Posted in Puerto Rico, tagged Barack Obama, Florida, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, plebiscite question, Political status, Puerto Rican, Puerto Rican politics, Puerto Rico, Republican, United States on April 23, 2012 |
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Good to see Florida Senator Marco Rubio commenting about the upcoming November plebiscite question in Puerto Rico. Sure, Rubio, who is of Cuban American descent, represents the state of Florida, which has seen an increase in voters of Puerto Rican descent the last few years, so it makes sense that he would weigh on the island’s non-binding vote to determine its political identity (statehood, independence or enhanced commonwealth). However, Rubio’s opinion reflects what most of the US Congress and President Obama is saying: the final decision by Puerto Ricans on the island has to be a clear majority, whatever that means. Just for reference, the 1958 statehood vote by Alaska won by a 6 to 1 margin, although only about 46,000 voted in Alaska. In 1959, Hawaii gained a 94% voted for statehood. Ironically, the one person who is pushing for a binding resolution of the status question is GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
This is what a report from Caribbean Business chronicled about Rubio’s comments:
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party and potential vice presidential pick, has broken ranks with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney over the issue off Puerto Rico statehood.
Rubio said in an interview that 50 percent plus one vote in a status plebiscite isn’t enough to put Puerto Rico on the path to become the 51st state.
“It doesn’t have to be 100 percent, nor 90 percent, but it cannot be, to say a figure, 51 percent of the votes,” Rubio reportedly told a local newspaper.
That puts the Cuban-American lawmaker, often mentioned as a vice presidential running mate for Romney, at odds with the former Massachusetts governor on statehood.
Romney has pledged to support statehood for the island if that option wins the Nov. 6 referendum on Puerto Rico’s political status, saying a simple majority at the polls should be enough.
The position taken by Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, actually puts him on the same page as Democratic President Barack Obama when it comes to statehood for Puerto Rico.
Right now, polls on the island show a virtual dead heat between enhanced commonwealth and statehood
. It is highly doubtful that either option enters Hawaii or Alaska numbers, and in the end, the US Congress will still have final say. So, after 114 years of a complex (and colonial) relationship with the United States, Puerto Rico looks like it will still be stuck in the status quo.
One thing all Puerto Ricans, both on the island and the mainland, should agree on is that the upcoming plebiscite needs to be BINDING
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Can the charades just stop about how amazing and awesome the Puerto Rican Wonder Boy, Governor Luis Fortuño, has been for the island of Puerto Rico? The latest news is that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is now telling the Washington Post that it plans to showcase Governor Fortuño, a darling among GOPers who have no clue about how unpopular and divisive the governor is on his own island (psst, he is not even leading in current polls for his re-election bid), so that the Mitt Romney’s campaign can gain more of the US Latino vote.
Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño
Let’s just give Mr. Priebus the benefit of the doubt and share the following, since the 2012 campaign is all about jobs, right?
- Also, let’s really stop to look at the actual stats about Fortuño’s push to make Puerto Rico leaner and meaner when it comes to public sector jobs. Just a few facts, from the same DOL stats: In September 2011, there were 265,000 public sector employees in Puerto Rico. In February 2012, there are now 269,000 public sector employees. Of the total jobs in all of Puerto Rico as of February 2012, roughly 25% of the jobs are classified as public sector jobs. Sure, Fortuño came in when it was a 33% but it is still at 25% and the number of public sector jobs is growing again.
- When Fortuño took office in January 2008, the unemployment rate in Puerto Rico was at 10.7.%. As of February 2012 it is at 15%. Call us crazy, but that is progress? Romney and the RNC is praising a leader whose unemployment rate is worse that the overall US rate and this is the guy who want to showcase to US Latino voters? Also, does anyone who wants to look at actual statistics want to share the following information: the labor force in Puerto Rico is plummeting, young people are leaving the island for jobs in the US. Where is the Fortuño miracle?
Hey, but if the RNC wants to roll out Governor Fortuño as the new Latino star of the GOP, more power to them. In the end, Romney will be lucky to gain 15% of the US Latino vote, anyway. Bringing out Fortuño to prove that the GOP is listening to US Latino voters won’t really make a difference anyway.
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Before we get to a new poll published by the Vocero that flips the issues (yet again) of Puerto Rico’s political identity and colonial relationship with the United States, which has essentially owned the island since 1898 (yes, the US Army landed on the shores of Puerto Rico to win a war against Spain), you need to know a few things:
- Politics in Puerto Rico are, plain and simple, just messed up right now. Try to stay with me here. You have an unpopular Republican and pro-statehood Governor (Luis Fortuño) who has been unable to turn the island’s economy around in his four years in office because the previous administration screwed it up too (BIG TIME), but still has a decent shot at re-election because the guy he is running against (Alejandro García Padilla) is well, not exciting, and basically has issues himself (you will see why later in this post). Then you have other parties (like the group that wants independence) trying to stay relevant in the age of social media and 24/7 news cycles.
Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño
- Another way to look at it is like this: Fortuño is to Barack Obama (considering Puerto Rico took billions of dollars of federal stimulus money) as what García Padilla is to Mitt Romney (going after the incumbent in a clunky way). But the fact is that Fortuño is a Republican and García Padilla is a Democrat. Then imagine if the United States were holding a vote about what type of government they would like to become the very same day that they are voting for President. THAT is Puerto Rico this year, where gubernatorial candidates are not only running against each other, but their respective parties and others (the pro-statehood PNP and the pro-commonwealth-status quo-enhanced commonwealth-whatever PPD, and the pro-independence PIP) are also pushing a vote for Puerto Rico’s political status issue, an issue that has dominated Puerto Rican politics like the elephant in the room for decades.
Alejandro García Padilla
- And remember, NO MATTER what the Puerto Rican people decide in terms of political status, the CRAZY THING is that the damn vote is non-binding, which means the US Congress will still have to take action on the will of their own citizens and not even take the vote into account (another complication). Now, Fortuño, who endorsed Romney, is banking on Romney becoming President so that if Fortuño wins re-election and the political status vote favors statehood, Fortuño will have a friend in the White House to push statehood for Puerto Rico. And García Padilla is of course pulling for Obama to win, but Obama has already gone on record last year to say that if the status plebiscite is close and there is not an overwhelming majority for one option, Congress won’t act.
- So basically, Puerto Rico is trying to put this whole political status question behind them (it has been going on for like decades since the 60s) so that the island can move forward and actually achieve progress economically, socially, and politically. But since we tried to explain all the craziness that is going on right now, you can see how critical the 2012 elections are for the island.
Which brings us to the Vocero poll. The poll asked the following question of Puerto Ricans: If the plebiscite were held today, what would you vote for: statehood, enhanced commonwealth or independence?
The results reported by the newspaper conclude the following: 41% for statehood, 37% for enhanced commonwealth, 4% for independence, 4% wouldn’t vote and 14% are undecided. So, at halftime, we have a tie, people, yet again! Why does that not surprise us since all the previous plebiscites never showed a clear majority (and also never got acted upon, so why are we discussing this again?)
What is so surprising about this poll has to the do with the issue of enhanced commonwealth. In 2008, this idea of an enhanced commonwealth that would define a more clearer non-colonial and non-territorial relationship with the United States was the status option that the PPD party was promoting. But when the PPD lost to Fortuño and the PNP, a push from the traditionalists of the PPD who favored to maintain the “status quo” began, culminating in García Padilla pushing for it as well. All of a sudden, enhanced commonwealth was no longer popular in 2010 as it was in 2008. In fact, that option of enhanced commonwealth was polled at 6% while the status quo was at 39% and was actually the top choice over statehood by 4%. Now, all that is out the window and García Padilla, the guy everyone in the PPD is banking on beating Fortuño, looks like the guy who placed the wrong bet on the wrong status option. Oops. Our guess is that he will react quickly to this revelation. Or will he? Remember when we said he was like Romney?
Other poll findings are just as interesting. Here are some of our favorites:
- There is more statehood support outside the San Juan metro area (44%) than there is in the San Juan metro area (35%).
- Voters 18-49 are choosing statehood over enhanced commonwealth 44%-34%.
- 11% of people who say they are PPD would vote for statehood while 11% who say they are PNP would vote for enhanced commonwealth. Huh?
- 18% of the San Juan metro area is undecided while 17% of those 35-49 are undecided as well.
This has only just begun. Looks like there will be another close vote and who knows where Congress will go with this. Status becomes the issue while the island does not progress. Classic Puerto Rican Politics 101.
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