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In a recent column, Ronald Walker commented on the extensive lobbying required from the Puerto Rican government to get continued congressional approval and increased appropriations for the Nutritional Assistance Program, known by its Spanish acronym of PAN.

Walker rightfully observes: "Puerto Rico has only one member of Congress, the resident commissioner, and his office alone simply could not have carried the day on PAN by itself."

The same observation can be made regarding other federal income support programs. In a report of the General Accounting Office, dated August 1989, we find the following statement:

  • "Puerto Rico participates in some federal income support programs or programs that have similar objectives, but is generally not treated as a state. The federal funding for these programs is capped so that (1) Puerto Rican residents might receive lower levels of assistance than individuals residing in a state or (2) the Commonwealth must bear a higher share of the costs. Some programs are unique to Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico has set different eligibility requirements and provides a different set of benefits than do many of the states in other programs."
  • There are many other federal laws and programs that apply both to Puerot Rico and ll the states of the union, although not precisely on an equal footing.

    In the field of labor law, directly applying to Puerto Rico, we find the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Job Training Partnership Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

    Pertaining to trade legislation, the Commonwealth is subject to the Tariff Act of 1930, the Trade Act of 1974 and the Agriculture Adjustment Act.

    In the area of environmental protection, our island is covered by, among others, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act and Superfund legislation.

    We should also mention the Coastal Barriers Management Act, whose application to Puerto Rico was opposed by the administration of former Gov. Rafael Hernández Colón.

    The list of federal legislation and programs applying to Puerto Rico can go on, to include such areas as social security, unemployment insurance, child nutrition, aid to university students, housing, immigration, bankruptcy, road construction, defense, education, mail service, medicine prescriptions, radio and television broadcasting, weights and measures, soil conservation, energy, currency, forestry, historic sites preservation, as well as land, sea and air transportation.

    Perhaps we are not really aware of it, but the fact is that the daily life of every Puerto Rican is decisively influenced by the myriad of federal laws and programs being approved by the U.S. Congress.

    Such a fact poses a political, legal and, above all, a moral problem.

    The American citizens of Puerto Rico are not justly represented in the parliament whose deliberation, decisions and legislation so profoundly influence our daily lives.

    Although our resident commissioner, Carlos Romero Barceló, is performing his duties in an outstanding manner, even without a vote on the House floor, a minimal representation of a single seat is unbecoming to our island.

    The U.S. Congress legislates for all the nation, including Puerto Rico.

    But while the citizens of the 50 states are duly represented, on equal terms–in the U.S. Senate, and accordingly with their population in the House of Representatives–the American citizens of Puerto Rico are deprived of any representation in the Senate, and are merely allowed a single seat in the House, with voice but no vote.

    In moral terms, such a situation is untenable, more so in a world where colonialism is being looked upon as an obscenity.

    Karl Krasting, a professor of law at the University of Florida, in his article "The Implementation of Representative Government in a Democracy" (48 Iowa Law Review 549/1963), concluded: "To fail to allocate power equally, where applicable, is to withhold respect from those deprived... Non-use of the full voting potential may be of such long standing as to have inured the power reject from any sense of loss."

    What is to be a just and adequate representation for Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress?

    Puerto Rico, as the 51st State of the Union, will have two senators, which is the same number of seats allowed by the Constitution to each state.

    In the House of Representatives, our island will be allotted a ceratin number of seats, according to its population. An analyst for the Congressional Research Service, David Buckabee, has concluded that the State of Puerto Rico will be represented by six congressmen in the House of Representatives.

    Moreover, Buckabee has said that the admission of Puerto Rico into the Union would mean an increase in the House, from 435 to 441 members without causing loss to other state delegations. (STAR, July 18).

    George F. Will, in his work "The Loveling Wind" (1994) said: "The core principle of our republicanism is representation. The people do not decide things, they decide who will decide."

    After a century of colonialism, it is time for Puerto Ricans to be able to decide who will decide for us at the U.S. Capitol.

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