Ana Irma Rivera Lassén: The people’s voice ‘should be inclusive and diverse’
CVM at-large senator-elect wants to ‘build a Puerto Rico for everyone’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
After years advocating for human and cultural rights, she is a step closer to reaching the Capitol to work for a different legislative assembly.
Citizen Victory Movement (CVM) President Ana Irma Rivera Lassén is to become one of Puerto Rico’s 11 at-large senators-elect and the first black and open LGBTQIAP+ member of the upper chamber.
Rivera Lassén spoke with the Star about her aspirations to work for “a more inclusive country every day,” break away from strict bipartisanship and advocate for a government where public hearings, consensus and transparency are the norm.
“The results from the latest elections sent a message from every voter that they want a different Legislature, not a dictatorship from the majority party suppressing other members of the chamber,” she said. “It has proven that a bipartisan dictatorship is getting torn apart.”
Meanwhile, as the CVM president is to be the first black and openly lesbian member of the Senate, she said that one of her goals is to “rescue our public institutions,” which she added was the fundamental reason for organizing the movement that is about to have two seats in the Senate and the House.
“The interesting thing is that I give a human rights, gender and anti-racist perspective to everything I do, and I believe that any issue that is going to be worked on in the Legislature has to have that perspective,” Rivera Lassén said. “I say this because it is not about working on issues separately, but when you work with education, you notice how erasure and discrimination prevails. Inclusion must be intersectional.”
As for bringing intersectionality to the Capitol, she said that in order to recognize problems, it is important to accept them, put names to them and start working toward better representation.
“Many people come to me because they feel good speaking from their experiences and viewpoints to feel represented properly,” Rivera Lassén said. “We put everything in a closet. I’m visibly black, but people don’t recognize themselves from racial diversity, I’m a woman, but people are incapable of recognizing issues due to their gender, and I’m openly a member of the LGBTQIAP+ community; it’s important to speak face-to-face about the issues we face with these identities to understand and erase discrimination.”
Meanwhile, Rivera Lassén said, there’s a lot of work ahead.
The CVM senator-elect said her agenda is focused on reviewing the recently approved Civil Code because, she said, its language leaves things open for discrimination against minorities, working on a new Electoral Code, amending the current Labor Reform to “bring back acquired rights for the people” and bringing the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Network (PREPANet) back to public administration to “provide broader bandwidth, narrow the island’s digital breach and give both students and teachers from the Department of Education access to the internet.”
“There’s capability, but there’s no will. What the government has done is that, instead of providing the service capacity at the hands of Puerto Ricans, it gave the broadband service to private entities that purchase and sell it back to the people,” Rivera Lassén said. “We’re talking about access to information and communication technology, which is a human right. Access to the internet is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity.”
Meanwhile, more than working on essential services such as education, healthcare and housing, Rivera Lassén said CVM’s goal in the Legislature is to stand strong against the Financial Oversight and Management Board and work for a forensic audit of the island’s public debt.
“We want to know who the people and the entities responsible for bringing us into this crisis were, to hold them accountable,” she said. “The current government under the oversight board has not faced this and pretends the people of Puerto Rico have to pay for something that we don’t even understand how we got there in the first place.”