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Posts Tagged ‘New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico’


Last night the island of Puerto Rico experienced a historic election. Not only did Puerto Ricans go to the polls to vote for Governor, Resident Commissioner, and other legislative positions, they also voted in yet another non-binding plebiscite that tried to determine whether Puerto Ricans favored its current commonwealth relationship with the United States, and if not, whether it favored statehood, independence, or associated free state.

The biggest news of the night was that Republican pro-statehood incumbent governor Luis Fortuño of the island’s New Progressive Party (PNP) lost his re-election bid to Alejandro García Padilla, the Democratic pro-commonwealth challenger of the island’s Popular Democratic Party (PPD). The independence candidate, Juan Dalmau, as well as the other third-party candidates, didn’t even play a role in the tally, which is still being counted. The following screen shot showed the latest results as of this morning, with over 96% of the precincts reporting.

 

The Fortuño loss confirmed what many Puerto Ricans had said all along: his policies and personality were too polarizing. While he was being praised by FOX News for being a new Latino conservative, Fortuño could not break away from his critics and detractors. Double-digit unemployment and a consensus that Puerto Rico was heading in the wrong direction, a Gasoducto project gone bad, and the Ley 7 protests gave García Padilla the little boost he needed. Of course, it wasn’t a landslide and with pro-statehood Democrat PNPer Pedro Pierluisi winning his re-election bid for Resident Commissioner, the Fortuño loss is not a clear mandate for García Padilla. He is going to have to work with the PNP since the role of Resident Commissioner (the island’s non-voting member in Congress) is seen as the island’s second-in-command. Pierluisi is Puerto Rico’s Washington voice and the uneasy alliance between the PPD and PNP will be interesting to watch, to say the least.

Yet I will argue that this is all a good thing for Puerto Rico, since no matter what García Padilla or the PPD are saying today, the island’s formal Washington-San Juan relationship is now a bipartisan status  issue (it doesn’t hurt that both García Padilla and Pierluisi are Democrats). And given the results of the plebiscite, that is a good thing. A really good thing.

Which brings us to the status questions, and why in the end, Puerto Rico wins.

Here are the latest results. Question 1 basically asked if Puerto Ricans prefer to keep the status quo (commonwealth) or reject. The status quo was rejected. (FYI, there were over 64,000 blank votes, more to come on that.)

 

García Padilla, Puerto Rico’s governor-elect, favored a YES vote. He lost.

When it came to what options Puerto Ricans favored (statehood, independence, free associated state), here are the latest results:

Statehood was what Fortuño favored, and so did Pierluisi. So in essence, Fortuño won this one. However, it gets complicated when one takes into account that over 468,000 votes (so far) were blank for this category, which is the strategy García Padilla declared. Because a blank vote meant that you were voting for the status quo, which by the way was already rejected in Question 1. Therefore if you take into the account the blank votes, here is where it stands:

 

Let’s face it, García Padilla made a strategic mistake on his part, and that is actually great thing for Puerto Rico. Here is why: Question 1 basically said NO to the status quo, which is what García Padilla favored. Question 2, which only listed three options (BLANK was not an option), made statehood the winner. As uncomfortable as that makes García Padilla today, the reality is that political games that telling people not to vote backfired.

Voting BLANK doesn’t count. It doesn’t mean anything. It just means BLANK. It means you didn’t want to vote or even provide an honest choice, especially since Question 1 already rejected the status quo or the BLANK people were trying to defend in Question 2.

If the PPD were smart and savvy about Question 2 and if they wanted to have statehood lose the vote, they should have pushed for either independence or associated free state, or they would have initiated a real write-in campaign for the status quo. But they didn’t, and this morning they are left defending a political system that around 1 million Puerto Ricans don’t want and a status option the PPD can’t support. Already, García Padilla has lost control of the status agenda. He will be forced to resolve it by engaging those who favor other options.

So governor-elect García Padilla needs to be careful right now. He cannot start his administration by refuting and ignoring the results of the plebiscite. He will be making a huge mistake in putting the political history of the PPD ahead of a vote that clearly says that the status quo must change. I am not suggesting that García Padilla should all of a sudden push for statehood, but what he SHOULD do his first day in office in tell Pierluisi to demand that Congress move the process on resolving Puerto Rico’s political status. Staying stuck in the past will keep the island in neutral and eventually going backwards, instead of doing the right thing and putting the people over one political party’s stubborn preference.

Many Puerto Ricans will criticize Fortuño, and those criticisms have merit, but Fortuño should be commended for establishing a plebiscite process that rejected the status quo and initiated a real tangible dialogue about where Puerto Rico goes next. García Padilla, if he is smart enough, could actually go down as the Governor who finally moved the needle on the island’s status and resolved it. He can also thank Fortuño for that because that is why leaders do: sacrifice politics for the greater good, even if it means losing your own election.

Now for a different take on this, read what my dear friend Gil the Genius has to say about it. This time around, we follow different paths about yesterday’s results and come to the same conclusions: we need more “adults” in Puerto Rican politics. The PPD leadership missed a huge opportunity to be “adults” and to clarify the plebiscite question by actually fully participating in it, instead of trying to be clever about it. Being clever is the old way. Being honest about where Puerto Rico goes next is the new way. Here is to the new way. It it will win.

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Now it gets interesting. Just a month before Puerto Ricans get to determine the fate of incumbent pro-statehood Republican governor Luis Fortuño as well as vote on yet another non-binding political status plebiscite, today’s poll by El Nuevo Día (the island’s largest newspaper) has Fortuño trailing pro-commonwealth Democratic challenger Alejandro García Padilla by just two points, 41%-39%.

The poll, published today, suggests that Fortuño continues to gain as he seeks his second term as Puerto Rico’s governor. According to reports, García Padilla was leading by 5 percentage points after an August poll and by 7 percentage points after a poll in May. Fortuño, who favors statehood for Puerto Rico and is head of the island’s New Progressive Party, has recently turned his campaign push as a push for statehood, even though the upcoming plebiscite—held the same day as the elections—would be non-binding, meaning that the US Congress would still have to decide Puerto Rico’s political status and while Mitt Romney has promised that if Puerto Ricans chose statehood in the plebiscite he would push for the island’s entry into the Union, President Obama went on record last year to say that the plebiscite’s results would have to be pretty definitive before Congress could act.

As for Puerto Rico’s Independentista candidate Juan Dalmau? According to the latest poll, he is still stuck at 4%. That is less than those who told said they were still undecided (6%). Ouch.

So, in the end, what can be said about where Puerto Rico’s race stands? Let’s just say this: In the end, Fortuño, the Republican, is like President Obama, the Democrat. Both are trying to tell voters that things are getting better, and they both have a tough case to make. Fortuño can also dangle the fantasy of statehood, which is still attractive to about 40%-45% of the island.

García Padilla is a lot like Romney. Not the greatest of candidates. But just like Romney, if García Padilla keeps pounding Fortuño’s record, just like Romney is pounding Obama’s, García Padilla (and Romney) just might win. But polls are polls, and who knows what will happen on November 6. What we can guarantee is this: it should make for an intense night, both on the mainland and on the island.

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Memo to Puerto Rico’s Popular Democratic Party (PPD), champions and defenders of a status colonial arrangement that is 60 years old and is no longer working: stop the politics, stop the whining, and allow the will of the Puerto Rican people to decide on its political future.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Today, Puerto Rican and pro-statehood Republican Governor Luis Fortuño signed into law a two-part voter referendum to address the island’s political status preference. The process had already experienced a public session where amendments to the vote were made as well as criticism from members of Fortuño’s own party.

(On a sidenote, Fortuño’s actions must have taken Puerto Rican history into account, since the 2012 plebiscite will occur during the 60th year anniversary of the Puerto Rican Constitution, the document that declared the island a Commonwealth of the United States, the country that invaded it in 1898.)

Now, the PPD leadership, which clings to a colonial status quo mentality that has done very little to advance the status question as well as Puerto Rico’s move into the 21st century, is crying foul. Bring on the POLITIQUERÍA, which has become the island’s #1 pastime, even though more and more islanders are done with the pettiness and more worried about getting jobs and staying safe.

As reported by the Associated Press:

The first part of the referendum will ask voters if they want a change in status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth. The second part will ask that voters choose from three options: statehood, independence or sovereign free association.

The original proposal was to hold the first part of the referendum in August 2012 and then, only if the majority sought a change in status, hold the second part during the November 2012 general elections.

But under the new proposal, the two-part referendum will be held on Nov. 6, said Gov. Luis Fortuño, who leads the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

Regardless of what voters decide, any change requires approval by the U.S. Congress and president.

PPD Senator Eduardo Bhatia

Sen. Eduardo Bhatia said holding both parts on the same day makes no sense because it assumes that the pro-status quo option doesn’t win and the second round will be necessary.

“This law is proof that the leadership of the pro-statehood movement turns to trickery, deceit and the technique of confusion as political weapons,” said Bhatia of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the current commonwealth status. “What opportunity do voters have to seriously reflect between one vote and the other? None.”

The questions will be on the same ballot and Fortuño has not stated clearly how they will be presented. Critics fear that being forced to choose from the three options could influence how people vote in the first part.

Kenneth McClintock, secretary of state for Puerto Rico, denied accusations that pro-status quo supporters would be ignored, saying that people were free to leave the second part of the ballot blank. He said Bhatia’s party had previously agreed to holding the referendum in one day.

McClintock said the U.S. Congress would interpret the results if the majority chose something other than maintaining the status quo.

Fortuño also discarded criticism of the referendum.

“All processes aimed at resolving Puerto Rico’s political future assumes that the current situation no longer has majority support,” he said.

Fortuño spokeswoman Ana del Valle said his administration chose to hold the two-part referendum on the same day to get a sense of what people prefer for the island’s political future.

The referendum received praise from Luis Delgado, leader of a group that is pushing for Puerto Rico to have a sovereign free association with the U.S. But Delgado urged Fortuño to demand that the U.S. outline terms and conditions for each of the choices before the referendum is held.

Puerto Rico has long debated its political status, with no majority for any particular status emerging in referendums held in 1967, 1993 and 1998.

Rafael Cox Alomar, a PDP member who is seeking the island’s nonvoting Congressional seat, dismissed the referendum as expensive and unnecessary.

“This referendum does not work and does not involve nor compromise in any way the U.S. Congress,” he said. “In a moment of economic crisis… the cost of this referendum is an insult to the people who reject it.”

Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who is running against Fortuño, said the Popular Democratic Party would soon issue its official stance on the referendum.

Critics also noted that if Fortuño’s party loses the election, millions of dollars spent on the referendum will have gone to waste.

The PPD reaction is clearly partisan and short-sighted. The Defenders of the Colonial Commonwealth are making a huge political mistake by trying to defend a system that is becoming less and less viable for the island. Instead, the PPD should seriously consider taking the growing anti-Fortuño sentiment and turn it into a positive. Why won’t it consider other options that go beyond the current system?

If the PPD continues to think it is running a campaign out of 1979—when the political will to maintain the Colonial Commonwealth was stronger— it will lose it all. Fortuño will win his re-election, even with the island’s social and economic problems, and statehood will win out. The time for the PPD to wake up is now, or else everything it has tried to defend since 1952 will vanish. The smart move now is to try and salvage what it can. Voters in Puerto Rico are ready to change and improve the status quo, and there is still a sentiment that statehood is too extreme and the wrong fit for the island.

But if the PPD doesn’t change its course and stop complaining that it doesn’t approve of the rules of the game, they will become irrelevant.

Why doesn’t the PPD lead the charge in forcing the US Congress to make the plebiscite vote binding? This might actually be seen as a proactive and tangible action that goes beyond political whining.

The question is: if your house is on fire, do you work hard to save part of your house or do you stubbornly refuse to save your burning house out of anger that your house is on fire?

Here’s hoping the PPD wants to truly save the burning house. Puerto Rico is definitely worth saving. The people should have a voice. Let the politicians get out of the way.

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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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Add sweeping panoramas of Puerto Rico, along with a soundtrack that could have been written by Aaron Copland. Edit images of Raúl Juliá (as the dad from The Addams Family movie), Dallas Maverick star JJ Barea, and the great Clemente. Instead of having adults speaking, just bring out some kids and spread a message of hope that tugs at the heart-strings. Add an iPad, too. That is the very grandiose ad by the campaign of PPD (Popular Party) gubernatorial candidate for Puerto Rico Alejandro García Padilla has produced.

The result? A message the promises everything but offers nothing.

Here it is:

As the island faces a historic economic crisis caused by the policies of both major parties (PPD and the pro-statehood PNP), the García Padilla campaign continues the “politics as usual” track of a colony nation that has failed miserably in reaching its maximum potential. Give the people their populism and all will be well. The ad reminds us of what President Obama successfully achieved in 2008, although it is clear that a message of ambiguous hope no longer plays so well in 2011.

García Padilla is clearly the front-runner as he challenges Republican and pro-statehood incumbent Luis Fortuño, an opportunity that we think he is clearly missing out on. Instead of being a little stronger, a little bolder, instead of finally trying to think outside the system and provide real progress for the island, Puerto Rican voters will be getting the same PPD rhetoric that has sustained the party’s leadership for decades.

With more and more frustration coming out of the island when it comes to its political systems, when will the island wake up? When will voters demand real solutions that put their interests first, both from an economic one as well as one to finally resolve the island’s colonial status? Unless the voters demand something different, the grandiose ads will continue and the populace will still depend on the inaction of politicians. And inaction only perpetuates the status quo, one that has done little to bring Puerto Rico into the 21st century.

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The pro-statehood party of Puerto Rico, the New Progressive Party (PNP), seems to be operating from a position of convenience. When it demands the fact that Puerto Rico should become the 51st state of the Union, it rallies behind American flags and the US Constitution. But when it disagrees with US law in order to please their own conservative and predominantly Catholic base, in the end the PNP will do whatever it wants, even to the point of rejecting federal laws that they will so quickly defend.

The latest version of this Puerto Rican paradox is the issue of abortion. Last week, the Puerto Rican Senate approved a penal code that would prohibit abortions on the island. Yes, you read that right. If a woman in Puerto Rico has an abortion that does not harm her health or life, she should go to jail.

Here is the report from The Catholic News Agency:

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct 26, 2011 / 06:10 pm (CNA).- The Puerto Rico Senate passed a new penal code on Oct. 24 that keeps in place the territory’s prohibition against abortion.

The code will now be sent to the House of Representatives for debate.

Article 99 of the penal code stipulates that “any woman who procures and consumes any medicine, drug or substance, or who undergoes any operation, surgery or any other procedure for the purpose of causing an abortion, except in order to save her health or her life, shall be punished with a fixed prison sentence of two years.”

Abortion supporters argue the new code would be unconstitutional because it would violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973) and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court’s ruling in Pueblo v. Duarte (1980), which legalized abortion.

If passed by the House, the code would be sent to Governor Luis Fortuño to be signed into law.

Governor Fortuño is a Republican as well as the leader of the PNP, and the latest news from the Puerto Rican Senate confirms that the PNP is practicing a conservative right-wing legislative experiment that flies in the face of a federal ruling that is now over 40 years old. It is clear that if Puerto Rico falls under federal jurisdiction (which, technically, it does, although this latest move by the PNP leadership reeks of political convenience and hypocrisy), this proposed abortion law would be deemed unconstitutional under the federal umbrella.
So, the PNP: praise America and all its institutions and its Constitution when it is convenient for it to do so, but when it is not, just pass your own laws that goes against the US Constitution. Which one is it, PNP?

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The political paradox that is Puerto Rico continues to thrive on the island after reaction to pro-statehood and Republican Governor Luis Fortuño has been lukewarm at best.

While the island faces some of the largest unemployment figures in its history, accusations of police abuse from the Department of Justice, charges of Social Security fraud, and angry reactions to spiraling electric bills, last week Fortuño tried to shift the political debate by turning to a topic that has haunted the island for decades: a final decision on its political status. It appears that the gamble has done nothing to help the Governor’s growing unpopularity. Fortuño is facing a reelection bid in 2012.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

First, there is the speech he made last week in response to President Obama’s surprising remarks that the United States would only support Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination if the plebiscites being proposed showed an overwhelming support for a specific status option. Historically, Puerto Ricans have been evenly split between their current commonwealth status and statehood.

As The Washington Post reported:

“Let’s be clear: neither Congress nor the president, nor any other power on earth can stop Puerto Rico from expressing itself freely and democratically about its preference regarding its political status,” Fortuño said. “Congress did not act, but we will act.”

Fortuño, whose New Progressive Party supports statehood, said he will present legislation on Wednesday that would allow islanders to vote on Aug. 12, 2012 whether they want a change in status. If they want a change, voters would choose one of three options in a second referendum to be held during the November 2012 general elections.

The three options would be statehood, independence, or a sovereign free association, which differs from the current commonwealth status.

The reaction to Fortuño’s surprise speech was classically and uniquely partisan among the island’s major political parties. Fox News Latino reported:

The chairman of the Popular Democratic Party said Wednesday that Fortuño’s announcement of a referendum was an attempt to distract the public from Puerto Rico’s current ills.

The governor’s proposal shows how divorced he is from the reality of Puerto Ricans struggling to cope with a surge in violent crime, 16 percent unemployment and a crisis in the public health system, Alejandro Garcia Padilla said.

He declined to comment on the concept of Sovereign Free Association, which appears to be closest to his party’s traditional stance in favor of enhanced commonwealth status.

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez

Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D), an outspoken critic of the Fortuño administration, said last week that Fortuño did not like the “horror show” that is killing the island’s economy and that the Governor was using the status question to “distract the island’s attention.”

It appears that nothing has been gained so far from Fortuño’s intentions to push the status question back onto the radar, and as a result, the island’s tradition of typical partisanship, accusations, and criticisms continues. Puerto Ricans are also savvy enough to understand that the current political system and its future is still controlled by the US Congress and no one else. Maybe the idea of a bolder move will gain more traction?

In the meantime, Fortuño announced today that he would push for a 15% to 20% reduction in Puerto Ricans’ electric bills over the course of the next 4-6 months, proving once again, that when times are tough, people are worried about paying their bills, not about their political status.

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