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Herald Staff

September 17, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

The controversy -- both in the 50 states and in Puerto Rico -- surrounding the granting of clemency to members of the FALN has, unfortunately, obscured the 101 year commitment of Puerto Rico's 3.8 million American citizens to the democratic ideals embodied in the US Constitution.

Just as the illegal and misguided actions of a few self-styled anti-government groups and individuals stateside do not reflect the overwhelming democratic views of the American people, the 20 year-old extra-legal tactics employed by the independence-minded FALN, some of whose members were granted clemency, do not mirror the democratic principles and practices of the people of Puerto Rico. To assume otherwise, does an injustice to all Puerto Ricans and besmirches the honor of the thousands upon thousands of brave Puerto Rican men and woman who have fought overseas to defend America since World War I.

Puerto Rico has truly been the living ideal of American democracy. Its constitution closely follows the American model, but it also provides for elected minority representation in its governing bodies for political parties that would not otherwise garner enough votes on their own to win election. Thus, Puerto Rico's pro-independence party has at-large members in both of the territorial commonwealth's legislative chambers although it regularly receives less than 5 percent of votes cast island-wide.

As such, Puerto Rico's democratic system allows for all views on the island's current and future political status options -- independence, statehood, commonwealth -- to be aired in democratic and legislative arenas. Hence, there is no justification for Individuals or organizations acting outside of these institutions on behalf of any of the status options: they are neither tolerated nor legally countenanced.

Significantly, there is no other American jurisdiction as committed to democratic principles as Puerto Rico. Regularly, 70 percent to 80 percent of registered Puerto Rican voters cast ballots at election time. This is two to two and one half times higher than stateside counterparts.

Equally telling is Puerto Rico's defense of American democracy. With one of the highest military enlistment rates, over 197,000 Puerto Rican men and women have defended American principles in every conflict abroad from World War I to Kosovo. Some 6,220 have been wounded and 1,225 have been killed in the service of their country, the United States. Four have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Puerto Ricans are proud of their American citizenship; practicing and defending it with a zeal unmatched anywhere in the United States. Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly condemn the actions of those very few among them who would taint their commitment to the US Constitution and anyone, anywhere, who would call into question their loyalty to the American flag and for all that it stands.

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