Pacific News Minute: Guam Decolonization Plebiscite Postponed to 2018

Dec 14, 2016

Credit xrmap / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

It now looks like Guam will hold its decolonization plebiscite in 2018. The island's indigenous people will be asked whether they prefer independence, statehood, or Free Association with the U.S. More from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute.

In 1982, Guamanians voted overwhelmingly to remain an unincorporated territory of the United States. But independence advocates argued that the election failed to meet the decolonization standards of the United Nations because non-natives were allowed to vote. Efforts to hold a new plebiscite have only gained traction recently. Governor Eddie Calvo's effort to put the measure on this November's ballot failed, in part because of disputes over eligibility. A long time American resident named Arnold Dave took the government of Guam to Federal Court to challenge his exclusion.

Eloy Hara, co-chair of the Statehood Task Force, told Radio New Zealand that, as the 51st State, Guam could ask the U.S. military to protect the islands fisheries from poachers. Chair of Free Association Task Force Adrian Cruz argued that, as an independent nation, Guam could have greater leverage with the U.S. military. U.S. Naval and Air Force bases already occupy big parts of the island, and the U.S. military population is set to grow from six to eleven thousand as troops transfer from Japan. At the same time, Free Association would retain longstanding cultural and family ties with the U.S. Independence Co-Chair Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero said true independence is the only answer for those who fear a war with China where Guam would be a target.

The plebiscite would be non-binding, and any change in the island's political status would have to be approved by Congress.