The more things change, the more they stay the same. As the island of Puerto Rico continues to face the challenges of a crumbling economy as well as 113-year-old colonial relationship with the United States, the main opposition to Republican and pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño—Alejandro García Padilla of the pro-commonwealth Popular Party (PPD)—continues to lack the political courage to capitalize on a growing sentiment among Puerto Rican voters that the current political system is no longer working.
Today, García Padilla announced his choice for Resident Commissioner, a non-voting member of Congress in Washington, DC. His candidate? Rafael Cox Alomar, whom García Padilla described as a true defender of the “Associated Free State (ELA) and permanent union with the United States.”
As García Padilla stated in an email to supporters today:
Cox Alomar is the ideal person to represent us in Washington. Rafael will go to the Federal Capitol to put the people first. He will not be motivated by ideological agendas or unaccredited status processes. He will go to Washington to create jobs, to improve our security, open up new doors of educational opportunities for our children, and increase health services for our people.
García Padilla’s message is generic and hints at the fact that the PPD there is no urgent need to resolve the island’s political status. It is still colonial in nature and gladly accepts that more of the same thing is the way to go. While Fortuño faced criticism for pushing a two-step plebiscite that would still be non-binding, he at least pushed the envelope, and most would think that it was done out of political desperation since the incumbent is still behind García Padilla in the polls. García Padilla, on the other hand, is clearly running on the fact that going back to a pro-commonwealth administration will solve the island’s ills. But we would argue that Puerto Rico’s next governor needs to be bolder, and unfortunately, García Padilla does not fit that bill.
Cox Alomar, to put it mildly, has no real legislative experience in Washington, having cut his teeth in DC’s private law world. Although his education is highly impressive (Harvard Law School, Oxford), he is certainly not the kind of candidate that Puerto Rico needs right now in Washington. What DC needs is a political shaker, while the Governor takes care of economic matters on the island. Cox Alomar, with his impressive resume, in the end looks like more of the same, just another Washington insider who knows how to play within the system and not outside it.
The timing is ripe to have more political options in Puerto Rico, and that goes for the Puerto Rican Independence Party as well, which still seems to be stuck in 1961.
RAFAEL COX ALOMAR
Rafael Cox Alomar received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 2004, where he was a member of the Harvard International Law Journal. Mr. Cox Alomar received a D.Phil. degree from the University of Oxford (Trinity College) in 2001, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He was awarded a B.A., Magna Cum Laude with Distinction in all subjects, from Cornell University in 1997.
Mr. Cox Alomar, having practiced for the last six years in some of the most prestigious international law firms in Washington D.C., has represented clients on a wide array of dispute resolution and transactional matters. More specifically, he has acted as counsel on eight international arbitrations before the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) representing, among others, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Republic of Chile, the Republic of the Philippines and Électricité de France. Moreover, Mr. Cox Alomar also acted as co-counsel in the successful representations both of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Rodríguez v. PRFAA, 435 F. 3d 378 (D.C. Cir. 2006) and the Republic of Ecuador in Republic of Ecuador v. Chevron Texaco Corporation, 499 F. Supp. 2d 452 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).
More recently, Mr. Cox Alomar acted on behalf of several multilateral lending institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Corporación Interamericana para el Financiamiento de la Infraestructura, S.A. (CIFI). Of particular relevance is his co-representation of the IDB in its first ever Yen-denominated loan — which consisted of nineteen billion six hundred million Yen (¥ 19,600,000,000) to finance the capital expenditures of a Brazilian steel conglomerate. This deal closed on March 27, 2009 and received raving reviews in the Latin Lawyer Magazine (Vol. 8, Issue 4).