By Jorge Zijlstra
The Council of Churches of Puerto Rico has congratulated the people of the island for their showing of civility, democracy and respect for constitutional values in the 19 August referendum, in which government proposals were defeated.
With two months to go before general elections, Puerto Ricans turned down the government’s proposal to amend the Constitution on two matters of great importance: the right to bail and representation in Congress, reports the Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency (ALC).
The first proposal intended to place certain limits on the absolute right to bail, and was presented as a way of dealing with the high rate of crime and violence afflicting the country as a result of the the impact of drug trafficking on the Island, and the ineffectiveness of the government’s measures to deal with the problem.
The second constitutional change proposed had to do with lowering the number of legislators in the congress. The proposal was intended to be a response to the social dissatisfaction with those in power. However, a hidden consequence of the change, if approved, would be a concentration of power that would prevent opposition voices from having access to the legislature.
A lowering of the number of representatives in the Congress would mean that the amount of votes needed to elect a legislator would be largely increased, a maneuver leaving small political parties without a voice.
The “no” votes on both proposals were contrary to an overwhelming victory that had been predicted by polls carried out for the government.
During the weeks leading up to the referendum, pastors, theologians, teachers and religious and secular leaders, free of partisan political passions, had supported a “no” vote.
Commenting on the results of the referendum, the president of the council of churches, the Rev. Angel Luis Rivera Agosto, called on the rulers of today and of tomorrow to be sensitive to and respectful of the will of the people.