The U.S. and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Former Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Rossello and the Unfinished Business of American Democracy Committee made a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2006. The complaint pointed out that residents of Purto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections and cannot elect Congressional representatives as residents of states do. Rossello held that this is a human rights violation.

The U.S. government disagreed. They said that “the right to equal treatment under the law means that the law can not treat persons under the same conditions differently.” Since territories are all the same in their ability to vote, this is not discrimination against Puerto Rico, according to the federal government.

They pointed out, further, that U.S. citizens can always move from Puerto Rico to a state and immediately gain the power to vote.  They saw this as further proof that there was no discrimination in the disenfranchisement.

Now, 12 years later, there will be a hearing on this issue. October 5th, in Colorado, the IACHR will listen to testimony on the subject.

Unless they agree to dismiss the complaints.

Kevin Sullivan, Deputy Permanent Representative, has asked the IACHR to dismiss the complaints. Why? Because Puerto Rico is in the middle of trying to be admitted as a state.

“The United States cannot predict the outcome of this political process,” Sullivan wrote. “All past U.S. territories that became states… completed a political process culminating in Congress granting the relevant territory statehood and extending to the residents of that territory all the rights of a state under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to vote in presidential general elections and the right to be represented in Congress by two senatiors and a number of representatives in the House of Representatives commensurate with the new state’s population. Puerto Rico has not yet completed this political process.”

He concluded, “The Commission should defer to the requisite political process.”

The chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rob Bishop, told El Nuevo Dia last week that “he does not see why it cannot go to a vote in that committee and in the plenary session.”

Is statehood close enough that there is no need for the IACHR to consider responding to the complaints from 2006? Help bring it closer by telling your congresspeople to support statehood now.

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