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Hernandez Colon Calls For Dismantling Government Apparatus

Favors Constitutional Amendment To Guarantee Full Municipal Autonomy


October 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon called for dismantling the government structure, which he said served Puerto Rico well in the 20th century but has become an impediment to fulfilling the people’s mandate, during the annual event sponsored by the foundation bearing his name.

"The government apparatus, with its bureaucracy, is the largest hurdle that [Puerto Rico’s] democracy must overcome to be effective," Hernandez Colon said. He added that at the end of his third term in office, he was convinced the government wasn’t functioning.

"Giving orders in Puerto Rico’s government is like pushing clouds. Nothing happens," he said. "One has to invest so much time and energy to follow up on even the smallest task."

Hernandez Colon believes no democracy can function this way. "That is why reforming the state apparatus is so important," he said. "It is more important than ever because after my incumbency, the state was subjected to a bad reform which opened the door to corruption. This forced the current administration to concentrate on cleaning up instead of on reforming the government structure."

He added that it was also necessary to regionalize the government and to give municipalities autonomy. He called for an amendment to the commonwealth constitution to guarantee full municipal autonomy.

"Participation, relevance, and the sense that the government and the people have one purpose is evident when the government is small and closer to the people," Hernandez Colon said.

He said people in Puerto Rico are living in uncertainty about the future of the island. "The political situation is fluid; the economy lacks a development blueprint; and there is a feeling of insecurity," Hernandez Colon said. "We must look inside ourselves. We must look to our values, contact the vital energy that comes from our history and from past generations of Puerto Ricans whose ideals conformed to our reality and to our aspirations."

Hernandez Colon recalled that during the 1940 elections (when the late former Gov. Luis Muñoz Marin led the Popular Democratic Party to power), Puerto Rico’s democracy was redesigned and was fruitful for more than two decades. That period saw the creation of the island’s constitution, economic development plan, and social justice and cultural programs.

Hernandez Colon advised citizens to reflect on the scope, quality, and functionality of Puerto Rico’s democracy, the people’s basic tool for achieving their aspirations. He said profound changes are required in four areas: the limits of democracy—that is, what Puerto Ricans can determine through their votes; the inequality in the strength of voters, special-interest groups, and the media; the inefficient articulation between voters, society, and government; and the ineffective government structure to address the needs and aspirations of the people.

Hernandez Colon spoke of the need to overturn what he calls the democratic deficit, meaning that many areas of life in Puerto Rico are regulated by federal laws over which locals don’t have a say because of the island’s political status. "That is why solving the status issue is fundamental to the country going forward," he said. "I wrote six articles for CARIBBEAN BUSINESS on the ways to go about it."

He said the island’s democracy is also hurt by the large number of people who depend on government assistance. "This results in the loss of real freedom and of self-esteem," he said.

Hernandez Colon added that the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few, coupled with the power of the media, influences the political process in favor of particular interests. This makes votes unequal and breaks the feeling of solidarity among the people. "It creates frustration, resentment, impotence, and alienation," Hernandez Colon said.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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