The United States has always prided itself on being a beacon of democracy and civil rights. He presented this speech around the world as a non-negotiable precondition for progress and stability. It has served as a powerful tool to lead denunciations against the legitimacy of the exercise of political power abroad. Democracy has dramatically helped propagate the American political system and way of life. Most of these democratic values, in particular the right to political participation, have gained such support that they have achieved almost universal recognition as the cornerstones of our human rights system. However, the reality is much darker.
As some American officials like to say, when people aren’t careful, these values ââare more ambitious than practical. In essence, it’s a nice talk but irrelevant when it ceases to parallel their short-term agendas. For them, in reality, the virtues of democracy are not universal principles but flexible to be judged on a case-by-case basis. This attitude, far more prevalent than most people may think, sparked a discussion that recently came to the forefront of the national scene due to a complicated election marred by reciprocal denunciations of fraud, legal changes and political postures. . However, for US citizens of Puerto Rico, this is nothing new. Instead, it’s a century-long struggle that has been constantly discussed behind closed doors but publicly, conveniently swept under the rug.
Puerto Rico‘s lack of political participation at the federal level has been easy enough to ignore because, regardless of the ethical implications of the territorial system, there is no formal repudiation by the people or demand for another political status. . However, that has changed dramatically over the past decade. After two previous plebiscites rejecting the current territorial condition and favoring the creation of a state, on election day, November 3, 2020, the American citizens of Puerto Rico were asked a question identical to that used by the former territories admitted in as a state: Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted to the Union as a state? A majority of the population of Puerto Rico supported the state.
Nonetheless, a new set of hurdles are presented by officials who fear change due to speculation about the national political ramifications of admission or who are affiliated with political groups on the island whose preferred option has always been. rejected by the population.
Whatever the motives, it is a glaring contradiction to proclaim the virtues of democracy and to work hard to prevent it. Coherence and credibility are closely linked. The political turn should not discredit democracy. The question of status is not a question of personal loyalty but of legitimacy. We, the people of Puerto Rico, have spoken and our democratic aspirations must be respected. We demand equality, fairness, respect and full recognition of our rights as American citizens.
Political discourse is only transcendent when it is supported by action. When principles are treated as a slogan, they lose their value and become mere propaganda. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said: âOur government is the mighty, the omnipresent teacher. For better or for worse, he teaches the whole people by his example. For more than a century, the US government has set a poor example of the values ââit preaches to cherish. Congress has a chance to teach the nation a new lesson in the enduring importance of basic civil rights or runs the risk of continuing to devalue American democracy.
JosÃ© Aponte HernÃ¡ndez is a former Speaker of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives and a current member of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives.