Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Rivera is a U.S. Army veteran. He supports statehood for Puerto Rico for a simple reason: he wants to see equality for Puerto Rico. “Unequal treatment exists in Puerto Rico,” he says, “because we have not been given the rights we deserve in the last hundred years of being American veterans and citizens.”
Aa an unincorporated territory, Puerto Rico does not legally have equal rights with the states. Congress is allowed to treat Puerto Rico differently from the states.
As the recent Supreme Court decision on Supplemental Security Income demonstrates, Congress feels free to provide less for Puerto Rico than for the states. Even though workers in Puerto Rico pay the same Social Security taxes as those living in the states, people living in Puerto Rico do not receive the same benefits.
Even though Puerto Rico sends more of its sons and daughters to the U.S. military than any of the states, veterans like Ltc. Rivera cannot vote for their commander in chief.
In addition to being shortchanged on rights and benefits, Puerto Rico suffers from economic discrimination as well.
“The inequality in our infrastructure, water, and electricity services exist because there are no funds to pay employees,” says Rivera.
Statehood is the solution
As a state, Puerto Rico will be on an equal footing with the other states. Ltc. Rivera looks forward to that opportunity. “The day we become a state,” says Ltc. Rivera, “we’re going to cry, we’re going to jump, we’ll have a party in every house!”
It’s an emotional thought for Rivera. Asked about his vision for Puerto Rico, he says that statehood is his goal for the Island. “We demand it; we deserve it. Now and for the future of the Puerto Rican people, our children, and our grandchildren.”
Rivera wants to see Congress take action to admit Puerto Rico as a state. “That decision will make this nation great,” he says, “as great as they say it is.”
Our interview with Ltc. Rivera is part of the Voices of #Statehood4PR project. Learn more about the project.