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Colonial politics… Made by the U.S.A.

February 11, 2005

BY LUIS ROSA PEREZ, former political prisoner of war

“The electoral process is always a process of collaboration. The elections constitute par excellence the means for the political domination of Puerto Rico by the imperialist yanqui. By accepting the concurrence of the electoral process, Puerto Ricans accept the domination of the United States over their nation.” These words from the Secretary General of the Puerto Rican Socialist League, Juan Antonio Corretjer, can best describe the state of violence, deception, confusion and cynicism in the oldest colony (U.S.) in the world, Puerto Rico.

On November 2, 2004, an estimated 2 million voters took to the urns to decide who will administer the colony of Puerto Rico on behest of the government of the United States. The Caribbean Spanish-speaking nation of Puerto Rico, one of the longest-held colonies (U.S.) in the world, had been introduced to the “made in the USA” electoral system since the 1940s. Before then, Puerto Ricans were subjected to U.S. military or civilian appointed governorships. Since the 1940s until the present, islanders have been allowed to elect their governor, representative or resident commissioner to the U.S. Congress (without a vote), legislatures and senate, as well as municipal offices throughout the island.

But, electoral politic in the colony has never been without controversy and scandal and the 2004 election, perhaps one of the dirtiest campaigns in the 60 year history, has left the nation of Puerto Rico in a volatile, cynical and uncertain state. Who is the elected governor, is the question asked, weeks after the conclusion of the elections. All polls leading to the elections predicted Pedro Rosselló González (governor 1992-2000) of the New Progressive Party (PNP) would defeat Anibal Acevedo Vilá of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD). Despite the fact that 38 colleagues and cabinet appointees of Rosselló’s past regimes have been prosecuted and convicted of corruption, the polls suggested that the most important issues to the voting populace were economic development and not corruption. The third party in the running, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and its candidate Ruben Berrios Martinez, would score their usual three to five percent. By days end, the predictions seemed prophetic: Announcing victories in 52 of the 78 municipalities (mayoral seats) and majority control of the Senate, the PNP began to celebrate and prepared to proclaim the capture of the “big” prize, the governor’s seat. As fate would have it, the unexpected happened. The PIP failed to obtain the needed three percent of the total vote to save their electoral franchise, having many of its constituents opt for voting for Acevedo Vilá, who subsequently won with a margin of 4000 votes (less than the required 0.5 percent needed to ward off a recount).

The island nation of 3.4 million inhabitants found itself in the midst of uncertainty, chaos and legal tug-of-war. At one month since the closing of the last ballot box, Puerto Rico remains without an elected governor. With a recount in process, the PNP maneuvered the elections into the federal courts. A delay in the vote count created a volatile and cynical atmosphere, whipping supporters into a frenzy. Reminiscent of the presidential race decided in Florida with the annulment of Al Gore votes, henchmen of the PNP requested of their friend and fellow party member, federal district Judge Daniel Dominguez to help cast aside some 60,000 ballots they (PNP) claimed were incorrectly filled out in favor of Acevedo Vilá.

A decision to nullify the votes would automatically give the PNP candidate, Rosselló González, the governorship. The PPD responded. Claiming the federal court had no jurisdiction in the affairs of the state and the electoral process, the PPD and followers proceeded to present the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico their argument for the adjudication of the votes in question.
Pedro Rosselló González

The Supreme Court ruled that the ballots are legal and ordered the recount to resume. Furious at the lack of respect for the federal/imperial court, Judge Dominguez threatened with contempt and reprimanded the Supreme Court judges, ordering the court to step down and relinquish all jurisdiction to the federal courts. Overstepping the U.S., as well as Puerto Rican constitutions where the Supreme Court of the state can only be overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Dominguez ruled that the ballots in question be isolated and not counted.

Throughout the whole process the PIP sided with the PNP in arguing that the ballots in question, those with the three markings (X’s), one under the party insignia and the other two for candidates for governor and resident commissioner were invalid. When called before the federal judge, the PIP’s elections commissioner refused participation in the hearing, stating he and his party did not recognize the jurisdiction of the colonial court in Puerto Rico. Responding to the arrogance and interventionist posture of Judge Dominguez and demanding their votes be counted, some 25,000 protestors rallied in front of the Federal Building on November 29th and called for an end of the federal court in the island. The rally dubbed, “The March for Dignity,” was organized by PPD members and associates and supported by scores of “independentistas” who had borrowed their vote to Acevedo Vilá.

While many Puerto Ricans fester with the daily developments of the recount, others have already begun the process of analysis. The island’s colonial reality has been stripped of its clothing. The nature of the colonial beast exposed with the arrogant and abusive intervention of the federal courts.

The lack of a process of self-criticism of the PIP in particular and the independence movement in general and their failure to adopt a clear strategy of recognizing the enemy and not playing on its court and with its rules, proved fatal. That sector of the movement, including many recognized leaders, who openly called on “independentistas” to lend their vote to Anibal, opting for the lesser of two evils to justify the unholy alliance with a colonial party to defeat another colonial party, failed to stand for the very principles they aspire or should aspire to, that “the independence of the nation is not negotiable.”

Once again the prophetic words of Juan Antonio Corretjer, that “colonial elections only serve to sustain and strengthen colonialism,” is united with yet another phrase from another historical leader, Don Pedro Albizu Campos, “The defeat of one Puerto Rican over another Puerto Rican is the destruction of the nation.”

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