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THE PUERTO RICO HERALD
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
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
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.
DR. RAMIREZ: It has been my pleasure.