How Guam’s Decolonization was Addressed at National Political Party Conventions

FOR IMMEADIATE RELEASE, AUGUST 2, 2016 – Now that the Republican and Democratic National Party Conventions are over, the Independence for Guåhan Task Force (Independent Guåhan) has taken a closer look at the parties’ respective stances on Guam’s decolonization.
Every four years the United States elects a new president. While this election is often represented as an example of the greatness of the United States, for those who live in America’s territories and cannot participate, this election is another example of the limits of American democracy and the realities of our colonial statuses.
As the Voice of America, the external broadcasting corporation of the United States, recently reported, for the people in the territories of the US, participation at this level of American democracy ends with the Republican and Democratic National conventions. Although residents of Guam and other territories are allowed to participate in the nomination of candidates for president of the United States, they do not have voting rights and other than Washington D.C., have no electoral college votes.

Each presidential election represents another reminder of the need for decolonization in Guam, and that a change in our political status would allow the people of the island to enjoy real democracy, whether as an independent country, a freely associated territory or an integrated part of the United States. 
The right of the Chamorro people to self-determination is internationally recognized, and as such, the United States government (regardless of political party) is obligated to support the decolonization of its territories. Thus, it is important that the people of Guam take this opportunity after both major parties have held their conventions to examine their respective positions on Guam’s decolonization.
Both the Democrats and Republicans have formally adopted their platforms and a closer look at them reveals both slight and significant differences in how each party would affect Guam’s political future.
The Republican Party platform contains a number of recommendations for the removal of unduly harsh economic restrictions on Guam and other territories (such as the Jones Act). It contains no explicit support for the self-determination or decolonization of the people in the territories, and only offers a statement recognizing the rights of people to seek inclusion in the United States.
“We welcome their greater participation in all aspects of the political process and affirm their right to seek the full extension of the Constitution with all the rights and responsibilities that entails,” the Republican platform states.

There is no mention of any other political possibilities supported by the Republican Party, and their platform offers no real support in terms of integration into the United States, only recognition that those in the territories have the right to pursue such a course.

The Democratic Party platform offers a more explicit endorsement of the rights of the people in the territories, noting, “We support self-government and self-determination for the people of the territories and their right to decide their future status.”
This language is important in acknowledging not only the right of the people to seek inclusion, but also their right to seek self-government in the form of more autonomy or independence. Although the Democratic Party does not offer any specific language supporting independence or free association, it does make clear that should these territories be attached to the United States, they deserve to be treated fairly.
“All Americans should be able to vote for the people who make their laws, just as they should be treated equally,” the platform declares. “And all American citizens, no matter where they reside, should have the right to vote for President of the United States.”

The road to decolonization is not something that hinges solely on a plebiscite. It will be a long process that requires negotiation with the United States government in order to make whatever wish is expressed in that plebiscite a reality. It is imperative that as part of the education of our community, we educate ourselves on the government with whom we will be working in order to finally achieve this long-denied dream of decolonization for the Chamorro people and for Guam.