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Archive for December, 2011


First it was the Wall Street Journal, then it was a syndicated national columnist, and now it is a GOP strategist who has a blog site where you can’t even comment.

Yes, the Luis Fortuño for the VP nomination of the GOP Train is moving at a steady clip. Little by little, posts by GOP brokers are setting the stage to push the Republican and pro-statehooder Fortuño as a serious VP candidate, even though the governor has already said on record that although he is flattered, he would not run.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Nonetheless, the suggestions continue, as reflected by Roger Stone’s latest piece, entitled THE GOP’S HISPANIC SECRET WEAPON (And It’s Not Marco Rubio). Ignoring the fact that all of a sudden Senator Rubio is no longer the Anointed Latino of the GOP, it is sad to see how short-sighted and inaccurate people like Stone are when discussing the Fortuño administration.

Also, we won’t fault Stone for forgetting to add an “ñ” to Fortuño’s name. Since it just shows how shallow Stone’s sincerity in capturing more Latino voters to the GOP truly is. Let’s hope Stone doesn’t say FELIZ ANO NUEVO next week on Twitter.

The one point that no one is addressing (and it is a basic Constitutional principle) is that right now, Fortuño COULDN’T EVEN VOTE FOR HIMSELF, since Puerto Ricans living on the island cannot vote for President or Vice President (although they can participate in presidential primaries). So, like we have said ad nasuem on this site, for Fortuño to run, he would have to claim residency in the mainland United States, which we are absolutely sure won’t play well on the island, where the governor is facing a very tough re-election bid in 2012. We have listed other reasons as to why a Fortuño for VP media campaign is laughable, so we won’t repeat them here. But we will like to share a few facts with Stone and maybe even invite him to actually talk to the vast majority of Puerto Ricans on the island who can share some real stories about the so-called “Puerto Rican miracle?” To many in the financial community who actually understand economics and markets, Puerto Rico can be the next Greece.

Here is what Stone writes:

Meet Luis Fortuno, Governor of Puerto Rico. He is experienced in Washington as Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress and leading a crusade to restore Puerto Rico – whose economy is suffering after years of bloated spending, high taxes and an expanding government sector under a line of previous Democratic Governors – to economic prosperity.

Governor Fortuno has been on the frontline of cutting spending, hacking back business-killing overregulation and taking on the public employee unions and their rich benefits and compensation in a commonwealth where six in ten people work for the government.

A few things that Stone seems to ignore. According to the US Department of Labor, the current percentage of Puerto Ricans working for the government is about 27% not 60% as his blog claims. As for economic prosperity, Stone also overlooked 2010 US Census statistics (ooops) that show that the island has gotten poorer and that there is a growing gap between rich and poor. Finally, Stone seems to overlook something very basic about Puerto Rico that shows a clear ignorance about the island: the economic culture created by those “Democratic governors” was a direct cause of (wait for it), a 113-year-old colonial relationship with the United States. The culture of dependence has thrived in Puerto Rico because of its the colonial relationship it has had with the United States ever since the US invaded the island in 1898 during the Spanish American War.

Stone continues and concludes:

Fortuno is tall, handsome and articulate. He has been active in the National Republican Party and is a member of the Puerto Rican Statehood Party. Puerto Ricans are the fastest growing segment of the Latino community and Hispanic Americans are the largest growing sector of the American electorate.

Hispanic Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with the Democrat Party. The GOP presidential nominee would be wise to consider a sitting Republican Governor who would bring charisma, star power and excitement to the campaign and launch a crusade to win Hispanic American votes based on shared conservative values on many issues. Luis Fortuno is that man.

Stone should come down to the island and ask residents how much “charisma” and “star power” Fortuño has. This year’s polls from the island’s largest TV network would tell a different story. And like the governor said, Puerto Rican “economic prosperity” is clear now that Victoria’s Secret and PF Chang’s are launching stores on the island.

But we will give Stone the benefit of the doubt. We understand that facts are silly things, but we will say that if you are going to craft the American public the myth of Luis Fortuño, you might want to actually do more research.

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Looks like 2012 is shaping to be the MOTHER of POLITIQUERÍA (loosely translated: political shenanigans) on the island colony of Puerto Rico, as politicians begin to hedge their bets and in some cases, employ a classic cover your culo mentality. Today, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, a member of the island’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), has backed off from pushing a different election date for the island’s plebiscite status vote and has washed his hands from claiming any accountability in ensuring the statehood party’s success in the vote.

According to Rivera Schatz, that responsibility will now rest 100% on the leader of the PNP, Puerto Rico’s Republican Governor Luis Fortuño. With a plebiscite vote set to occur on the same day as Puerto Ricans choose for their next governor (Fortuño is the incumbent), the embattled and unpopular governor is taking a huge political gamble that will either produce a historic windfall or a dismal catastrophic miscalculation. But maybe this play by Fortuño, tying the plebiscite vote to the island’s general election in November, is all he has left, given that the majority of Puerto Ricans would agree the Fortuño administration has done very little to solve the island’s economic crisis.

Here is what Caribbean Business reported today: 

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz has dropped his plan to amend plebiscite legislation to avoid holding a status vote on Election Day next November, but said Gov. Luis Fortuño will be accountable for the results.

Rivera Schatz opposes having a status vote on Election Day, contending the general vote and the status plebiscite are too important to be held together. Other New Progressive Party leaders have said having the status vote on Election Day could make it the target of a “punishment vote” by voters disgruntled with Fortuño.

“The leader of the NPP is Luis Fortuño and he is assuming all of the responsibility,” Rivera Schatz said.

The status calls for the first part of a two-step plebiscite to be held on Aug. 12, 2012. If a second status vote is required, it will take place on the same day as the general election in November 2012.

The first referendum will ask voters whether they want to maintain the current commonwealth status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution or whether they prefer a nonterritorial option.

If more voters check that nonterritorial option, a second vote would be held giving people three status options: statehood, independence or free association.

In the meantime, even though there is clear indication that the plebiscite status vote will indeed occur next year, there are still questions about what the final language of the vote will be. As the article continues:

A vote on the bill enabling the status plebiscite is slated to be held in the Senate on Tuesday, according to NPP officials. The legislation is not expected to see significant changes, but officials are considering removing any reference to the commonwealth as a colonial status from the bill. During a Senate hearing Monday, Popular Democratic Party Sen. Antonio Fas Alzamora, a former Senate president, opposed having the second of the two-tier vote on Election Day and called for the elimination of the word “colony” from the bill.

He suggested that the first vote should give voters the option of a territorial status that falls under the U.S. territorial clause or a permanent non-territorial status.

He then proposed his own definition of commonwealth status for the second vote. Fas Alzamora proposed a pact of association, which he said is different from free-association.

“Puerto Rico and the United States agree to replace the Federal Relations Law for an associated pact that is not subject to the territorial clause with permanent citizenship” in which the United States and Puerto Rico will decide “which powers will the United States keep and which powers will be delegated to Puerto Rico.”

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said the two votes should be held on Election Day. “Our people should be allowed to decide if they want the current status and express their status preference,” he said.

He insisted that the plebiscite has to be held no later than 2012. On the other hand, he also said the first of the two votes, which asks voters if they want to change the current political status, is the most important of the two votes because it could force Congress to act.

While he did not expect commonwealth supporters to abstain from the vote, doing so could cause Congress not to take the plebiscite results seriously. In that regard, he opposed the inclusion of the world “colony” in the legislation.

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Read and sign the petition to Pass a Revised Puerto Rican Democracy Act here.

The time for games and votes that don’t matter are over. If the United States is truly serious about practicing the democratic principles it tries to spread all over the world, it must finally formally answer the Puerto Rican question. Next year will be the 114th anniversary of this paradoxical and colonial relationship. Five generations of Puerto Ricans have unsuccessfully resolved the issue of the island’s political status. Without this happening, Puerto Rico will continue to be a country in economic, social, and political limbo.

If you believe (no matter your opinion of what path Puerto Rico should take as a country) that President Obama and the US Congress are obligated to make the next plebiscite binding and formally recognize the will of its own citizens, please consider singing the following petition which is being address to ALL the members of the US House of Representative, the US Senate, and President Obama.

Read and sign the petition to Pass a Revised Puerto Rican Democracy Act here.

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Just two days after Governor Luis Fortuño announced new amendments to Puerto Rico’s vote on its political status, the Puerto Rican Senate approved the changes for plebiscite, which will be held on the island next August.

The plebiscite, which will once again try to check the mood of the island regarding its colonial relationship with the United States, will now be held in one step, instead of the two-step proposal that was originally pushed by Fortuño earlier this year.

As reported today by Prensa Latina:

San Juan, Dec 21 (Prensa Latina) After days of wrangling and disagreements in the leadership of the ruling New Progressive Party (PNP), the Senate in Puerto Rico approved the legislative measure to carry out a plebiscite to define the future status of the island with the United States.

Governor Luis G. Fortuño persuaded the presidents of the legislative chambers to approve the project to consult the people on relations with Washington, which maintains colonial rule in the country since the military invasion in 1898.

Jenniffer Gonzalez, president of the House of Representatives had always supported that the bill be voted on in accordance with the wishes of the Puerto Rican governor, which was ratified after a meeting at La Fortaleza, government house.

However, Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz voted for the measure despite rejecting the changes introduced by Fortuño to allow the consultation to be made on Nov. 6, 2012, the same day of the general elections.

Neither did the leader of the Senate agree to eliminate the colonial word referring to the “Free Associated State” created by Washington in 1952 to remove Puerto Rico from the United Nations register of those countries under colonial rule.

Originally, the status consultation was scheduled to take place in two stages, in August and November 2012, for the people to decide in the first round if they wanted to continue as a colony of the United States and in the second, to say what status would they prefer: annexation, free association or independence.

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Today the US Department of Labor released its November 2011 labor statistics for the nation, all 50 states, and Puerto Rico. The data from Puerto Rico presents the following information:

  • The overall unemployment figure for Puerto Rico is now at 15.7%, which is a .04% drop from October rate of 16.1%.
  • The total civilian labor force in Puerto Rico dropped from 1,277,300 people in October, 2011 to 1,275,000 in November, 2011. This is a drop of over 2,000 people in the labor force. In the meantime, 4,000 net jobs were created in Puerto Rico between October, 2011 and November, 2011.
  • Government jobs increased 4.3% over a 12-month period from from November 2010 to November 2011. Right now, of the 1,277,300 people in the civilan labor force, the US Department of Labor lists 272,000 public sector jobs.
  • The following industries saw significant 12-month percentage increases in employment: Mining, Logging, and Construction (5.2%), Information (4.8%), and Government (4.3%).
  • Puerto Rican unemployment has hovered between 14% and 17% since March, 2009. In the last six months, the lowest rate was 14.1% (June) and the highest rate was 16.1% (November).
  • The last time Puerto Rican unemployment was under 10% was February, 2008 (9.5%). It has been in double-digit unemployment for the last 44 consecutive months and for the last 55 out of 56 months. Since the first month of Governor Luis Fortuño’s administration, Puerto Rico has seen single-digit unemployment only once: February, 2008.
  • The data confirms that Puerto Rico continues to stay stuck in double-digit unemployment, although with Fortuño facing a tough re-election, he will probably take any news. The key for him in the next six months is whether this new data will show that Puerto Rico is heading in the right direction or whether it will still hover between 14% and 17%.

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Press Release (Spanish Version Here)

Monday, December 19, 2011 San Juan, PR: Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño, along with the Presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senate, announced tonight that after receiving input from the different sectors that have participated in public hearings held at the Legislature that fostered greater participation of the island’s residents in a fair, reasonable, and inclusive manner, agreed to amend the island’s plebiscite status process.

“The amendments discussed and we are announcing today will permit that on the day of the vote, the first phase of the the plebiscite will consist of two questions on the same ballot. We decided that the questions that our constituents will be able to vote on will be detailed as follows:

First: Do you want to maintain the current territorial political status?

Second, voters will select from the following non-territorial options: statehood, independence and sovereign commonwealth, Fortuño said.

“The agreed process includes the main recommendations of the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico. It also addresses the concerns of various groups and members of all parties who participated in the discussion prompted by legislative bodies, which have requested that this process is a simple, fair, and inclusive,” the Chief Executive said.

“This way, all formulas will be represented on the same ballot and in the same query. Similarly, the agreed amendments result in savings for the people of Puerto Rico and will foster a fair and equitable distribution of public funds to the entitled parties or groups who choose to participate in the Consultation,” the Governor added.

Finally, it was noted that the Legislative Reform Consultation for the country will be held on August 19, 2012.

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If there was a news article of blog post that would match our thoughts on Puerto Rico 100%, it is the following one by Greg Acevedo, who contributed an essay called Somehow… Someday to the HuffPost Latino Voices section. Now if only more Americans understood this injustice and force the US Congress to act, or better yet, support the actions of Puerto Ricans to FINALLY determine their own political destiny. In the meantime, here’s hoping such well-written pieces like Acevedo’s start appearing on a regular basis.

Here is the post. We were going to just show segments and provide our own commentary, but the more we read, the more we agreed. So, here it is.

Fifty years ago, West Side Story jetted and sharked its way into the hearts of America. Half a century later, what does the average U.S. citizen know about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans? I’m guessing much of it has to do with sandy beaches, Marc Anthony and J-Lo, the island’s success in Miss Universe competitions and international athletic events, and, of course, the star-crossed Maria and Tony.

But I’m betting that most Americans don’t know that Puerto Rico is, at best, a fledgling democracy — and that US. control over the island is the main reason why Puerto Rico hasn’t successfully developed a legitimate democracy. The first step on the road to democracy is self-determination, but Puerto Ricans living on the island have never had the chance to exercise that right. What’s more, the U.S. has had over a century to grant Puerto Rico that right, but it hasn’t.

As a Puerto Rican, I find it amusing when the U.S. tries to instruct other nations in the practice of democracy (See: Libya and Iraq). Before the U.S. instructs other nations on the practice of democracy, it must re-think its policy in Puerto Rico.

A bit of background: In 1897, after decades of struggle against colonial rule, Puerto Rico secured autonomy from Spain, but it was preempted from achieving full-fledged autonomy when the island became an official territory of the U.S. a year later. From the start of their relationship, the U.S. kept a colonial-like grip on the island’s governance. It took 50 years for the U.S. to grant islanders the right to elect its own governor. In 1951, the U.S. loosened its grip a bit, granting the island the right to craft its own constitution and to fashion a “new” status as a commonwealth. In terms of self-governance Puerto Rico had finally made it back to where it was in 1897, but it remains a U.S. territory, which seems like “colony lite” to me.

I can hear the voices of dissent: that Puerto Rico should be nothing but grateful, and has received numerous benefits from its arrangement with the U.S. Take U.S. citizenship. Since 1917, Puerto Ricans on the island have acquired US citizenship as a birthright. Certainly, the power of the U.S. passport and the freedom of movement it affords is no meager benefit.

In truth, Puerto Ricans are second-class citizens who have not been able to exercise the full spectrum of their voting rights. The contradictory nature of Puerto Rican citizenship is best illustrated in the grave responsibility of military service. Like stateside citizens, Puerto Ricans on the island are subject to military duty, yet they have no direct representation in Congress, which sanctions wars, and they cannot vote for the commander-in-chief.

Second-class citizenship mirrors the island’s showcase “sovereignty.” During the Cold War era, the U.S. strategically attempted to use Puerto Rico as a model in the practice of democracy and economic prosperity. But the island has never been able to pursue its own path in intergovernmental or economic relations with other countries without the approval (read: control) of the U.S. The dominant mantra in international politics today is that democracy and economic development go hand-in-hand. It’s a model that the U.S. promotes around the globe — yet it’s one that Puerto Rico has never had a chance to try out at home.

Puerto Rico’s smoke-and-mirrors “democracy” continues to wrestle with high rates of poverty and stagnant economic development. In a 2008 report by the World Bank gauging 215 nations in terms of economic growth, Puerto Rico had the dubious distinction of ranking 211th, in the same range as the Palestinian territories and Zimbabwe. Unemployment and poverty in Puerto Rico exceed levels in the 50 states. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau pegged the island’s poverty rate at 45%; double that of Mississippi, which had the highest poverty of any state (22.4%).

Does the political status of Puerto Rico have anything to do with Puerto Rican poverty? As Richard Figueroa, a Republican-leaning attorney and former diplomat in the U.S. Department of State admitted in a November 12 opinion piece in El Nuevo Dia, “The ambiguous nature of the political relationship of Puerto Rico with the United States is part of the main root of the economic and social problems of the island.”

Both Congress and the White House have had ample time and opportunity to resolve the U.S.’s ambiguous political relationship with Puerto Rico. On December 23, 2000, President Bill Clinton established the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status. Its goal is to recommend options for Puerto Rico’s path to self-determination. Eleven years later the Task Force still exits and Puerto Rico’s status remains the same.

The Puerto Rico Democracy Act was introduced in Congress first in 2007 by Congressman José Serrano (D-New York), and again in 2009 by Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s non-voting member of Congress. The bill sought to “provide for a federally sanctioned self-determination process for the people of Puerto Rico.” It died in the Senate when the 111th Congress closed.

In a March, 2011 report released by his Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, President Obama said that he is “firmly committed to the principle that the question of political status is a matter of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.”

The very last lyrics to the finale of West Side Story are “somehow…some day!” So, get on with it. When do we get to the final scene?

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