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Posts Tagged ‘Luis Fortuño’


In its purest form, politics is all about taking risks. Without taking risks, you can’t impact change. This past Sunday in Puerto Rico, Governor Luis Fortuño and the rest of the island’s New Progressive Party took a risk. They lost. Big time.

At the same time, Fortuño’s opponent in the upcoming November elections for governor, Alejandro García Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party, tried to play it safe and really didn’t take a risk. He lost as well.

So much can be said about the surprising results in Sunday’s vote that asked Puerto Ricans to consider two changes to its Constitution: one referendum that would “have reduced have reduced the size of the U.S. territory’s legislature” and another that would have “given judges the right to deny bail in certain murder cases.” Both YES votes were leading by wide margins in the pre-voting polls, according to El Nuevo Día, yet when the results were official on Sunday evening, the NO votes had won: 54%-46% against the legislative change and 55%-45% against the bail measure.

Fortuño and the rest of pro-statehood PNP had pushed hard to get YES votes in both measures. The legislative reform, if it passed, would have given Fortuño a huge boost in his “small government” philosophy and he would have been hailed as a conservative hero at next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, where he will be a featured speaker. The bail reform would have been seen as another accomplishment of Fortuño’s plan to reduce violent crime on the island, which saw 1,117 murders last year and has become victim to a growing drug trade.

García Padilla, who is currently leading Fortuño by 5 points in the latest polls for governor, also favored a double YES vote, and it is clear that in his mind he was making a calculated political bet, since all the mainstream pre-election polling on the measures showed both measures passing. García Padilla played it safe, perhaps too safe, since if he had the courage and know-how to read where the island’s voters were going to vote on the issue, there is no doubt that if he had favored a double NO vote (like many of his PPD colleagues), his quest to become the island’s newest governor would have been a slam dunk.

In the end, this surprise result was all about Puerto Ricans and how the message to vote NO twice spread throughout the island, particularly in social media, where tweets, posts, emails, videos, and shares calling for two NO votes took a life of their own. The push to vote NO had everything to do with the rights granted in Puerto Rico’s Constitution and how those rights still mattered. When I spoke about this vote last month on NPR, I always felt that the Fortuño administration and the two major parties pushing for YES votes were just window dressing and not really attacking the island’s real problems.

These two leaders literally did not see Sunday’s results coming, and that is a good thing. Politicians tend to get comfortable and lose focus. And maybe the vote still does matter.

Sunday night, Fortuño downplayed his losses, especially the one on legislative reform (he said very little, if nothing about it), and focused instead on fighting the good fight and standing behind the victims who have lost loved ones to violent crime. That is admirable. However, it is still ironic.

Fortuño’s push to limit rights of all citizens, even after changes to the island’s penal code were seen by some as unconstitutional, is a bit like the United States’s struggle over gun control. Fortuño the conservative was trying to limit people’s constitutional rights in the name of public order and safety. Was a new bail measure an effective deterrent? Or is a more serious debate about the reasons why crime is still major concern in Puerto Rico still needed? Maybe this vote will force the Fortuños and the García Padillas of the world to stop looking at band-aid solutions and start looking at ways to transform the island into a new chapter. I can only hope.

So in the end, where does Fortuño go from here? Does he even have a political future in Puerto Rico? My guess is no. He is probably already thinking of how he can position himself in the US as an “up and coming” Latino conservative, since the risk he took did not play out. Fortuño will be speaking at the RNC, a defeated politician who had to take a gamble if he was serious of winning a second term. He might be able to gain some points with a new unfamiliar audience who will see him as a rising star of the GOP, but on the island he is now seen as a loser.

As for García Padilla, the only thing he has going for himself is that he is not Fortuño, and unless a wave of change sweeps through Puerto Rico in the next three months before the November election and the other political parties who benefited from Sunday’s results (like the island’s independence party) win more hearts and minds, García Padilla will become the island’s new governor. Maybe this past Sunday might be the political lesson he needed to pass to make sure he learns to lead and not just be safe, since right now, the island needs leadership that still take risks. But they better take them for the right reasons.

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Originally published at LatinoRebels.com

Leave it to pro-statehood and GOP darling Luis Fortuño to conveniently stop being a pro-US-statehooder during the London Olympics. The last few days, Fortuño, who is facing a tough re-election this November, has suddenly become one proud boricua during Puerto Rico’s Olympic efforts. Never mind the fact that as someone who fervently supports Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state of the Union, Fortuño knows that in a tough election year, you got to wrap yourself around the Puerto Rican flag and overlook your political principles.

We will got out on a limb and say that if Puerto Rico were to become the 51st state of the United States, it would no longer be an Olympic country, but what does that matter less than 100 days before an election? The irony of a passionate pro-statehooder like Fortuño now sounding like the other pro-commonwealth and pro-independence candidates he has criticized for exploiting Puerto Rico’s unique boricuaness is quite telling.

But don’t tell that to Fortuño and his campaign, since they have become Facebook addicts the last few days. Here are just a few of the posts from the official Fortuño51 page (yes he even has a 51 in his Facebook URL):

First off, change your Facebook Page cover image to exploit a picture of you and the family of bronze medal winner Javier Culson. Umm, the little girl to the right of Fortuño looks absolutely thrilled to be next to the governor.

Then start posting photos of different athletes and pushing Puerto Rico’s unique pride and love for the Olympics. Here are just a few samples of what Fortuño and his campaign posted yesterday. First off, send everyone a personal Facebook post:

Then post your first Culson pic.

Post another Culson pic an hour later. Go viral.

Then an hour later, raise the city flag of Ponce (Culson’s hometown) over La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion.

The Olympic Facebook blitz began on Fortuño’s page over the weekend. Here are a few more screen shots of what the page posted:

Here is the hypocrisy: Fortuño is head of a statehood party (the New Progressive Party, or PNP) that wants to become a state of the Union, no ifs, ands, or buts. However, if Puerto Rico were to become a state, there is no more Olympic team for Puerto Rico. This hasn’t stopped Fortuño and his campaign from pushing Olympic pride the last few days. Talk about being inconsistent in your messaging.

In addition, many PNPers who have commented on these Fortuño posts and the posts of the PNP think that if Puerto Rico were to become a state, the Puerto Rican Olympic team would still continue because there is an Olympic charter. Yeah, right. Memo to the PNPers: the United States trumps you on your desires to keep the Puerto Rican Olympic team intact.

All this boricua pride and flag waving would go away. Puerto Ricans would become part of the US team, and give or take a Culson or a few boxers, the chances to make the bigger team would be slim.

If Fortuño were truly the pro-statehooder that he was, he would be pushing the US team’s feats to his followers. But that would not make any political sense, since it is clear that even Fortuño will admit that when it comes to being politically convenient, it is best to push the boricuaness to the masses instead of staying true to his statehood message. But, hey, fuzziness is all part of Puerto Rico’s politics. We do find it amazing that many on the island buy it because it is coming from Fortuño.

A little advice to the PNPers: If you want to become a state, put away the Puerto Rican flags and start chanting “USA USA USA!”

Are you ready to do that? Are you?

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In today’s El Nuevo Día, Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s Resident Commissioner and a pro-statehood Democrat, said that if Puerto Ricans want the U.S. Congress to act upon the island’s political status, voting “No” to the first question of the two-question November 6 non-binding plebiscite will send a strong message to Congress that Puerto Ricans desire a change in the current commonwealth system. Basically, the first question asks Puerto Ricans if they care to remain a commonwealth of the US or whether they prefer a change in status. The second question—if voters do indeed prefer a change—would ask voters to choose from three status options: independence, statehood, or sovereign free association.

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner

Even though the entire November 6 plebiscite is non-binding (meaning Congress doesn’t have to do anything no matter what Puerto Ricans vote on), Pierluisi believes that a “No” vote on the first question would send the right message to Congress.

The first question of the two included in the consultation on the status 6th November that will determine if the U.S. Congress will act to implement the results of the vote, said today the Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. This is what END reported (translation is ours):

“En la primera es que nos va la vida. Si se rechaza el status actual, pues entonces de la segunda el Congreso lo que va a recibir es el deseo de nuestro pueblo en cuanto a cuál de las opciones de cambio es la que favorece. Y ahí sí que no va a tener alternativa”.

“Si por otro lado, que yo espero que no sea el caso, pide que Puerto Rico permanezca con el status que tiene, hasta nuevo aviso, pues entonces la contestación de la segunda pregunta lo que le va a indicar al Congreso es hacia dónde va dirigido nuestro pueblo, pero el Congreso no va a actuar sobre ese resultado”.

“Si el pueblo le dice que no quiere cambio, estoy seguro, no tengo duda, que el Congreso va a esperar para actuar sobre el asunto del status hasta que el pueblo le diga lo contrario”.

“The first question is what matters to us and our lives.  If voters reject the current status [in the first question], that Congress will know what option the desire of our people will prefer with the second question.  There will be no alternative [in the second question].”

“If on the other hand, I hope it’s not the case, voters call for Puerto Rico to stay with the current status, until further notice, then the answer to the second question about what option our people want to indicate to Congress, well, Congress will not act on that result.”

“If the people says they do not want a change [in status], I’m sure, I have no doubt that Congress will wait to act on the status issue until the people tell them otherwise.”

Pierluisi, who is a pro-statehood Democrat and the island’s non-voting member in Congress, and is running for re-election (on November 6; yeah, we know it’s complicated) on the same ticket as pro-statehood Republican governor Luis Fortuño, did make it a point to say that Democrats in Congress would be more open to having Puerto Rico become a state (if the statehood option wins in the plebiscite’s second question) than Fortuño’s fellow Republicans. Yes, we know, it is really confusing. Anyway, this is what Pierluisi added:

“El resultado va a hablar por sí solo. Si la mayoría del pueblo rechaza el status actual pues entonces, como yo lo veo, no tengo dudas de que mis compañeros y compañeras en el Partido Demócrata van a tomar cartas en el asunto y van a querer responder a ese llamado del pueblo por un cambio”.

 “En el caso de los republicanos sabemos que hay sectores en el partido republicano que son muy conservadores, que se han opuesto hasta que meramente tengamos un plebiscito en el pasado y no tengo duda de que también se opondrían a que Puerto Rico se uniera como un estado”.

“The result will speak for itself. If the majority of people reject the current status for then, as I see, I have no doubt that my colleagues in the Democratic Party will take action on the matter and will want to answer the call of the people for a change.”

“For the Republicans, we know that there are sectors in the Republican Party who are very conservative, who have opposed to even have a plebiscite in the past and I have no doubt that they also oppose Puerto Rico becoming a state.”

The status question is the one issue that the island’s politicians have abused for decades. What Pierluisi should be saying on the floor of Congress is that the plebiscite be made BINDING immediately. Instead, Pierluisi falls into the same political trap as every other politician on the island: he is using the carrot of Congress being more accepting of the will of Puerto Rican voters by pushing for an initial answer that clearly benefits his pro-statehood beliefs. A true Resident Commissioner would push for a binding resolution NOW. Instead, Pierluisi is just playing partisan politics, which gets even more complicated on the island since most of his fellow Democrats are more likely to be pro-commonwealth advocates than pro-statehooders. Add the fact that Pierluisi is also saying the Democrats in the Congress would be more open to accept the plebiscite vote than certain sectors of the Republican party, the party that Fortuño is a part of, and it becomes one big political ball of confusion. How can anyone in Puerto Rico even understand it?

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The things you to try and get re-elected. In the case of Puerto Rico’s Republicans pro-statehood governor Luis Fortuño, you spend 30 minutes talking with a puppet. La Comay from WAPA TV’s Superexclusivo is the island’s #1 show. The host is a puppet and Fortuño got a full half-hour. We will be dissecting this later this week since just like any politician, Fortuño misses the mark on many things, but here is the full interview (in Spanish) for you so see. Yes, just in case you didn’t know, Fortuño is talking policy with a puppet.

 

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The US Department of Labor released the May employment numbers for Puerto Rico and the data confirms the following:

  • May’s 14.2% rate is the island’s lowest unemployment rate since February, 2009, when it was at 14.1%. The unemployment rate has fluctuated between 14.1% and 16.6% since Republican and pro-statehood governor Luis Fortuño, who is facing re-election in November, has been in office.
  • Right now, Puerto Rico’s civilian labor force is at 1,267,965—this is the lowest labor force on the island since October, 1995 (1,266,581). The following graphs show how Puerto Rico’s civilian labor force continues to decrease over the past 10 years. The graphs also show that there are fewer jobs on the island. So, even though the unemployment rate is now at 14.2%, the labor pool is shrinking and so is the total number of employed people. For example, in December 2011, there were 1,090,300 employed Puerto Ricans and the December 2011 unemployment rate was at 15.2%. In May 2012, there were 1,087,600 employed Puerto Ricans with an unemployment rate of 14.2%. Between December 2011 and May 2012, therefore, there has been a net decrease of about 2,700 employed people in Puerto Rico because the civilian labor force during that time has gone from 1,285,500 people in December 2011 to 1,267,965 people in May 2012. That is a loss of about 17,000 people in the labor force.
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  • Public sector government jobs are now at about 266,000 jobs, which is the lowest since October, 2011, yet ever since Fortuño’s big purge to have fewer public sector jobs on the island when he took  office in 2009, public sector jobs continue to increase.
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You can see all the latest statistics here.

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From first glance, you would think that the recent news of Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate dipping under 15% for the first time since May, 2009 (US Dept of Labor) would be good news for incumbent Republican and pro-statehood governor Luis Fortuño (although it is still in double digits). In a tough re-election campaign, he can begin to let people know that the island is slowly creeping out of four years of recession and he can do fluff interviews on FOX to state his case.

Yes, in April 2012 Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate (see image) was at 14.8%. However, look at the numbers. Really look at the numbers on this chart and you will see a different story: for all his talk about economic growth (new Walmarts!), cutting public sector jobs and making government leaner and meaner, Puerto Rico is actually losing jobs public sector jobs in Puerto Rico continue to be one of the island’s industries that is growing.

Here is the data that one should consider, based on official statistics from the US Department of Labor:

  • From March to April, the Puerto Rican labor force decreased by 11,000 workers. In March, the labor force was at 1, 285,500. In April, it was at 1,274,500. In February, the labor force was at 1,291,400. So, from February to April, the Puerto Rican labor has decreased by 2%.
  • Because the labor force is shrinking, Puerto Rico actually had a net decrease in total number of jobs in April, but still say the April unemployment rate go down by .02%. In April, there were 1,086,400 employed Puerto Ricans. In March, that number was 1,092,100. So about 6,000 jobs were lost but the unemployment rate went down. In February, the total number of jobs were at 1,097,400, which means that about 11,000 jobs were lost even though the unemployment rate is going down. Where are these jobs going? Who is leaving the island? Young talent. The labor force of Puerto Rico is shrinking.
  • In addition, the public sector continues to be one of the island’s top sources of employment. In April, there was a reported 270,800 government jobs. In March, that number was at 269,100 and in February it was at 269,200. In January, the jobs were at 271,300. This sector continues to trend up.

The date presents other gains, like construction, but they are offset bu industries like trade, transportation, and utilities. In the end, the talk of a Puerto Rican miracle are a bit premature, because the labor data shows that people are just giving up or leaving the island’s labor force. Less people, less jobs, and a drop in unemployment. That is one way to fix your problems, although we don’t know if it is the best way.

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What planet is FOX’s John Stossel on? This weekend, Stossel had Republican and pro-statehood Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuño on to discuss the “economic miracle” or Puerto Rico. Stossel proudly stated in his fluff interview with Fortuño that the Puerto Rican economy was growing due to Fortuño’s austerity measures.

The fact that Stossel didn’t even address the fact that Puerto Rico under the Fortuño administration has been stuck at double-digit unemployment with a shrinking labor force is an issue with his lack of journalism. Just create a more balanced view the next time and stop the overhyping. Basic fact checking could take you far.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Puerto Rico’s GDP in 2010  was -5.8%(the last recorded year, which was worse than the island -3.7% in 2009, which was worse that the island -2.5% in 2008).

As the CIA says:

Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region, however, growth has been negative for the past four years, and unemployment has risen to nearly 16% in 2011. The industrial sector has surpassed agriculture as the primary locus of economic activity and income. Mainland US firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. US minimum wage laws apply. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products as the main source of income in the agricultural sector. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income with estimated arrivals of more than 3.6 million tourists in 2008. Closing the budget deficit while restoring economic growth and employment remain the central concerns of the government.

Also this graph shows that the island’s GDP has been going down since 2005.

Another financial analysis by an independent group states the following:

The official PR Planning Board macroeconomic forecast for 2012 estimate a modest recovery of less than 1%.  US Stimulus funds received in 2008-2010 in the amount of $4.8BN have led to an increase in Personal Income within a period of reduction in GDP, exports, investment and credit concession.
Our main concern is that given high and increasing levels of debt, prolonged structural recession, reduction in pharmaceutical exports due to patent expiration and need to strengthen the banking system and credit flows while addressing real estate loan portfolios and market price adjustments, US financial regulatory institutions, private sector leaders and the Government of Puerto Rico need to aspire to and implement a comprehensive and high quality policy strategy, focusing on integrated macroeconomic, fiscal and financial system performance and proposing changes in structural impediments to optimal investment, labor market participation, reductions in operational costs and improved human capital investment returns.
Puerto Rico’s economy is climbing out of its marathon recession at a slighter quicker pace than expected this year.
That was the word Thursday from the Planning Board, which said the economy is on pace to grow by a modest 0.9 percent during fiscal 2012. That is narrowly ahead of the agency’s earlier estimate of 0.7 percent for the year, which ends June 30.
The upturn will mark the first annual growth in Puerto Rico’s economy since the onset of the local recession in 2006.
Puerto Rico’s economy contracted 1 percent in fiscal 2011 after shrinking 3.8 percent in fiscal 2010, 4 percent in fiscal 2009, 2.9 percent in fiscal 2008 and 1.2 percent in fiscal 2007, according to Planning Board numbers.
The island economy was last on positive footing in fiscal 2006, when it posted 0.5 percent growth, down from 1.9 percent the previous year.
The Planning Board said Thursday it expects the economic rebound to gain ground in fiscal 2013, projecting growth to edge up to 1.1 percent.
“We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel for some time,” Planning Board President Rubén Flores Marzan said. “But now we are essentially pulling out of the tunnel.”
So basically, the irony of all this is that Fortuño will take any sliver of good news spin, just like President Obama. The fact remains: Puerto Rico has been in the NEGATIVE for years. Any “growth” would be still keep you in a historical negative place. The challenge is true economic transformation that is bipartisan and works for everyone on the island. Let’s put the FOX NEWS pom-poms away. Fortuño’s legacy will be mixed, if that. All we ask is for better and true accountability, a true no-spin zone.
Will voters see the whole picture of the Puerto Rican economy? Will it be enough for another four more years of Fortuño? That is the question.

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