Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rico Senate’

Maybe Puerto Rican pro-statehood and Republican Governor Luis Fortuño is campaigning to win the upcoming elections in 2012, after spending three years battling spiraling unemployment (16.1% rate), student strikes that made international news headlines, the island’s worst homicide year on record, Department of Justice investigations, and new reports that the Western Hemisphere’s oldest colony is now a “narco-state.”

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Next November, the incumbent governor and his PNP (New Progressive Party) slate will face a tough electoral fight against the island’s pro-Commonwealth party (PPD) as well as its Independence party (PIP). The latest El Nuevo Día poll from this past November has PPD candidate Alejandro García Padilla leading by 39%, with Fortuño at 33% and PIP candidate Juan Dalmau at 3%. A mock election held in November on the island and sponsored by the media outlets NotiUno, EL VOCERO, EduK Group and Noticentro had Fortuño declared the winner by a margin of 21,440 votes to García Padilla’s 7,051 votes and Dalmau’s 594 votes. This same mock election also asked people about whether the island’s Commonwealth relationship with the United States should continue, and 19,248 votes said no while 7,876 votes said yes. More than 2.8 million people in Puerto Rico are eligible to vote, so this mock election represented a .01% voter turnout. In recent actual elections on the island, voter turnout has historically been over 80% of the total eligible vote.

Nonetheless, Fortuño, who has been mentioned by some US GOP leaders as a viable 2012 Vice Presidential candidate (meaning that he would have to move to the US mainland to run) but has gone on record this month to say that his only commitment is to be and hopefully continue to be the island’s governor, appears to have toned down some of his more right-leaning rhetoric and has begun to appeal to the middle.

Case in point: Fortuño has publicly distanced himself from the controversial hate crime measure that the Puerto Rican House of Representatives was considering. Already passed by the Puerto Rican Senate, part of the measure would be “to exclude eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity and religious beliefs from the hate crimes statute that was included in the penal code that lawmakers approved in 2004.”

Last week, in speaking with reporters in the first “open forum” press conference of his administration, Fortuño did not support this exclusion language. As he said, “I would leave the language as it was before.” In addition, even though the Puerto Rican Senate was also calling for all abortions to be illegal and criminal, Fortuño said that federal abortion law would supersede Puerto Rican law. So Roe v Wade would still be the measure that would determine the legality of abortions on the island.

It is clear that Fortuño’s more conservative base will be there for him, even though he might not promote everything his political allies are pushing for in the Legislature. Now the question remains: if Fortuño now begins to paint himself as a more moderate Republican, will the island believe him after three years of a an administration that has caused more harm than good? Or the rumors of a potential VP bid true?

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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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