December 10 is Human Rights Day. It commemorates the signing of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” says Article 1. “They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
Article 2 continues, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
The document goes on to say that all people are entitled to life and liberty, that slavery is not acceptable, and that torture and cruel punishment are wrong.
The next section of the document says that people must all be equal under the law. Protection of the family and of property are discussed, and the right to education, to full participation in the arts, in work and leisure, and to freedom of thought and religion. Read the full document.
Article 21 is particularly relevant to Puerto Rico.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Can we say that residents of Puerto Rico have the right the take part in the government of their country, the United States, through freely chosen representatives? Puerto Rico has no voting representatives in the U.S. government.
Can we say that everyone in Puerto Rico has equal access to public service if it is uncertain that someone living in Puerto Rico could be President of the United States?
Can we say that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government” when Puerto Rico has voted against continuing as a territory, and yet continues to be a territory of the United States?
On this Human Rights Day, let’s spread the word about human rights in Puerto Rico. Without statehood, Puerto Rico does not have equal rights.