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The Puerto Rico Herald
Please Help Me Understand
October 13, 2001
Most of the following has been expressed many times before by others much more knowledgeable on the subject than I. However I would like an input regarding my discontent with most of the lawmakers in Washington. My wife tells me to tone down the letter because there is a note of anger, so as you can see, I have tried.
Washington too long has shunned and neglected its responsibility to act on and correct its blatant denial of the rights to self-determination for the Puerto Rican People. It is not the complicated problem Congress makes it out to be. Yet, insensitive members of that elite club, decade after decade, refuse to put into action the necessary steps required to undo the shameful inequities brought onto a powerless citizenry.
In the dimmest light it is glaringly clear that not enough of these elected officials have had the courage and foresight to vigorously address the continued unjust and festering situation on the Island.
What does it take to make these individuals in power do the honorable thing? We must have some sign that closure of this outrageous denial is somewhere in sight. I am certain that the majority of Americans do not fully understand the extent to which the U.S. Congress has mishandled Puerto Rican affairs over the years.
Although there have always been a few among them sympathetic to our plight, for which I am grateful, most appear to be consistently short of the fervor necessary to implement the means to cleanse the terrible stain their inaction has made on the American fabric and history. It does seem ironic that this great Nation, which takes such pride in its Constitution and civil liberties, could sanction power to those uncaring elements within the Halls of that noble Institution.
As we all know, members of the United Nations have had the question Puerto Rico before them on several occasions. The Body has tried to address the disenfranchisement claims but has failed to act because the powerful United States delegation has managed with its legalese and veto power to side step the issue and continue business as usual, maintaining its incessant arrogant policy of the perpetual status quo.
Those among the International Community are awakening, finally, to the glaring shell game U.S. politicians have played for years with the Puerto Rican right to free itself from its shameful Colonial yoke.
More and more Nations are beginning to question this Governments motivation for the lack of action on this important issue. It is especially unjustifiable in todays Global environment where human rights issues are in the forefront and continuing the current American position under whatever circumstances is completely untenable.
Congress cannot persist in the indefinite denial to over three million people, under its total control, the same precious rights to representation the rest of its Citizens take for granted.
Not all that far in the horizon, I find reason for optimism. On the mainland the ever-increasing political power of the Latino Community will surely help turn the tide of indifference and bring about change. We may not reach a majority but we will have the political strength that will tip the scales in important future elections. That much, even the least astute politician will guarantee.
It may take patience but eventually Congress must respond to the one and only power every one of them understands; Political Power.
However, for now the fact remains that those living in Puerto Rico cannot change the makeup of the U.S. Congress since they have no legal right to direct ballot redress.
Any changes to be had are at the whims of our Federal monolithic patriarch. The residents are not allowed to vote in Federal elections, and yet, those local Island elections for regional offices such as Governor or Legislative Rep's, accomplish little in setting binding local policy because the outcome must first be sanctioned, not by constitutional law, but by our faithful friends in Congress.
If I understand it at all, and I believe I do, under the present system, the locally elected are no more than titular heads with Federally issued rubber stamps to satisfy the fancy and caprice of an uncompromising group in Washington. The latest example is the recent internal vote regarding the military concerns on Vieques Island, where Congress quickly overruled the will of a clear majority vote. It does not matter on which side of the Vieques argument one leans; what does matter is that the results of a properly constituted election should be honored, and that is not the case.
Because of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill Of Rights, through the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, this is and hopefully will continue to be the greatest Nation on Earth. Those elected to pilot Her have not always taken the right course. In spite of that She has consistently managed, through the guidance of Her Constitution, to safely find her way back.
Although there have been some painful disappointments, I have for over sixty-six years loved her dearly. She strongly maintains, within Her many other attributes, a constant vigil, that all amongst us can speak out and petition freely. This most precious freedom is not one Congress or the President can deny us, and it is the only tool we have to achieve, what I believe should be our ultimate goal: Constitutional Citizenship or total and complete Independence. In my mind anything less is unacceptable
Joe Perez, Jr.