Former Governor of Puerto Rico Sila M. Calderón spoke against bills approved in the Senate that effectively repeal Law 232, which required the consent of residents of special communities across the island before any expropriation of their communities could take place. Law 232 was put into place as part of a program to give voice to people living in poor sectors so they could express themselves and take control over issues and situations that directly affected them. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:
“The proposed repealing of 2004’s Law 232 through Senate bill 1575 is a clear example of the administration’s indifference towards those affected by its actions, and the crude legislative style now enthroned,” Calderón said. “Law 232 was the result of the claims of hundreds of thousands of disadvantage residents seeking some measure of control over their lives and their environment, while keeping a glimmer of dignity under the circumstances they have to live in,” Calderón added. For the former governor the proposed legislation has “reactionary overtones that seek to curtail the voice of Puerto Rico’s most humble people.”
[. . .] Calderón’s brainchild, the Special Communities Program (OCE for its Spanish acronym) was conceived to be a coordinating entity of all government efforts aimed to impact marginalized communities across the island. At the same time, the program was to empower residents so they would take control over issues and situations affecting them and not depend on the government for the solution. When Gov. Fortuño took office there were some 750 special communities across the island.
To further empower the communities the Calderón administration approved Law 232, which required municipal governments to hold a special referendum in a special community prior to any eviction process, so the community could have a say in its destiny. Mayors across the island strongly opposed the law arguing that it stripped them from their authority to develop new works in their municipalities using the expropriation mechanism when necessary. But Calderón thought differently then and still does now. “This is not about banning expropriations. This is about providing a reasonable to people living in poor sectors so they can express themselves on something as fundamental as their right to property and the social fabric they have developed,” Calderón said.
“But Senate bill 1575 was forged behind the people´s back, in secrecy,” Calderón said. “If Law 232 is repealed with the consent of the House of Representatives, municipal officials seeking political and commercial opportunities will benefit from the land of the poorest communities in Puerto Rico,” Calderón said. “It will also be evident that the government cares very little for the integrity of the community as the fundamental unit of our society,” she added.
While the legislative cogwheels continued to turn for Bill 1575, community leaders from across the island initiated a lobbying offensive in the House of Representatives this week in an effort to stop its approval. “Our call to all political leaders is to respect us as community leaders, and to respect our communities. We are actually doing them a favor by working ourselves, from our own perspectives,” said Gertrudis Calderón, president of Cantera´s Community Council. “We are empowered. We have conquered a series of [adverse] circumstances in each of our communities. We deserve their respect,” the community leader added.
Calderón´s remarks were given during the 20th anniversary activities of the Cantera Peninsula Project. Hailed as “a new school of community thought” one of the project´s most significant achievements is the reduction of its crime rate. One of the communities with the highest crime rate in Puerto Rico, Cantera and its community leadership managed to lower the rate to almost cero.
Proud of their achievements and vigilant of the circumstances and conditions that allowed them to improve their quality of life, Cantera´s community leaders warned legislators and politicians to pay attention what they have to say about their own future.
For full article, see http://www.prdailysun.com/news/Caldern-Special-Communities-stripped-of-their-rights