Governor eyes self-rule vote next year
Leon Guerrero asks Biden to rectify 'injustices' and change Guam's fate through executive action
Saying the Chamoru people continue to suffer injustices under the United States, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero urged the Biden administration to correct inequities through executive action.
In written testimony, the governor told the UN Special Committee on Decolonization that the U.S. is blocking Guam's path to self-determination.
"Next year, I hope to testify before this committee and share that our administering power has brought closure to some of our long-standing requests and that we have either held a plebiscite or set a date for a plebiscite," the governor said.
The governor's testimony was delivered by Anthony Marion Babauta to the committee which convened its regular session June 15 for the annual gathering of nonself-governing territories such as Guam, and their administering powers.
"With the Biden administration’s commitment to rectifying many of the social injustices of the past whose effects continue to shape the present and guide its future, we are hopeful that the 120-year plight of the Chamoru people at the hands of the United States is recognized and given its due diligence in the form of executive action and the Biden administration's support for congressional legislation that authorizes a plebiscite consistent with existing Guam law," the governor said.
In a yet-to-be scheduled plebiscite, Guam voters will be asked to choose among three political status options: independence, statehood and free association.
In previous public discussions, the governor expressed her preference for independence.
In May last year, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Guam's petition for a review of the Ninth Circuit Court's 2019 decision that struck down a local law that limits the voting eligibility for the political status plebiscite.
Limiting the political status vote to “native inhabitants of Guam” is a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling that expands the voting eligibility and dismantles the biggest obstacle to the island’s self-determination process.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in November 2011 by Air Force veteran Arnold Davis, who was denied a chance to register for the yet-to-be-scheduled self-determination plebiscite.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed Federal Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood’s 2018 ruling which held that the plebiscite statute “impermissibly imposes race-based restrictions on the voting rights of non-native inhabitants in violation of the 15th Amendment.”
The government of Guam spent nearly a million dollars in legal fees to challenge the district court’s decision.
Leon Guerrero attributes the plebiscite delay to the Davis lawsuit.
Setting a date for the political status plebiscite has not been discussed since the Supreme Court declined to hear Guam's appeal.
“For 120 years, we’ve been subject to a colonial relationship that is guided by consultation rather than consent and unilateral authority rather than democratic will," Leon Guerrero said.
"As governor, I am committed to taking the next step in our quest for decolonization by holding a self-determination vote. Once our education campaign is complete, and with the help of the United Nations and the hopeful support of the Biden administration, we will be ready to finally, after nearly 40 years, cast our votes for our future and take control of our political destiny.”
"The United States must remain true to its commitment to equality and justice and give the Chamoru people of Guam a meaningful opportunity to self-determine and decide what kind of relationship they wish to have with their administering power," the governor said.
"Under the new Biden administration, the United States has been proactive in recognizing the inequity of the relationship between themselves and their territories. The U.S. Insular Cases and lack of national voting rights for territorial citizens have been highlighted in a number of congressional bills and resolutions," she said.
The recognition of the "historical harms and injustices caused by the Insular Cases," the governor said presented another chance for the U.S. to resolve Guam's political status.