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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Rivera Schatz’


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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Just two days after Governor Luis Fortuño announced new amendments to Puerto Rico’s vote on its political status, the Puerto Rican Senate approved the changes for plebiscite, which will be held on the island next August.

The plebiscite, which will once again try to check the mood of the island regarding its colonial relationship with the United States, will now be held in one step, instead of the two-step proposal that was originally pushed by Fortuño earlier this year.

As reported today by Prensa Latina:

San Juan, Dec 21 (Prensa Latina) After days of wrangling and disagreements in the leadership of the ruling New Progressive Party (PNP), the Senate in Puerto Rico approved the legislative measure to carry out a plebiscite to define the future status of the island with the United States.

Governor Luis G. Fortuño persuaded the presidents of the legislative chambers to approve the project to consult the people on relations with Washington, which maintains colonial rule in the country since the military invasion in 1898.

Jenniffer Gonzalez, president of the House of Representatives had always supported that the bill be voted on in accordance with the wishes of the Puerto Rican governor, which was ratified after a meeting at La Fortaleza, government house.

However, Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz voted for the measure despite rejecting the changes introduced by Fortuño to allow the consultation to be made on Nov. 6, 2012, the same day of the general elections.

Neither did the leader of the Senate agree to eliminate the colonial word referring to the “Free Associated State” created by Washington in 1952 to remove Puerto Rico from the United Nations register of those countries under colonial rule.

Originally, the status consultation was scheduled to take place in two stages, in August and November 2012, for the people to decide in the first round if they wanted to continue as a colony of the United States and in the second, to say what status would they prefer: annexation, free association or independence.

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This just in from The Puerto Rico Daily Sun. In essence, there is another voice on the island that is seriously beginning to questioning the politics of the established pro-Commonwealth Party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD). For those uninitiated in the political world of Puerto Rico, this is a major move to FINALLY get to a real solution to the island’s 113-year-old colonial relationship with the United States. We applaud ALAS for taking this bold step and moving forward. The time for typical politics and how things have been done on the island are over. If the PPD is serious about the future of Puerto Rico, it would get on board with the other political parties (the pro-statehood PNP and pro-independence PIP) and use its energy to make this current plebiscite the LAST ONE the island will ever have to hold.
Here is the full article from the PR SUN:
The Popular Democratic Party leadership was challenged by a group that supports a sovereign free association and openly endorses the proposed plebiscite for 2012.
In public hearings held Thursday at the Capitol, the Sovereign Free Association Alliance (ALAS for its Spanish acronym) presented its position with regards to S. 2303, a bill before the Senate Special Committee on the Right of Self-determination for the People of Puerto Rico.
In the plebiscite project proposed by the New Progressive Party and supported by the Puerto Rico Independence Party, ALAS representatives implied that recent PDP leaders have been agents of inert politics when it comes to approaching the political status issue between Puerto Rico and the U.S.
ALAS members expressed their availability to run the campaign for the “Sovereign Commonwealth” decolonizing option in case the plebiscite reaches a second round voting event.
The non-partisan group praised the opportunity the proposed plebiscite brings to Puerto Ricans to decide about the future of the island’s political relationship with the U.S. and to start a process of decolonization that is not based on the current territorial clause.
According to ALAS President Luis Delgado Rodríguez, the organization “expresses its most sincere and total conviction that, even if the plebiscite project presented in S. 2303 is not a perfect project, it leads to the construction of a mechanism of convergence that complies with the three requirements.”
For ALAS, the three requirements that must be fulfilled in order to have a legitimate process of decolonization are: a guarantee that the proposed mechanism truly provides a solution to the centennial political status dilemma; that such process is characterized by democratic principles; and that all options presented to voters are non-territorial and consistent with international law.
The plebiscite project proposal is part of the agenda for the current legislative session at the Capitol. While the Senate version of the project is declared in S. 2303, the House of Representatives piece is being discussed under H.R. 3648.
The plebiscite project consists of two rounds. The first electoral consultation is planned to be held on August 12, 2012 and will ask voters whether or not they want to continue with the current territorial version of the Commonwealth. The only two possible answers for this first question would be “yes” or “no.” If the “no” option wins the first round, a second part of the plebiscite will be held during the same day as the general elections on November 6, 2012. That second round will give voters the opportunity to choose between three decolonizing options: statehood, independence and a sovereign commonwealth as it was defined by the PDP official platform presented for the 2008 general elections.
“We see this plebiscite as a first step in the path for the solution of our centennial political status issue,” read the ALAS statement presented at the public hearing.
The political action group was also emphatic in declaring that if no party or organization decides to support the Sovereign Commonwealth option after the legislative bill is signed by Gov. Luis Fortuño, “ALAS will take over the defense and representation” of that decolonizing alternative.
A friendly confrontation about the best way to define the island’s political relationship with the U.S. happened between two PDP members who were part of the public hearing. Parliamentary minority Sen. Antonio Fas Alzamora expressed his concern about the possibility of hurting the feelings of some PDP colleagues if the word colonialism is included in the language that makes reference to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. ALAS member and former PDP Sen. José Ortiz Daliot responded by arguing he would not be hurt if the word “colonialism” is included in the language of the plebiscite.
“I am a PDP follower and I don’t mind that people identify the Commonwealth as a colony,” said Ortiz Daliot during the questions session at the public hearing. “We need to call things by its name.”
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who led the public hearing, also addressed ALAS members and asked them if a free association agreement between Puerto Rico and the U.S. would require the island to first become independent in order to have the standing to negotiate that type of bilateral compact with the metropolis.
“There are no middle points between being free and not being free and between being equal and not being equal,” declared Rivera Schatz in reference to the alleged need to have gained independence before starting a free association negotiation with another country.
ALAS members disagreed with the Senate’s President interpretation and refuted his comments by making reference to other international examples of countries entering into free association compacts based on the United Nations standards.
“These (other) countries did not have to become independent before entering into free association agreements,” said ALAS member and former University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras Chancellor Juan R. Fernández. “It is a big mistake to ignore how those (free association) processes really happened; achieving independence was never mentioned before these territories started to negotiate.”
“Free Association is not the same as an Associated Republic,” added Fernández.

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As he faces what is turning into a very hotly contested and controversial re-election bid, Luis Fortuño, the incumbent Republican and pro-statehood Governor of Puerto Rico, now finds himself in a very difficult situation: trailing his challenger by 22 percentage points in a poll released Tuesday by EL NUEVO DÍA, the island’s largest newspaper.

The political spin, as you might imagine, has already begun.

First, the newspaper has a video of Fortuño, who is clearly flustered as he tries to answer questions about the poll and whether he will be the New Progressive Party’s (PNP) candidate to run against Popular Democratic Party (PPD) candidate Alejandro García Padilla.

“There’s a time and place (to inform the people’s decision about seeking re-validate in November 2012),” said Fortuño in the video. “There will be an announcement this year.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Fortuño said that “four years is not enough to straighten out Puerto Rico.”

This poll, along with one released on Monday that gave Fortuño overwhelmingly low approval ratings, comes at a very precarious time for the island, which is also facing another possible round of future plebiscites to permanently determine its political status and its relationship with the United States. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898, when American troops invaded the island during the Spanish-American War. After becoming a Commonwealth (or Associated Free State) in 1952, there is a desire by Fortuño and other pro-statehood leaders to finalize the island’s status.

Puerto Rican Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz

Puerto Rican Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz was quick to defend the latest poll numbers and remind voters that the real numbers are how the island feels about becoming the 51st state of the Union.

“The real numbers of the PNP are the statehood numbers,” Rivera Schatz said. “The survey is just a picture of just one moment, and I am confident that one the statehood force is united, it will no doubt defeat the Popular Party.”

Even though Fortuño received very low numbers, the newspaper reported that 43% of Puerto Ricans support statehood and 39% support the current Commonwealth structure.

“The strength of the PNP is not to any political figure,” Rivera Schatz said. “it lies in the ideological force of statehood.”

Still, Rivera Schatz said that all politicians should “have the ear to the ground”, pay attention to any dissatisfaction, and then make “adjustments.”Among the “adjustments” that, in his view, could make Fortuño administration, said “communicating the work of government.”

Fortuño: “I Came to Right the Ship”

“I said that things were bad and I came to right the ship and it would not matter if it had a political cost, and it does not bother me when I had to make the right decisions,” Fortuño said in a radio interview.

Fortuño insisted that the former governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Sila María Calderón, left the country in economic ruin, and in the past two years he has had to focus on “righting the ship.” He hoped that in these next two years people will realize that he has been able to cut their taxes with Tax Reform, to improve the health system and modernize schools, among other things.

“We had to right the ship to do what we came to do,” he said.

García Padilla Reacts

Alejandro García Padilla

Meanwhile, García Padilla believes he has such a large lead in the polls because “the country is tired of excuses and wants a leadership that will propose solutions.”

“We cannot merely redouble the effort,” the PPD candidate told EL NUEVO DÍA. “This is what we’re going to do: continue working on the street, stay focused, the country wants solutions. No more excuses, you want to fight crime, unemployment, lack of education.”

García Padilla declined to comment on the reactions of major PNP leaders, especially Secretary of the Interior Marcos Rodríguez Ema, ensuring that voters eventually be disappointed in them.

“Again, the country is tired of excuses government wants a new leadership to bring solutions in employment, education, health,” García Padilla said.

PNP Leaders Predicts a PNP Victory

PNP member and Yauco Mayor Abel Nazario predicted that Fortuño would still win the election 125,000 votes.

“It is very interesting. It means that we have to work hard,” Nazario said in a radio interview.

Nazario said that while Popular members will celebrating the poll numbers, PNP leaders believe privately that Fortuño will win the election with a 52% majority.

“(Fortuño) will not listen to the polls and he will keep working, because in the end always the one who decides is the people and we are a wise people” he said.

Ema Rodríguez, meanwhile, said that the people will soon realize that García Padilla “is a great disappointment.”

Said it is “unlikely” that 18% of respondents who are PNP members would vote for García Padilla.

“That will not happen again” Rodríguez Ema said.

Puerto Rican Speaker of the House Jennifer González

Puerto Rico’s Speaker of the House, Jenniffer González, said García Padilla is leading in the polls because it is at the peak of his candidacy announcement. (García announced his intentions to run for governor this past February.)

“From now on, people are going to have to listen to a person who has been silent,” It’s going to deflate like a balloon and a lie it is. ”

Resident Commissioner Pierluisi: “We Need to Roll Up Our Sleeves”

Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member of the US Congress

The island’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member of the US Congress, said that “we must roll up our sleeves” and “improve the way we communicate the things that we have yet to do.”

“We must take this poll to help us with motivation,” said Pierluisi. “The Governor has the support of the party. My impression is that he wants to go for re-election.”

When appropriate, Pierluisi said he is “totally focused” on being a candidate for re-election to the post of Resident Commissioner.

He avoided further comment on the fact that Rivera Schatz, appears as the second PNP politician with more support to run for governor.

Rivera Schatz polled at 44% for possible PNP candidates, compared to 49% for Fortuño and 41% for Pierluisi.

“I announced that I aspire for re-election as Resident Commissioner,” Pierluisi said, “I should not be included in a poll for governor.”

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