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EL NUEVO DÍA, Puerto Rico’s largest and most widely-read newspaper, released a poll today that concludes that the current administration of Republican pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño is being seen as the worst in the island’s history.

The most telling statistic is 31% of voters in Fortuño’s own party, the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), says that Fortuño’s performance has been “worse” since he was took office in January, 2009. 50% of PNP voters say that Fortuño’s leadership is within expectations.

Governor Luis Fortuño

Facing a possible reelection bid, Fortuño has a tough battle ahead, since 69% of all the island’s unaffiliated voters (the key “swing vote”) say that Fortuño’s performance is worse than expected.

58% of all voters gave the Governor a grade of D or F. 30% of PNP party members gave him a D or an F. The overwhelming majority of 65% of unaffiliated voters awarded Fortuño a D or F. Only 10% of this group rated Fortuño with an A or a B.

When compared to former Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá in May 2007 when it comes to grades of D and F, Fortuño look worse, 58% versus Vila’s 48%.

Secretary of the Interior Supports Fortuño, Blames Previous Governors for “Tsunami”

“There is tremendous frustration. That is what happens when an eight-year that means when a tsunami occurs,” said Puerto Rican Secretary of the Interior Marcos Rodríguez Ema in a radio interview, when asked about the survey results.

Ema Rodríguez also said the Government’s recovery signs are starting to show “little by little,” but people are still pessimistic about the results.

Puerto Rico's Secretary of the Interior Marcos Rodríguez Ema

“People in Puerto Rico traditionally has always been very pessimistic about the future of our island,” said Rodríguez Ema, who accused former Govenors Sila Calderón and Vilá for creating this perception. Both Calderón and Vilá are members of the island’s Popular Democratic Party (PPD)

“If they the [PPD] stayed in power, the government would have been a total failure,” said the owner, noting that the economy and health care have improved with changes made by the Fortuño administration.

Ema Rodríguez also indicated that there is still a year and a half for people to see the changes made by Fortuño.

“It’s better have people in government who know what they are doing than to be governed by people who sank us into tsunami of terror,” he said.

PPD Leader Says Fortuño Government Has Collapsed

Meanwhile, the president of the Partido Popular Democratico (PPD), Héctor Ferrer, told the NotiUno radio station that Fortuño’s government collapsed long ago and people are very clear about it.

“Note that the percentage of those who do not want to share their opinions does not exceed 2%. In other words, people are clear that the government has collapsed,” said Ferrer, referring to the people who abstained when asked what grade they would give Fortuño.

Héctor Ferrer, President of the PPD

“The government collapsed and collapsed in each and one of the issues important to the country. It is a government bus going in reverse,” said Ferrer.

Former Senator Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer of the PNP gave the Fortuño government a C minus.

Former PNP Senator Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer (left)

“The government still cannot deliver, even with all the money it is spending, all the money being spent on advertising and public relations, with all those millions is degrading and that money could have solved many problems in Puerto Rico. I think this figure has already reached a billion dollars with everything. and that the people of Puerto Rico do not realize or feel that things are better, ” Ramírez de Ferrer said in a radio interview.

He added, “I can not agree with someone who thinks that things are good and getting better in Puerto Rico.”

PPD Leadership Says Fortuño is the Worst Governor in Puerto Rican History

In a press release written in Spanish, the PPD leadership said the following: “Luis Fortuño is not a viable candidate (for the elections of 2012) and the remainder of the leadership of the New Progressive Party (PNP) will suffer the consequences of involvement in the thousands of layoffs under the law.”

“Fortuño has become the worst governor in history,” the press release reads.

Regarding the spending of funds for the island’s latest status plebiscite, the group called it “immoral” because thousands of parents and families are without a livelihood on the streets. The funds to support the operational costs and publicity of the plebiscite should be redirected to reinstate the unemployed workers who have been laid off.

“The plebiscite does not obligate anyone and the second round is scheduled as a blackmail to reelect Fortuño, the same one who has fired us from our jobs,” the group concluded.

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The weekend was a busy one for Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood party and its Republican Governor Luis Fortuño. The island’s New Progressive Party, which is led by Fortuño, approved two plebiscites that will determine Puerto Rico’s political status. The first one would be held in late 2011, with the second one to be held in early 2013.

Puerto Rican Republican Governor Luis Fortuño

Inspired by the recommendations of the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico, the PNP would not allow the island’s current Commonwealth status (Estado Libre Asociado, or Associated Free State—also known as the ELA) as an option on the first plebiscite.

“We will file management legislation as recommended on page 28 of the task force established two ballots, the first one between the non-territorial options, statehood, independence and free association, as defined on pages 24, 25 and 26 of the report, “said Fortuño.

Free association is loosely defined as a state that is “a minor partner in a formal, free relationship between a political territory with a degree of statehood and a (usually larger) nation, for which no other specific term, such as a protectorate, is adopted.” All free associated states either are independent or have the potential right to independence. Unlike the ELA, which has a more colonial relationship with the United States, a free associated state is more in line with current thinking of political status, as supported by the United Nations.

The PNP leadership claimed that they are following the White House report faithfully.

“And we will pass legislation at the state level are going to write so that the voting process is a requirement to the President and Congress to resolve this once and for all,” Fortuño said. “We are voting to make a claim the Puerto Rican people.”

The White House report states the following on page 28 (we include part of pages 27 and 29 for more context) of its recommendation:

Two Plebiscites. In response to concerns about the potential for uncertainty that may result from a single plebiscite, many advocates have supported an approach with two plebiscites, the first of which would narrow the options and the second of which would make a final decision.A challenge with any two-tiered plebiscite system is the perception that how the votes are ordered may favor one outcome over others.

H.R.2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010, provides for just such a process.It would first require voters to choose between the current political status and a different political status.Under H.R.2499, if a majority voted for the current political status, then a plebiscite would be held every 8 years to see if the electorate has changed its mind.

In the original form of the bill, if a majority voted for a different political status, the people of Puerto Rico would then have another plebiscite to vote on three options: (1) Statehood; (2) Independence; or (3) Free Association.There was criticism that, under H.R.2499 in its original form, if change of status won the first vote but the vote was close, the second vote would not include an option that perhaps 49 percent of the population supported as a first option and an unspecified number believed was the second best option.In part, for this reason, those supporting certain options objected to the bill, and, as a result, it was amended to include a fourth option in the second plebiscite: the current political status.

A second option would be the reverse of the original version of H.R.2499.Under this approach, all of the status options would be included in the first vote, except the current political status.The option that received sufficient votes from the first plebiscite (plurality, majority, or supermajority) would then be paired against the current political status in the second plebiscite.Another variation of this type would have all status options as part of the first plebiscite, with the top two vote-getters being the two options in the second plebiscite.This would effectively operate like a single plebiscite with a runoff, as discussed above.

Another variation of the two plebiscite option is to have a first plebiscite that requires the people of Puerto Rico to choose whether they wish to be part of the United States (either via Statehood or Commonwealth) or wish to be independent (via Independence or Free Association).If continuing to be part of the United States were chosen in the first plebiscite, a second vote would be taken between Statehood and Commonwealth.If independence were selected, a second vote would be taken between full Independence and Free Association.

As noted above, this last variation has certain appeal.To the extent that a core question is whether—given clear and specific information about each option and commitments that the United States would or would not make—the people of Puerto Rico would prefer to remain part of the United States or (as noted below, with their existing citizenship protected) be an independent nation, this approach would address that question directly.

Alternative Voting Systems. To overcome the limitations of a single plebiscite and the criticisms that would attend any of the above ways of managing two plebiscites, one could choose from several other systems of voting rather than a pure one-person, one-vote, one-option approach.The benefit of such systems is that they may provide more information about the will of the people; the drawbacks are that they are complex and require significant voter education.In addition, these systems do not answer the question of how many votes are sufficient to justify a change in status.

One option would be ranked voting, which would allow voters to rank the status options in order of preference.Such an approach would reveal, for example, in a single plebiscite, if a substantial majority of the people put one status option as first or second, whereas another status option was the first choice of a similar number of people, but poorly ranked by the rest of the population.A further step in this regard would be cumulative voting, which could give each voter four votes that could be distributed among several options or dedicated entirely to one; such an approach would reveal the strength of the voters’ views.

Constitutional Convention. Given the uncertainty about the status options and the need for a full debate on these issues on the Island, some advocates have suggested that a constitutional convention is a superior means for reaching resolution on the status question.Constitutional conventions have the advantage of being able to adapt the language of the status options and to allow for a more complete consideration of a variety of subsidiary issues.However, if (as discussed below) congressional legislation commits to honoring the outcome of a determination made by the people of Puerto Rico, the virtues of a constitutional convention are reduced.Any changes made by the constitutional convention to the status options outlined in the legislation could negate the commitment made by the United States, or at least require further congressional action reflecting consent to the changes made.

An additional challenge of a constitutional convention is the selection of delegates for that convention.The Task Force’s outreach indicated that there would be significant disagreement concerning how delegates would be selected.Delegates could be elected, but it is unclear whether such a process would be an improvement on the idea of a plebiscite itself.Some advocates argued that delegates should be selected from a broad swath of Puerto Rican society, with a de-emphasis on political parties.

The most common form of a constitutional convention suggested was one that itself would define the status options, which would then be taken to the people for a popular vote.Under such an approach, the constitutional convention would define the status options (or choose a single option to be presented to the people), develop a process, and draft a ballot, which would then be presented to the people of Puerto Rico, who would vote in a referendum.The constitutional convention could precede a vote of Congress defining the status options or could follow it.If the convention preceded congressional action, the status options defined by the convention could take effect only with congressional approval.If Congress failed to provide such approval, the constitutional convention might need to reconvene to consider other options.If the constitutional convention followed congressional action, the convention could approve the congressionally defined status options or modify them, but any modification would then require further congressional approval.H.R.1230, the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2007, proposed a process that included a constitutional convention.

Because 2012 is a year full electorally in Puerto Rico and the United States, the second query would be left in early 2013 and that would involve the formula that is winning on the first ballot and “territorial status” as described the first executive to the Commonwealth.

The PNP decided to not have the second plebiscite until 2013 because 2012 is a major election year both in the United States (President) and in Puerto Rico (Governor).

As expected, the PNP’s actions created some very strong reactions from the island’s other political groups.

Alejandro García Padilla

The gubernatorial candidate for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Alejandro García Padilla, said the intention of excluding the ELA in a vote this year demonstrated the “lack of seriousness and determination on the issue of status.”

He noted that nothing prevents the two plebiscites to be conducted this year, as proposed by the PDP.

“With the President pledging to present the results to Congress, the PNP cannot seriously justify neither the structure nor the separation proposed so wide of the two events,” said García Padilla.

“Just looking to create artificial and false appearance of support for statehood is worthless. And to postpone the second vote for the next two years, the Governor seeks only to remove the President and to wait to see if there is a change of government in the United States to return to the crooked ways of the past. The Popular Party strongly rejects the decision of the board of the PNP as an insult to Puerto Ricans who want this settled now and as a rebuke to a president who is committed to address this issue, “said the gubernatorial candidate.

Earlier today, García Padilla sounded more determined when he said the following at a PPD press conference: “The PPD will not stand idly by, we’re going to expose here and in Washington. The PNP has positioned itself as the party of tricks and deceptions.”

PPD Senator Eduardo Bhatia

PPD Senator Eduardo Bhatia was very clear when saying that the PNP’s intentions to include the current ELA as a option is “illegitimate, anti-democratic, and has no validity.”

“The United States, since Congress and the White House and the people of Puerto Rico have been emphatic that the Commonwealth [ELA] must be included in any process of self-determination. Democracy can not be a half democracy, without all the options there is no democracy, “said Bhatia.

Julio Fontanet, the former president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and spokesman for the United Sovereignty Movement (MUS) , focused on the political reality that the PNP is facing in the 2012 elections

“They are doing this process on the premise that their option will prevail in this first round, perhaps with the hope that it will strengthen their party in 2012 because they anticipate a big defeat, and that’s why they put the second round after the election,” said Fontanet.

Fernando Martin, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party

As for comments from the island’s Independence Party (PIP), Fernando Martin, the PIP’s executive president, said the following:

“It is clear that this decision is a politically motivated move which is not intended or will result in accelerating the decolonization of Puerto Rico and it is being made by the New Progressive Party (NPP) to create an electoral advantage for the upcoming elections.”

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While Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño still has not commented about the remarks made by Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez that compared Fortuño’s activities to that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, another pro-statehood student association published an open letter to Gutiérrez.

February 16th, 2011

Hon. Luis Gutierrez

2266 Rayburn House Office Building

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Gutierrez,

Today, you stood up to denounce the Government of Puerto Rico and its response to violent student protests. You also used the opportunity to address resting issues such as the Puerto Rico Bar Association and the elimination of its compulsory membership fees. You are widely regarded as a fearless champion for causes such as immigration reform, where I must admit that I stand with you. In fact, I stand with you on nearly every single controversial issue.

However, it troubles me that you insist on venturing into issues pertaining to Puerto Rico and the state of affairs there. As a member of Congress, you have consistently spoken against the people of Puerto Rico, rather than with them. You have opposed the government they elected, the political status option they prefer, and today you seemed appalled that its highest court would refuse to acknowledge a fictional right to strike.

As you spoke next to a large portrait of one of our most distinguished jurists, you spewed gross misinformation about the ongoing student protests in the University of Puerto Rico. For one, you said the right to free speech was being abridged. I would ask you to say whether the right to destroy public and private property has ever been gathered from the First Amendment. Maybe there is a United States Supreme Court ruling that protects the right to attack police officers. I am certainly not a constitutional expert, at least not yet, but I do not believe those rights are there. Neither is the student body’s right to strike in our Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. I do not believe there is a single state in the Union that acknowledges that right.

Since you are so concerned about the protection of the First Amendment, there is one U.S. Supreme Court decision that I think is very relevant to your argument. In Keller v. State Bar of California (1990), the Court voted unanimously to oppose the use of a state bar’s collected dues to finance its political and ideological activities. As far as I know, the State Bar of California is far from dismantled. Again, I fail to see how the Government of Puerto Rico acted in a way that was so anathema to the laws and rights guaranteed by our great nation.

I know you care about my Island as much as I do; that you only want what’s best for its people. Therefore, it would be negligent of me to miss this opportunity to make an all-too-familiar appeal. Stop obstructing Puerto Rico’s self-determination and allow us to vote on our political status. And if we choose statehood, please stand aside and allow us to enjoy the rights you so fiercely demanded in your speech today.

Sincerely,

Eduardo J. Soto

President

The Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association

As with a previous letter we published by an anti-UPR-strike organization, we have several questions for Mr. Soto and we hope he can reach out to us to answer them. Here are just a few questions we would like to ask him:

  • Representative Gutiérrez is Puerto Rican and like most Puerto Ricans we know, he has opinions about the island. Are you implying by this letter that Rep. Gutiérrez does not have the right to freely express his opinions about Puerto Rico just because you do not agree with him?
  • The current status of The Puerto Rican Democracy Act is with the Senate, and not the House of Representatives. Even though Rep. Guitérrez did not support the act, it still passed the House. Why are you saying that Rep. Guitiérrez is obstructing Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination? Shouldn’t you be lobbying the US Senate instead?
  • You write as if the act has already passed the Senate. Are you also aware that this Act is a non-binding resolution and Puerto Rico is still at the mercy of the US Congress, no matter what option it chooses, assuming there will even be a vote?
  • As for your claims that the UPR students do not have a right to protest and strike, the Constitution is contradictory between Amendment 1 and 2. Have you read the Constitution of the United States?
  • Have you done research about Constitutional law or do you like to draft political rhetoric to make your point?

We are here to interview you any time you like.

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