Populism is alive and well in Puerto Rican, both on the floor of the US House of Representatives and at La Fortaleza, the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.
In a stark study in political philosophies and beliefs that have dominated the island-colony of the United States since the 1898 Spanish-American War, two Puerto Rican political leaders took to the pulpit on Wednesday to spread their messages to the masses.
In Washington, Illinois Democrat Luis Gutiérrez blasted the current Republican and pro-statehood administration of Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño for serious breaches of US constitutional rights (Puerto Rico, as a colony of the US, falls under American federal jurisdiction) and the pro-statehood Puerto Rican Legislature for their attempts to censure Gutiérrez and his criticisms against the island’s current government.
Your efforts to silence me – just like your efforts to silence so many people in Puerto Rico who disagree with you — will fail, just as every effort to blockade progress only makes the march toward justice more powerful and swift.
I may not be Puerto Rican enough for some people, but I know this: nowhere on earth will you find a people harder to silence than Puerto Ricans.
You won’t locate my love for Puerto Rico on my birth certificate or a driver’s license, my children’s birth certificate or any other piece of paper.
My love for Puerto Rico is right here – in my heart — a heart that beats with our history and our language and our heroes.
Meanwhile, Fortuño, who returned to San Juan after attending the National Governors Association conference in Washington earlier this week, celebrated the island’s 94th anniversary of the 1917 Jones Act, which made Puerto Ricans American Citizens. Gov. Fortuño made a speech in Spanish (no English translation of the speech is available on La Fortaleza’s official web site) that celebrated the day when “Puerto Ricans acquired citizenship into the United States of America.”
Fortuño made it a point to emphasize the challenges facing Puerto Ricans and their right to American citizenship, and emphasized the importance of promoting democratic principles within the island:
As a Resident Commissioner and Governor, I have throughout the years participated in the swearing-in ceremonies of hundreds of new American citizens.
As I shared this special moment in the lives of many immigrants, I have occasionally reflected on how that we [as Puerto Ricans], who were automatically born into the protection of the privileges of American citizenship, rarely appreciate the full value of these privileges, nor do we take full advantage of their benefits, nor do we feel motivated enough to demand the prerogatives that these rights are conferred upon us.
In contrast, these immigrants —many of whom have suffered difficulties and injustices in this homelands that have always manifest themselves in societies what lack the democratic pillars of security, equality, stability, and opportunity— have provided a living testament of the blessing that becoming a citizen of the United States of America means to them.
A key principle of the American system of government, of which we are an integral part, is that the government is formed to serve the people, and not the other way around.
The individual and the family are the basic units of our society.
Therefore, it is to them that we must empower, putting power and opportunities in their hands.
It is this philosophy that creates the foundation of good government and it is what our administration has introduced.
Government is meant to support the individual and families, not to drown them by mortgaging the future of the next generations.
Government has the obligation to offer basic services of excellence, and services of support and help, especially to those who lack the least of resources.
But when government exceeds that essential and limited function, and instead converts itself into a paternalistic government that provides everything, a vicious cycle of dependence is created that punishes success and drowns the capacity of the individual to achieve self-improvement.
Fortuño Invites Gutiérrez to D.C. Reception
In an ironic twist to this political saga, El Nuevo Día reported on Tuesday that Fortuño had invited Gutiérrez and other members of Congress to a D.C. reception he was hosting with Puerto Rico’s Tourism Board.
In an email we sent to Douglas Rivlin, Gutiérrez’s Press Secretary, on Tuesday evening asking if the Congressman would be attending the reception, Rivlin replied:
[Congressman Gutiérrez] is not attending the reception and is here in Washington. He has had a busy day and has a busy day with several hearings tomorrow, and as you can see, we are working late.