Archive for March, 2011

Obama Charms Puerto Rico in 2008

Before I share my commentary about the latest White House Report on Puerto Rico’s status later this week, I wanted to post the original letter that then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama sent to Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, now the former Governor of Puerto Rico. This letter was sent during a critical time in the 2008 Democratic presidential race when Obama was still virtually tied with Hilary Rodham Clinton and the Puerto Rican Democratic Primary meant something in terms of garnering much needed primary delegates.

February 12, 2008
Honorable Aníbal Acevedo Vilá
Governor Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
La Fortaleza
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Dear Governor Acevedo Vilá:
Puerto Rico is a vitally important part of our country and Puerto Ricans have made immeasurable contributions to the United States. As President of the United States, I will pay close attention to issues that have an impact on the well-being of the people of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico’s status must be based on the principle of self-determination. Puerto Rico has a proud history, an extraordinary culture, its own traditions, customs and language, and a distinct identity. As President, I will work closely with the Puerto Rican government, its civil society, and with Congress to create a genuine and transparent process for self-determination that will be true to the best traditions of democracy.

As President, I will actively engage Congress and the Puerto Rican people in promoting this deliberative, open and unbiased process, that may include a constitutional convention or a plebiscite, and my Administration will adhere to a policy of strict neutrality on Puerto Rican status matters. My Administration will recognize all valid options to resolve the question of Puerto Rico’s status, including commonwealth, statehood, and independence. I strongly believe in equality before the law for all American citizens. This principle extends fully to Puerto Ricans.

The American citizenship of Puerto Ricans is constitutionally guaranteed for as long as the people of Puerto Rico choose to retain it. I reject the assertion in reports submitted by a Presidential Task Force on December 22, 2005 and December 21, 2007 that sovereignty over Puerto Rico could be unilaterally transferred by the United States to a foreign country, and the U.S. citizenship of Puerto Ricans is not constitutionally guaranteed.

I will also work closely with the government of Puerto Rico, its private sector and labor leaders to advance an aggressive agenda of job creation, economic development and new prosperity. The levels of unemployment on the Island over the last three decades are unacceptable, which is why I will propose the creation a federal-Puerto Rico joint task force to study and report not later than August 31, 2009 on specific ways to maximize the use of existing federal initiatives to generate jobs in Puerto Rico or on new federal initiatives to achieve that goal.

In addition, I will work closely with the govemment of Puerto  Rico and Congress to enhance the participation of Puerto Rico in Medicaid and all federal health care assistance programs. My Administration will actively work with the Department of Defense as well to achieve an environmentally acceptable clean-up ofthe former U.S. Navy lands in Vieques, Puerto Rico. We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques. I will also work to evaluate and expand the existing land use plan for the former U.S. Navy lands to prioritize improving the lives of the Island’s residents and the sustainable economic development of the people of Vieques.

Sincerely, Barack Obama

Three years have passed, and with the current recommendations that President Obama’s Task Force included about Puerto Rico, it is safe to say that Candidate Obama sounded more promising that President Obama. In the end, President Obama did not achieve what he had promised, and I speak for many Puerto Ricans, both on the island and on the mainland, who are disappointed by the latest events.

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As he faces what is turning into a very hotly contested and controversial re-election bid, Luis Fortuño, the incumbent Republican and pro-statehood Governor of Puerto Rico, now finds himself in a very difficult situation: trailing his challenger by 22 percentage points in a poll released Tuesday by EL NUEVO DÍA, the island’s largest newspaper.

The political spin, as you might imagine, has already begun.

First, the newspaper has a video of Fortuño, who is clearly flustered as he tries to answer questions about the poll and whether he will be the New Progressive Party’s (PNP) candidate to run against Popular Democratic Party (PPD) candidate Alejandro García Padilla.

“There’s a time and place (to inform the people’s decision about seeking re-validate in November 2012),” said Fortuño in the video. “There will be an announcement this year.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Fortuño said that “four years is not enough to straighten out Puerto Rico.”

This poll, along with one released on Monday that gave Fortuño overwhelmingly low approval ratings, comes at a very precarious time for the island, which is also facing another possible round of future plebiscites to permanently determine its political status and its relationship with the United States. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898, when American troops invaded the island during the Spanish-American War. After becoming a Commonwealth (or Associated Free State) in 1952, there is a desire by Fortuño and other pro-statehood leaders to finalize the island’s status.

Puerto Rican Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz

Puerto Rican Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz was quick to defend the latest poll numbers and remind voters that the real numbers are how the island feels about becoming the 51st state of the Union.

“The real numbers of the PNP are the statehood numbers,” Rivera Schatz said. “The survey is just a picture of just one moment, and I am confident that one the statehood force is united, it will no doubt defeat the Popular Party.”

Even though Fortuño received very low numbers, the newspaper reported that 43% of Puerto Ricans support statehood and 39% support the current Commonwealth structure.

“The strength of the PNP is not to any political figure,” Rivera Schatz said. “it lies in the ideological force of statehood.”

Still, Rivera Schatz said that all politicians should “have the ear to the ground”, pay attention to any dissatisfaction, and then make “adjustments.”Among the “adjustments” that, in his view, could make Fortuño administration, said “communicating the work of government.”

Fortuño: “I Came to Right the Ship”

“I said that things were bad and I came to right the ship and it would not matter if it had a political cost, and it does not bother me when I had to make the right decisions,” Fortuño said in a radio interview.

Fortuño insisted that the former governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Sila María Calderón, left the country in economic ruin, and in the past two years he has had to focus on “righting the ship.” He hoped that in these next two years people will realize that he has been able to cut their taxes with Tax Reform, to improve the health system and modernize schools, among other things.

“We had to right the ship to do what we came to do,” he said.

García Padilla Reacts

Alejandro García Padilla

Meanwhile, García Padilla believes he has such a large lead in the polls because “the country is tired of excuses and wants a leadership that will propose solutions.”

“We cannot merely redouble the effort,” the PPD candidate told EL NUEVO DÍA. “This is what we’re going to do: continue working on the street, stay focused, the country wants solutions. No more excuses, you want to fight crime, unemployment, lack of education.”

García Padilla declined to comment on the reactions of major PNP leaders, especially Secretary of the Interior Marcos Rodríguez Ema, ensuring that voters eventually be disappointed in them.

“Again, the country is tired of excuses government wants a new leadership to bring solutions in employment, education, health,” García Padilla said.

PNP Leaders Predicts a PNP Victory

PNP member and Yauco Mayor Abel Nazario predicted that Fortuño would still win the election 125,000 votes.

“It is very interesting. It means that we have to work hard,” Nazario said in a radio interview.

Nazario said that while Popular members will celebrating the poll numbers, PNP leaders believe privately that Fortuño will win the election with a 52% majority.

“(Fortuño) will not listen to the polls and he will keep working, because in the end always the one who decides is the people and we are a wise people” he said.

Ema Rodríguez, meanwhile, said that the people will soon realize that García Padilla “is a great disappointment.”

Said it is “unlikely” that 18% of respondents who are PNP members would vote for García Padilla.

“That will not happen again” Rodríguez Ema said.

Puerto Rican Speaker of the House Jennifer González

Puerto Rico’s Speaker of the House, Jenniffer González, said García Padilla is leading in the polls because it is at the peak of his candidacy announcement. (García announced his intentions to run for governor this past February.)

“From now on, people are going to have to listen to a person who has been silent,” It’s going to deflate like a balloon and a lie it is. ”

Resident Commissioner Pierluisi: “We Need to Roll Up Our Sleeves”

Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member of the US Congress

The island’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member of the US Congress, said that “we must roll up our sleeves” and “improve the way we communicate the things that we have yet to do.”

“We must take this poll to help us with motivation,” said Pierluisi. “The Governor has the support of the party. My impression is that he wants to go for re-election.”

When appropriate, Pierluisi said he is “totally focused” on being a candidate for re-election to the post of Resident Commissioner.

He avoided further comment on the fact that Rivera Schatz, appears as the second PNP politician with more support to run for governor.

Rivera Schatz polled at 44% for possible PNP candidates, compared to 49% for Fortuño and 41% for Pierluisi.

“I announced that I aspire for re-election as Resident Commissioner,” Pierluisi said, “I should not be included in a poll for governor.”

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After hitting a minor lull, the controversy surrounding the opening of a new Whole Foods store in the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain in Boston has bubbled up again, and social media continues to play a major role in how different messages are being communicated.

The Jamaica Plain Patch reported today that more anti-Whole Foods banners were hung on a billboard in JP.

The JP Patch reported this story today.

Another banner in Spanish also appeared:

The Spanish banner contain an error for Verdaderamente but it says the same thing as English.

The banners were making a reference to the Facebook page of JP for All, a site that is promoting diversity in JP businesses and economic growth for the neighborhood. The site has been organizing a petition drive to all of Boston’s political leaders who have interest in the issue. Earlier today, it posted the following:

We are closing in on 400 declared City of Boston supporters of a JP for All. Keep up the momentum. It would be incredible if we could hit the 500 mark before our first signature gathering event on April 9th! Keep passing along the link and/or the downloadable petition to your City of Boston friends and family.

In the meantime, the anti-Whole Foods organization called Whose Foods? has issued an email about their activities:

Friends and neighbors,

We’re excited to share some updates with you and to let you know of ways you can plug into working for an affordable and diverse JP this week! In this email, you’ll find:

1. Rally this Saturday, April 2! Join us!
2. Outreach this week
3. JP Neighborhood Council meeting tomorrow night
4. Vision for alternatives meeting
5. JP residents’ visit to Whole Foods regional headquarters last week

1. RALLY THIS SATURDAY: Celebrate JP’s Diversity & Protect it Now
We will rally and march to celebrate JP’s diversity this Saturday, April 2. Meet us in Mozart Park at 3 PM, where we’ll have food to share, a DJ, activities for kids and more! By 4 PM, we’ll leave the park on a march to the former Hi-Lo space, where we’ll hold another short rally. Please join us!

… And please help us create a strong event. We need your help this week!

2. OUTREACH this week

Petition gathering & flyering:
Groups of folks are meeting up at Jackson Square T station this week to petition and pass out flyers. Please join us! Email whosefoodsjp@gmail.com with any questions.
• Monday 5:30-6:30pm
• Tuesday: Sign up to coordinate! whosefoodsjp@gmail.com
• Wednesday 12:00-2:00pm
• Thursday 4:30pm
• Friday: Sign up to coordinate! whosefoodsjp@gmail.com 

Phone banking to turn out people to the rally:
We’re calling everybody on our list to turn out folks! Food will be provided. Spanish speakers needed!
Thursday 6-8pm – email Cheryl at CDeSanctis47@gmail.com
Friday 6-8pm – email Ximena at ximenaiz2@gmail.com for location details

3. JP Neighborhood Council Meeting
Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 29 at 7 PM
At First Baptist on Centre Street, next to the Post Office

The JPNC will meet for their regular monthly meeting tomorrow night, March 29. On their agenda will be the role of the new Whole Foods Ad-Hoc Committee. It would be great to have supporters attend the meeting to let the JPNC know we support their work for an affordable and diverse neighborhood, and that support for that vision is growing. 

4. Vision for alternatives meeting:
People will be meeting to explore alternatives for 415 Centre St. If you are excited about exploring alternatives, you should get involved!
Tuesday 3/29 at 6 PM in Hyde Square. Email Ximena at ximenaiz2@gmail.com for location information

5. JP Residents visit Whole Foods Regional Headquarters & mail packets to Whole Foods Board of Directors

In case you missed the news, last week a dozen JP residents delivered our first 1,000 petition signatures to the Whole Foods regional headquarters in Cambridge. Last week each member of the Whole Foods Board of Directors also received a packet of information that included media coverage of our work and copies of our first 1,000 petition signatures. Check out photos and video of the petition delivery and news coverage from the Metro, Boston.com, and the JP Patch. (Please take a minute to leave a positive comment on those news pages while you’re there!)



This coalition is a group of all-volunteer JP residents and friends that came together in early February with shared concerns about Hi-Lo’s closing and the news of Whole Foods entrance to JP. Thanks to your work and support, in just over a month we’ve managed to gather over 1,000 petition signatures, deliver those petitions to Whole Foods Regional Headquarters, meet with our elected officials, talk to thousands of our neighbors, turn out hundreds of residents to JP Neighborhood Council meetings and support them in their stance for an equitable JP, and create a base of support for an affordable and diverse JP, one that is stronger without Whole Foods.

The Patch also wrote about a flyer in Spanish that is appearing in the neighborhood, encouraging people to attend the Whose Foods? rally on Saturday. The translation of the flyer reads as follows:


Organizations and individuals from JP and beyond, motivated by greed, are manipulating a plan that will raise rents by up to 20% for EVERYONE in the Hyde Square area, this means that a war against the working class and especially against ALL the minorities that have lived here for such a long time, who have invested a lot of work in having a Community where Diversity is what UNITES us!


The Patch did confirm on its Facebook site that this flyer was not authorized by Whose Foods? nor does it represent Whose Foods?

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