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Statehood for Guam -- Perspectives in Focus

In 1898 following the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded Guam along with Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the U.S. Under the Peace Treaty of Paris, Guam's political status would be determined by Congress. The U.S. assumed the responsibility of helping the people of Guam attain their social, economic and political development and, by implication, to achieve eventual full self-determination.

Since then, the Philippines was granted its independence in 1946 and Puerto has entered into a Commonwealth agreement with the U.S.

 After being administered by a naval government since 1898, Guam achieved limited self-government in 1950 when Congress enacted the Organic Act of Guam and

granted U.S. citizenship to the inhabitants. And although the Act enabled the people to elect members of their Legislature, the Governor was appointed by the President until the passage of the 1970 Guam Elected Governor Act. In 1972, Guam also was granted a non-voting delegate to Congress.

Despite this political emergence, the people of Guam have yet to exercise political self-determination as embodied in the U.N. Charter of 1945, of which the U.S. is a major signatory.

To this date, Guam continues to be categorized by the United Nations as a non-self governing territory. Since 1945 to date, most of those non-self governing territories

placed under U.N. trusteeship and administered by various major nations of the world have exercised their self-determination, most of them opting for independence.

Guam is now at the crossroad of its self-determination process. A plebiscite will be held (with U.N. endorsement) to delink Guam from the non-self governing category in pursuit of its ultimate political status. The vote will be on three stated options: Statehood, Independence and Free Association with the U.S.

Nine years ago, in 1997, a Commission on Decolonization was created by a Guam law  (PL 23-147) to spearhead public education on the three options and to conduct a plebiscite. A plebiscite was initially scheduled in conjunction with the 2000 General elections but was later reset to be held along with the 2002 primary elections on Sept. 7.

Problems continued to plague the plebiscite process since the mandatory special voter registration specifically required for the plebiscite has not been completed due to inaction for one reason or another.

During his final term in office, Gov. Carl Gutierrez wrote a letter to the Guam Election Commission director instructing him to hold off in registering voters for the plebiscite. That action effectively prevented the plebiscite from being held as scheduled. 

Faced with the continuing lack of substantial voter registration, the Guam Legislature enacted a law authorizing the Guam Election Commission board to determine the plebiscite date as it deems appropriate. The board moved back the plebiscite date to coincide with the 2004 general elections for public offices. As of May 2004, however, there were only about 300 registered for the plebiscite, a far cry from an estimated 30,000 plus eligible voters. Under the circumstances, due the low voter registration coupled with the lack of a mass voter education on the three options -- Statehood, Free Association and Independent -- the plebsicite again was not held as rescheduled.

Gov. Felix P. Camacho, who took office in January 2003, must now take the lead and put the plebiscite back on track. He was re-elected for a second four-year term that ended in January 2011 when a newly-elected Republican Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo took over in  Adelup. Unlike the previous Camacho administration, Goverrnor Calvo made the self-determination plebiscite one of his main priorities.  By law, the governor is the chairman of the Commission on Decolonization, which is responsible for spearheading the long-awaited political self-determination for Guam. He appointed Eddie Alvarez as the new director of the commission and vowed to have the plebiscite held either in conjunction with the 2012 general election,  if funds are made available and the required voter registration and mass public education are adequately completed. If not, the next general election in 2014 will be the target date.

The federal government is providing funds for voter education purposes and Gov-Guam, through legislative appropriation, will also supplement the cost of the plebiscite.


  • The Guam Statehood Task Force invites all interested persons to visit our web page. Our URL address is: statehoodforguam.com. Please be sure to sign in the Guest Book and provide contact number, if you wish.
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