US and PUERTO RICO elections (Reformatted)

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at
Fri Nov 17 16:57:13 MST 2000

Posted by WomensNet on Friday November 17, @02:01PM

NEW YORK, Nov 10 (IPS) - As the United States waits to see who  will be
its next president, another hotly contested race has ended in Puerto
Rico with voters electing the island's first female governor and dealing
a blow to the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP).

 PUERTO RICO: Islanders Choose First
 Woman Governor

Originally posted in IGC Member Conference:

Topic 302 POLITICS-PUERTO RICO: Islanders Cho newsdesk The Inter Press
Service in English 7:09 PM Nov 10, 2000

Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

  *** 10-Nov-0* ***

Title: POLITICS-PUERTO RICO: Islanders Choose First Woman Governor

 By Katherine Stapp

NEW YORK, Nov 10 (IPS) - As the United States waits to see who will be
its next president, another hotly contested race has ended in Puerto
Rico with voters electing the island's first female governor and dealing
a blow to the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP).

Sila Calderon, the mayor of San Juan, will replace Gov. Pedro  Rossello,
an NPP politician who has held the office for eight years.

 Calderon ran on a platform of ousting the US Navy from the adjacent
island of Vieques, where a bombing range has generated mass protests,
and by hammering away at allegations of corruption within the ruling
NPP - including a scandal in which bureaucrats were siphoning off
shoeboxes of cash intended for AIDS patients.

Rossello's popularity had been steadily dropping in polls, due partly to
what one analyst described as his ''high-handed and arrogant'' style,
and this hardly boosted his party's gubernatorial candidate, Carlos

The new governor favours preserving Puerto Rico's commonwealth
relationship with the United States, rather than making the island the
51st state, and voters clearly identified with her position - as a
similar majority did in non-binding referendums held in 1993 and 1998.

Puerto Ricans currently enjoy what is known as commonwealth status, in
which they are US citizens but cannot vote in national elections, and
receive federal aid, but do not pay taxes. The island has one non-voting
representative in the US Congress.

 ''The issue (of status) is a constant undercurrent,'' said Lance
Oliver, a freelance journalist based in Puerto Rico who covered the
campaign. Still, he added, ''people have gotten better at separating
their vote for who should govern from the question of status. Elections
are less of a referendum than they used to be''.

In elections held Tuesday, Calderon, 58, defeated her pro- statehood
opponent, Carlos Pesquera, by about 53 to 47 percent, the closest
gubernatorial race in 20 years in Puerto Rico.

Her opposition Popular Democratic Party also seized control of the
island's legislature, and won 46 out of 74 mayoral seats, a reversal of
previous elections.

Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua, a noted political analyst on the island
and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that although the
dominant issue of the campaign was corruption, ''the writing (is) on
the  wall'' in terms of rejecting statehood.

''That issue is over,'' he said. ''The key point now is how will the
Navy  react to 67 percent of the people wanting them out.''

Third-party candidate Ruben Berrios, of the Puerto Rica Independence
Party, which favours making the island a completely sovereign state,
came in a distant third with about six percent of the vote.

Berrios was a leading figure in the campaign to evict the US Navy from
Vieques, where it has had a bombing range since 1940, and had camped out
there with other protesters for almost a year in a bid to halt the
military exercises. His staunch opposition to the Navy struck a chord
with Puerto Ricans, and helped to double his support on Tuesday.

Puerto Rico's independence movement was ruthlessly suppressed by the
Spanish colonisers and then the United States, and has yet to build the
momentum of the two main parties, which are largely identified with
their positions on the island's status.

Unlike the US election, there tends to be relatively few undecided
voters in Puerto Rico's elections, and the results were not unexpected,
observers said.

''There is almost always an institutionalised split here, never a huge
landslide,'' Oliver said. ''If someone wins by five or six percent,
that's a lot.

''People really have an identification with their party and are much
more politically active than in the States, so there is small pool of
people that  go one way or the other,'' he added.

 Although it appears unlikely that the island's status will change
anytime soon, Puerto Ricans could again be summoned to the polls if a
planned binding referendum promised by Pres. Bill Clinton comes through.
No date has yet been set, but Clinton has said he will address the issue
before his term expires in January.

Voters will also decide if the Navy should be allowed to remain in
Vieques, in exchange for about 50 million dollars in aid, or if it must
leave by May 2003. (END/IPS/IP/ks/da/00)


Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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