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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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As a reporter, I place great emphasis on facts and accuracy, so when I make a mistake on my blog, I tried to quickly correct it. It has happened to me just one or two times since I started this blog in 2009, and this weekend was just one of those times.

The story had to do with the fact that I was doing research on Rafael Cox Alomar, the PPD’s (Popular Party) candidate for Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. I had erroneously reported that Cox Alomar was a staffer for the congressional office of former Resident Commissioner Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, as I tried to prove the fact that the Cox Alomar had indeed had some form of congressional experience in Washington DC and that he was free of “political ideology,” as was stated by the person who nominated him, PPD gubernatorial candidate Alejandro García Padilla. A reader kindly informed me that Rafael Cox Alomar did not work for Acevedo Vilá, but it was his brother Pedro.

I apologize for this reporting error and have already updated the previous blog post to reflect this error. Just what a newspaper would do, but the fact does remain (and I have been consistent in my blog about this): the current political system of Puerto Rico is highly dependent to the United States government, and the PPD’s decision to still play “within the system” when the island is facing a historic economic crisis is faulty at best. Here’s hoping that Rafael Cox Alomar, if elected Resident Commissioner, does not become yet another Commissioner who comes to Washington to beg and ask permission like a lost child. Puerto Rico deserves action now, and it deserves better.

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The political games in Puerto Rico continue as PPD (Popular Party Resident Commissione Candidate Rafael Cox Alomar’s positions on the Puerto Rican status question are still finding partisan criticism by  other of the island’s major political parties. Yesterday, the Puerto Rican Independence Party’s candidate for Resident Commissioner, Juan Manuel Mercado, wrote that the selection of Cox Alomar by the PPD is an action that confirm the PPD’s belief in the political status quo (Puerto Rico has been a Commonwealth of the United States for over 50 years and has been a territory since 1898). As Mercado says:

“Cox Alomar’s positions picture him as yet another diplomat who pretends to go to Washington, and does not demand for the immediate decolonization of Puerto Ricom, but instead to perform public relations in a city that has no interest in fulfilling its obligation to decolonize Puerto Rico.

Mr. Cox wants to go to Washington to do the same thing that his PPD and PNP (pro-statehood) predecessors have done: to say they are sorry and to ask for permission, but above all, to pick up the crumbs from the floor that reflect the hypocrisy of an entire nation.

Although the PPD spin says that Cox Alomar is a new voice in the PPD because he has never held elective office, the message from PPD gubernatorial candidate Alejandro García Padilla and Cox Alomar’s own writings suggest that the PPD would rather maintain the current political system on the island than try to take bolder actions to change it.

UPDATE: We inaccurately reported that Cox Alomar was a congressional staffer for former Resident Commissione r Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. The information we listed was for Pedro Cox Alomar, Rafael’s brother, and not Rafael Cox Alomar.

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This information originally appeared in Spanish in Puerto Rico’s Vocero newspaper. While politicians on the island from all political parties play the partisan game, according to the US Census, Puerto Rico is facing worsening economic and social conditions.

Puerto Rico has become a poor country, that is more dependent, with more disabled people. The working age population is now the minority, their participation in the labor market is minimal and they are less educated.  A quarter of the population lives in poverty, according to 2010 Census.

Here are some facts:

  • There are 311,000 people who live alone. That equates to one in five of all 1.319 million Puerto Rican households 1,319 million. The average number of people in other households is 3.2.
  • Half of the families in Puerto Rico are married couples, and 43 percent of them have children. A third of households are headed by women. There are now 700,000 thousand children. There are more people over 65 in Puerto Rico than children, creating a dependent population.
  • Each year there are 17,000 marriages, while there are 15,000 divorces. Almost half of couples who have a home are not married.
  • 52 percent of the population are women.
  • 15 percent of the population is over 65 years old.
  • In 42 percent of the families, there is a person over 65 years old, which means that this elderly population does not have sufficient income to live alone.
  • In the area of ​​education, a quarter of the island’s total population, one million people, is comprised of students, including adults, adolescents, and children. However, the majority of the adult population has attained a high school education. The level of education is 22 percent, which suggests that the poverty rate has increased.
  • 80 percent of teachers in the public school system are not in English, while 63 percent of university students do not graduate. 60 percent of public school students do not master basic skills in Spanish.
  • Only one in five Puerto Ricans have mastered English skills, thus reducing the bilingual labor market.
  • There are 2,444,000 people who 25 years or older. 20 percent of  this population has ninth grade education or less, 11 percent complete Grade 11, while only 25 percent have completed fours years of high school.
  • 63 percent of the population have a college education or lower education.
  • On the island there are 400,000 people with college degrees, or 16 percent of the population. Only 6 percent if the population or 154,000 people have a graduated degrees The total number of people with undergraduate or graduate degrees is only 22 percent of the population.
  • There are 113,000 veterans Puerto Ricans living on the Island
  • Meanwhile, there are 726 000 people with disabilities, or 20 percent of the population. 52 percent of people over 65 has some form of disability, and children represent 7 percent of the disabled population. There are 67,000 students in special education. Disabled adults and children account for 1.5 million people, or one third of the population.
  • There are 200,000 Puerto Ricans born in the U.S., or 5 percent of the population. Another 304,000 were born outside the United States, while the rest of the population was born on the island.
  • In terms of economics, the study revealed that a 250,000 families (with 3.2 members per household) live on less than $ 10,000 annually, or $ 800 per month, which equals $ 240 a month per household member.
  • Women are discriminated against by receiving less pay and have worse working conditions, while the average monthly income of retirees is $ 668 from Social Security.
  • The labor force is 1.2 million, a quarter of the population. The participation rate is one million, less than 39 percent of the total population. Only 39% of older people who work.
  • Almost half the population lives below the poverty line: 45 percent of 3.7 million.Less than 40,000 families have incomes more than $ 100 000. 37 percent of the population depends on the federal Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP).
  • In the last decade has been over half a million Puerto Ricans have left the island, which results is a fleeing of knowledge from the island.
  • 40 percent of the population receives 8 percent of the country’s income, while the remaining 92 percent goes into the hands of 60% of the population, which implies an unequal distribution of wealth.
  • On issues related to the population of all Puerto Ricans in the United States, there are now 4.2 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States. This signifies a greater diaspora, when compared to countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Palestines.
  • The population of people under 18 years old fell to 17 percent.
  • Puerto Rico has become a nation without a working class, with poor, dependent, disabled and marginalized people.

The island has been in decline, according to data that could be classified as the worst since the first census conducted in 1950. Is it the lost decade?

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With the news yesterday that Puerto Rican gubernatorial candidate Alejandro García Padilla of the island’s Popular Democratic Party announced the candidacy of Washington lawyer Rafael Cox Alomar as his party’s choice for Resident Commissioner, the conversation has turned to how a candidate like Cox Alomar, who has no legislative experience, represents a conscious decision by the PPD’s current leadership to maintain the island’s commonwealth (and colonial) relationship with the United States. At at time when the island continues to wrestle with its 113-year-old colonial relationship with a country that invaded it in 1898, the PPD has clearly stated its case: the status quo is the way to go. Why rock the boat. Sure, we are suffering from one of the worst recessions in the history of Puerto Rico, but God Bless the USA, they will see us through this.

Reaction to Cox Alomar’s nomination has, not surprisingly, been partisan in nature. Republican and pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño went on record yesterday saying he doesn’t even know who Cox Alomar is, when asked by reporters. Pro-statehood representative José “Pichy” Torres Zamora said he welcomed Cox Alomar’s candidacy, calling him “the Resident Commission candidate that nobody in the Popular Democratic Party wanted.”

Cox Alomar’s position on Puerto Rico’s status is pretty clear: in an essay he wrote in 2010, he was quick to defend the current commonwealth system, and also labeled that those sectors in the island who are pushing for a free associated state outside of the commonwealth arrangement as “neo-independence” believers who are harming the island. As he writes in a piece about the “myths of status:”

What about the neo-independence supporters (who call themselves “sovereign”)? Are you talking about independence in the context of Puerto Rico as a model of free association that already exists in the archipelago of Micronesia?

In his essay, Cox Alomar criticizes the freely associated states of Micronesia as being utter failures, and that creating a Puerto Rican political system will suffer with its own self-funded model, basically suggesting that the island cannot survive without continued financial aid from the United States. In other words, without its colonizer feeding the entitlement machine (Puerto Ricans receive several entitlements from the federal government and has become as classic example of a “welfare nation”), Puerto Rico cannot survive as a country. It is a hard argument to substantiate, since there has never been a case where Puerto Rico has ever been self-sustaining. Once a colony, always a colony.

We argue that Cox Alomar’s position is short-sighted and does not speak to the economic reality that is occurring in Washington these days. When national presidential candidates talk of cutting government spending and the GOP wing of the Congress calls for even more entitlement cuts, there will come a time when Puerto Rico will be on the table. When GOP rhetoric towards US Latinos borders on tinges of hate and ignorance and racism, it is highly unlikely that a new Republican administration will agree that the current economic relationship with Puerto Rico is a good one.

Both Cox Alomar and García Padilla have decided to take their chances on the hope that when push comes to shove, the United States will continue to give Puerto Rico billions and billions of government handouts. In addition, since the position of Resident Commissioner does not even carry a vote in the US Congress, this strategy is just a pipe dream. Without a vote, Puerto Rico is still beholden to the US Congress. That is a risky gamble to take, and it does not speak to the belief that now more than ever, Puerto Rico must take control of its own destiny.

All the law degrees in the world won’t help. In the end, the PPD leadership for the next election is promoting the idea that the status quo is the way to go. Long live colonialism. It is the only thing Puerto Ricans have known for hundreds of years. Why change it now?

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PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Luis A. Delgado Rodriguez, tel. 787-306-4376

The organization Alliance for a Sovereign Free Association (ALAS) of Puerto Rico officially launched the candidacy of attorney and former Puerto Rican Senator José Alfredo (Yeyo) Ortiz Daliot for the still-vacant position of Resident Commissioner of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), noting that this would be the best way to resolve this nomination.

The organization’s president, Prof. Luis A. Delgado Rodriguez, said Ortiz Daliot  is the ideal person for this application because when compared to other candidates, Ortiz Daliot has the best attributes to fill that position. Ortiz Daliot has the qualifications: he has remained a faithful member of the PPD, as a San Juan delegate in the party’s last General Assembly; he was director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Office (PRAFA) for five years; and he knows and has extensive experience in the dynamic world of Washington, being recognized and respected by all federal members of the Republican and Democratic parties. Ortiz Daliot  is also known in the White House, having actively participated in the development of the latest work of the White House’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s status question.

The nomination of Ortiz Daliot for Resident Commissioner was announced on Monday October 24 on a radio show and immediately received broad support from the radio audience and the “New Majority,” the term that being used in Puerto Rico to identify people who support and favor free association.

The ALAS president said that the nomination of Ortiz Daliot  would give the President of the PPD three advantages: first, he would balance the ticket to include a candidate of the New Majority. Second, he would bridge important sectors of the center-left, liberal, autonomous and sovereign sectors of the PPD. In addition, based on Monday’s support , his candidacy would transcend the limits of the Popular Party and receive broad support from all the political sectors of the country.

Faced with this possibility, Ortiz Daliot said on Monday that he would be willing to consider such a nomination if PPD gubernatorial Alejandro García Padilla would support it.

“The end goal is to have the best and most qualified candidate for Resident Commissioner. In this case, we are offering a solution to this problem. Now the [PPD leadership] has the floor.” Ortiz Daliot said.

UPDATE (October 26, 2011): García Padilla has chosen Rafael Cox Alomar to be his candidate.

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Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner and America

To all the pro-statehood Puerto Ricans who dream about having 51 stars on the United States flag, we say the following: PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. AND READ THE US CONSTITUTION WHILE YOU ARE IT.

In a bizarre game of political Facebook censorship, the official public Fan Page of Puerto Rican Pedro Pierluisi—a non-voting member of the US House of Representatives—admitted to us that they had indeed blocked us from their page and that they were sorry.

The censorship incident occurred on June 14 around the time that Pierluisi was flying into San Juan on Air Force One with President Barack Obama. Yes, when we went to Pierluisi’s official page to post about the US flag that was burned by a small group of Puerto Rico independence supporters, we quickly found out that we could not post os share any content on Pierluisi’s public page. YES, it was clear that our politics—which do not support statehood at all for Puerto Rico—were not welcome on the page, which has over 9,000 followers (on a side note, Commissioner Pierluisi is about 16,000 fans behind the amazing Fernando Varela, but that is another story for another day).

After 36 hours, and after calls to both Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), we received a statement from Pierluisi’s office. You decide if this makes any sense:

Dear Mr. Varela,

I have been informed that you are concerned about your access to the Resident Commissioner’s congressional page on Facebook. I have been advised that you believe you were removed from the user list after you made a comment on the page.

The standards regarding participation on this page–no different than anywhere else on the social network–are clear and unambiguous. We respect the freedom of expression that this medium provides, while at the same seeking to ensure that posted comments are not disrespectful of the discussion and of other participants.

I am not aware of the substance of the comment that you posted. While we have an excellent relationship with our followers, naturally we do not always agree with the content of every message that is posted. Nevertheless, a simple examination of our page should give you confidence that posted messages remain viewable regardless of their content–again, so long as they adhere to the basic standards of respect and courtesy cited above. Differences in opinion are not merely permitted, they are welcomed.

If your comment met this standard, we apologize and in the next few hours will unblock you if you so desire. We benefit from your participation and hope you will continue to participate.

Thank you for writing.

Dennise Pérez

As you can imagine, this non-answer from Pierluisi’s staff did very little to answer our concerns. At no point could they actually pinpoint what I did (NOTHING) or what I said (NOTHING). So we called them. Here is the audio of the conversation:

Pierluisi call

In the meantime, we were unblocked from the page and began to post again on June 16. Granted, even though all Facebook Pages according to Facebook are “official public pages,” the paradoxical logic that is Puerto Rico appeared on the pages after we thanked Pierluisi’s staff for admitting its UNAMERICAN error, even though they have no clue who actually blocked us. (NOTE TO THE RESIDENT COMMISSIONER: Let’s talk about this.) Here is just one example of what we dealt with:

Um, Pedro, you are wrong there. Facebook Pages ARE PUBLIC. In fact, Facebook themselves calls them “public” and “official.” And then Pedro continued:

And one again, Pedro, YOU DON”T GET IT. The Resident Commissioner’s Facebook page is a PUBLIC PAGE. And Pierluisi is AN ELECTED OFFICIAL in the UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

Also, Pedro, Pierluisi’s own office admitted to their error! So we decided to let Pedro know a few things. Here are just some of the responses:

One final point about this and I will be quiet: the Resident Commissioner’s staff admitted to blocking me and they have apologized for this oversight. They regret making this error, which goes against the UNAMERICAN principles all pro-statehood proponents so cherish. Practice what you preach, Pedro. Welcome to the United States of America. It is what makes us great!

Totally disagree bro, I never said anything here that was disparaging. You are so off on this it is not even debatable. AMERICA= FREE EXPRESSION. For example, I find it sickening when the American Nazi Party marches in US towns, but guess what? They can. BTW, bro, Pierluisi’s OWN PEOPLE ADMITTED THAT THEY BLOCKED ME AND APOLOGIZED. Welcome to America, mano. Peace out.

To quote Facebook: Facebook pages are “official, public pages” also do your homework. All US CONGRESSMEN have pubic Facebook pages like the RESIDENT COMMISSIONER. When I talke with my own Rep and other Congressmen, they were appalled by Pierluisi’s actions here. Sorry, bro, you are in the minority on this one. Stay free. VIVA LA DEMOCRACIA. GOD BLESS AMERICA AND PUERTO RICO

that would be “public” LOL

So to the Resident Commissioner’s staff, thank you for the apology. However, we will leave you with this advice: IN AMERICA, WE EMBRACE DEMOCRACY. WE DON’T CENSOR IT. Next time, think about it.

We will be watching.

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