What would independence mean for Guam?


Guam – PNC will be carrying UOG’s One Guam gubernatorial debate live Tuesday May 8. The topic of the debate is Self-Determination. Leading up to the debate PNC will be featuring stories on this topic and tonight’s installment is about the political status of Independence.

If a plebiscite or vote for self-determination is ever held there will be three political status options namely Statehood, Free Association and Independence.

But what is independence? Commission on Decolonization Independence Task Force co-chair Victoria “Lola” Leon Guerrero explains.

“So, independence as a political status option essentially means Guam gains full sovereignty meaning that we would become our own nation we would become our own country we would join the United Nations as an Independent nation and we would join over 200 other places in the world who are independent. Places that are smaller than Guam the same size as Guam and much bigger than Guam,” said Leon Guerrero adding, “What it really means is we make all our own decisions. Sovereignty really essentially means we reign. We make all decisions that impact us today and into the future.”

Leon Guerrero says Independence would allow Guam to explore new options that the island currently can’t explore under U.S. rule. Things like the Jones Act which restrict shipping or cabotage laws that restrict airlines.

If Guam were to become Independent Leon Guerrero says it doesn’t mean that the U.S., it’s military and it’s dollars gets kicked out tomorrow. She says the U.N. Charter actually obligates the U.S. to help facilitate the decolonization or self-determination process.

“They cannot just leave right. There has to be a period of transition. Since 1945 over 80 places in the world have decolonized,” said Leon Guerrero.

Leon Guerrero says these places have all had transition periods. Including one former colony of the U.S. that has achieved full independence.

“The Philippines for example. And they had a transitionary period which was called their commonwealth and they eventually achieved independence. And so, for Guam what we would want to do is to be able to negotiate with the United States a period of transition in which they would not only turn over the things they currently control but they would provide economic aid,” said Leon Guerrero.

Leon Guerrero says Independence does not mean kicking out the U.S. military either.

“In fact, Independent nations throughout the world host U.S. military bases but they’re able to do so on their terms again they are the sovereign nation negotiating with the U.S. which is also a sovereign nation,” said Leon Guerrero.

And she says because of Guam’s strategic military importance the U.S. would want to negotiate to keep bases here.

“The reality is the U.S. needs Guam more than Guam needs the U.S. and that’s the mentality that we really have to work together to change. Because Guam is it’s biggest base in this region,” said Leon Guerrero.

“Independence. Does that mean kicking out all the non-Chamorus?” asked PNC.

 “Absolutely not,” said Leon Guerrero.

“I’ve never heard anybody that is or has supported independence say we want to kick everyone out and only have Chamoru people here. No. What we’ve really been clear about is that the Chamoru people’s rights have been taken away and that we need to remedy that. That that needs to be…justice needs to be served in that case and then together we can actually make a better place for everybody,” said Leon Guerrero.

And what about U.S. citizenship?

“Once you become a U.S. citizen that doesn’t get taken away from you. Guam could essentially through this transitionary period and through the negotiations towards independence be granted dual citizenship which many people throughout the world actually have,” said Leon Guerrero.

Economically Leon Guerrero says Guam could prosper as an independent nation. It could act as a trade hub between Asia and the U.S. it would control its own immigration which could allow it to boost tourism by allowing Chinese visitors to have easier entry similar to the coveted Chinese Visa Waiver program that GovGuam has been begging the federal government for.

“There’s so much possibility that I think we close ourselves off to,” said Leon Guerrero.

“We can do this. I think most people don’t want to choose independence because they’re afraid that we won’t be able to do it, but I think Guahan means we have and we have to imagine something better for ourselves we were capable of this for thousands of years prior to colonialism and we are more than capable now,” said Leon Guerrero.

“What better opportunity than to shape a new nation right? That’s so exciting. We just have to believe in ourselves,” Leon Guerrero.