Puerto Rico: A Four-year Period to Remember

Claridad editorial, October 2020

Photo: Jose Santiago on Upsplash

The colonial experience of Puerto Rico under the governments of Spain and the United States has recorded very painful moments and times that have caused an enormous upheaval in the collective consciousness of our people. The cruelty, mistreatment and manifest contempt of the Spanish absolutist government towards the lives of the people in its American colonies were the main precipitating factors in the collapse of the Spanish empire.

Under the rule of the United States, the colonial saga began in 1898 and continues to this day, and has developed mainly against a huge wall of ignorance, misunderstanding, and indifference on the part of the powerful American empire towards the affairs and people in its main colony. For them, we have been and continue to be an appreciable piece of “real estate” in the Caribbean, at the service and whim of their changing geopolitical, military, and economic interests, depending on the imperial priority at different times.

Since the mid-twentieth century, when international pressure and the defense of the interests of the United States dictated the need to create an illusion of self-government in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican people have voted every four years to elect the current administrators of the Suburb. From 1952 to 1968, almost absolute electoral dominance was in the hands of the autonomist Popular Democratic Party (PPD), creators of the so-called Commonwealth, which at that time won elections by overwhelming majorities. From 1968 until today, colonial power has been shared, in periodic alternation, between the PPD and the New Progressive Party (PNP), that has an annexationist ideology.

During the last twenty years, and coinciding with the social and economic decline of Puerto Rico and the crisis of fiscal and economic bankruptcy, the alternation between the PPD and the PNP has been like a game of chairs. They are exchanged and worn out one and the other in the government of the colony. This has had a severe negative impact on the quality of the public service, and on the morale and ethics of its officials. Both parties have ceased to represent the best interests of the people who elect them and have become hardware of posts and political perks for fellow members, friends, relatives, and mourners.

The general elections on November 3, 2020, will put an end to the most recent useless four-year periods that Puerto Rico has lived during these first two decades of the twenty-first century. This has been a four-year period to remember, not only because it reveals the governmental dysfunction and the collapse of public management in its deepest dimension, but also because it demonstrates the cynicism, ambition, advantage, nepotism, and careerism that are established in the highest echelons of the country’s government. This four-year term of government of the PNP has magnified the decline of colonial policy in Puerto Rico.

The election of Ricardo Rosselló as governor in 2016 was a colossal mistake that our people have had to pay dearly for. Not only because of the damage caused during his rule and his improvised and erratic government agenda at the service of his narrow ideological interests, but also because of the trauma represented by his forced departure when our people realized that they had been mocked and that Rosselló and his clique were despicable beings and did not deserve the trust that the people placed in them. Above all, the scandal hurt because it had just gone through the worst disaster in a century, Hurricane María, whose disastrous wake of destruction and death affected us deeply, and we still have the task of physical and social reconstruction of greater importance in our modern history.

After Rosselló’s resignation, other merchants were on duty. Through a legal trick, Pedro Pierluis – the same one who today wants to be governor and who was validated by the PNP as their candidate for these next general elections – proclaimed himself a substitute Governor, and held the position and settled in La Fortaleza illegally for five days, until the intervention of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico forced him to desist.

Constitutionally, the turn then fell to the Secretary of Justice, Wanda Vázquez who became Governor for the rest of the four-year term. In the eyes of the country she remains for history, the failed record of her brief government term – one of the most incompetent in memory – as well as her failed political campaign for the governorship. Meanwhile, our people are still facing the aftermath of the earthquakes in southwest Puerto Rico and the rapid rise in positive cases and people killed by COVID-19.

The lessons of history tend to be unforgiving. And this coming November 3, our people have before them an important electoral decision to make. The moment is not for lightness. For this reason, we exhort our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters who have decided to vote, to remember and reflect on the harsh lessons of this horrible four-year period.

Source: Claridad