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Dr. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer to Run for Puerto Rico At-large Senate Seat

October 19, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Longtime Puerto Rico statehood advocate and medical doctor, Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, recently announced her candidacy to run for an at-large seat in the Senate of Puerto Rico. Dr. Ramirez is President of Puerto Ricans in Civic Action, a grass-roots, non-partisan, civic organization which she founded in 1984 for the purpose of collecting individually signed petitions for Puerto Rico statehood for the island's 3.8 million American citizens. One such effort resulted in 350,000 petitions, presented to President George Bush in the Oval Office. Since 1898, Puerto Rico has been an unincorporated territory of the United States, leaving island residents without representation in Congress and no voice in the election of the President of the United States. Dr. Ramirez is a member of the island's New Progressive Party (NPP). In mainland U.S. political circles, she is known as a Republic Party activist, having been appointed to numerous federal commissions by President Reagan and Bush.

On a recent visit to Washington to attend a hearing on the issue of Vieques, Dr. Ramirez sat for interview with the Puerto Rico Herald. Asked why she decided to enter the world of elected politics, she replied: "It fits with my overall objective of seeking full equality for Puerto Ricans with our fellow US citizens in the 50 sovereign states. Over the years, I have established excellent relations with Members of Congress and officials from the federal government and these relations have always been used on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico, for their families, their communities and their elected officials. I have not only sought for our full political rights, I have also worked to identify federal resources to further improve the life of the Puerto Rican people.

HERALD: Do you agree with the seemingly unanimous view by Puerto Rican politicians that the US Navy should immediately cease to use Vieques as live fire range?

DR. RAMIREZ: I advocate a cooling off period by all parties and the beginning of negotiations and compromise. The safety and quality of life of Vieques residents must be paramount in the discussions, but we also need to remember that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and has a role to play in the defense of our nation. We have done this since we were granted US citizenship in 1917, and even before that. Over 200,000 Puerto Rican men and women have served in the Armed Forces of the United States and the number of deaths and injuries suffered in combat by our military personnel has been disproportionately higher than that of any other population group. The training our troops including Puerto Ricans who might need to enter into a conflict is an aspect of the issue that cannot be ignored. As the daughter of a military man, I know of the sacrifices made by service personnel and their families. I appreciate their courage in the defense of our nation and our democracy and I am grateful for their service.

HERALD: In view of the raised passions in Puerto Rico over this issue, do you see popular support for US statehood waning?

DR. RAMIREZ: What I see is a few political extremists using this issue to drive their agenda. That agenda is separation from the United States. But, I ask you, what have our voters had to say about independence? Well, in the plebiscite held last December, a tiny minority - only 2.5% of the electorate - chose independence. Since 1952, support for US statehood has risen from about 15% to near 50% today. During that period, voter support for our present status as a Commonwealth - nothing more than a fancy name for colony - has plummeted by more than 40 points. Popular support for statehood has been growing steadily as people have come to realize what are the real issues. The tensions created by the Vieques situation will have no impact on Puerto Rico's inexorable movement toward full union with the United States. As a Senator, I will continue to fight against this separatist agenda so that we can reach our goal of equality with all American citizens. I will continue to work for the permanent union of Puerto Rico with the United States of America. I will use all my contacts in Washington to urge passage of federal legislation to present status options to Puerto Rican voters that are realistic and consistent with US Constitution. We cannot allow anyone to separate us from the United States. We cannot allow a tiny minority to execute an agenda that goes against the will of the Puerto Rican people.

HERALD: What are these "real issues' of which you speak?

DR. RAMIREZ: All issues really boil down to one issue: American citizenship. Every Puerto Rican values his or her American citizenship above every other political consideration. Even independence advocates want to keep American citizenship. They say they want "dual citizenship". So the question is, "what kind of American citizenship do we want?" What I want is full rights of American citizenship. I want to be represented in the Senate and the US House of Representatives and I want to be able to vote for President. Furthermore, I want to accept all the duties and responsibilities of American citizenship. Now, that cannot happen as long as my American citizenship is statutory and it will continue to be statutory as long as I live in an unincorporated territory. It is only when I live in the "sovereign state of Puerto Rico" that all the rights and benefits of Constitutional citizenship will apply to me as a Puerto Rican. The number of my fellow Puerto Rican who see that as the "real issue" is growing everyday.

HERALD: What issues will you be stressing in your campaign?

DR. RAMIREZ: I want to contribute new ideas and fresh approaches to my role as a Senate legislator. I have never run for elected office, but I bring a lifetime of experience to my candidacy. Further, I have pledged that I will give full time to addressing the needs of the Puerto Rican people and that I will conduct myself in public life in an honest and efficient manner. For many years, my medical practice as a gynecologist and obstetrician was with the Puerto Rican Department of Health Service. In that work, I have seen first hand - the problems faced by Puerto Rican women, mothers and families at every social level. In my work to advance Puerto Rico's self-determination, I have travelled to every city and town of Puerto Rico, talking to people, hearing their opinions and assessing their needs. I know the island, I know the people, and I have guaranteed them that my Senate office will always be open to them. That is my promise as I seek an at-large seat in the Puerto Rican Senate.

HERALD: Can you be more specific about your campaign platform?

DR. RAMIREZ: I am primarily concerned with the education of our children, the health of our people and for solutions to the persistent social problems that bring our society down. Regarding education, we must ensure that every child in Puerto Rico has the opportunity to receive a good education. As Senator, I will seek the necessary funding so that public schools have the same resources as do the private schools, resulting in an equality of educational opportunities for each and every child in the island. Also of special concern to me is the on-going efforts to reform the Puerto Rican health care system. This issue has been at the root of my professional life and I will bring a special perspective to the legislative initiatives associated with it. I want to improve access to the best in health services, but in this I will not forget about the health care providers; the doctor, the nurse and other who are a part of the equation and whose needs must be addressed. Voters who support me can count on me to work for a balanced and more effective health care program in Puerto Rico. Finally, I wish ameliorate serious social problems that we face in Puerto Rico such as crime, drug abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. I have worked with these issues as a private citizen and as a Senator I will contribute new approaches toward solutions to these and others social problems.

HERALD: Thank you Dr. Ramirez.

DR. RAMIREZ: It has been my pleasure.

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