the Supreme Court. Several White House reports have urged resolution of Puerto Rico's legal status and many observers feel that if residents of the District of Columbia can be legislatively given a vote in Congress than so can Puerto Rico. U.S. Virgin Islands, an American colony since its purchase from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million, is similarly situated as Puerto Rico with U.S. citizens residing on the islands unable to vote in federal elections. President Obama enjoys vacationing in the Virgin Islands and can be expected to keep the plight of residents in mind. The issue of a lack of voting rights has been a significant impediment to passage of a constitution for the territorial government. Former U.S. marshal Krim Ballentine brought suit to obtain Presidential voting rights but, like Igartua, could not get the courts to treat all citizens the same. One federal judge sat on Ballentine's case for over a half-decade before retiring with the case still undecided. Guam, an American colony since the Spanish-American War, was occupied by Japan during World War II. Unlike Puerto Rico, which the United States took by force, in Guam the U.S. paid Spain $20 million for the island. Guam was captured three days after the Pearl Harbor attack that provoked U.S. entry into WWII. In 1950, Guam was declared an 'unincorporated territory' and seems to be long destined as a military base. Residents are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in federal elections. American Samoa, an American colony since the 1899 Treaty of Berlin where the U.S. split the Samoan archipelago with Germany. American Samoa is the most exotic colony and inhabited by descendents of headhunters. Residents are considered U.S. nationals but must move to the mainland in order to become citizens. As with other territories, U.S. citizens residing in American Samoa cannot vote in federal elections. Samoans will be watching the upcoming DC vote closely.

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