Thursday, June 5, 2008

Juan Gonzalez on the PR primary

Juan Gonzalez's excellent analysis of the situation down on the Island.

New York Daily News
Poor turnout in Puerto Rico primaries reflects island's ambivalence
Monday, June 2nd 2008, 4:00 AM

CAYEY, Puerto Rico - At the Miguel Melendez Muñoz High School in this mountain town near Puerto Rico's southern coast, a mere 150 of some 3,000 registered voters had shown up by 11 a.m.
Most were elderly, and more than a few had spent years living afuera (outside), the term Puerto Ricans use to refer to life in the U.S.

"I was in the South Bronx for 18 years," said Rosario Rodriguez Vazquez. "Even ran for Democratic committeeman there, so I never miss an election, and I'm with Hillary all the way."

Clinton registered an even bigger landslide win over Barack Obama here than preelection polls had predicted.
But there's another strong message that Puerto Rico's electorate sent to Washington. Despite all the attention and furor the Democratic presidential campaign has stirred in the 50 states, less than 15% of Puerto Rico's registered voters turned out.
Such numbers reveal the deep ambivalence many Puerto Ricans feel about their political relationship with the U.S. How else can you explain that close to 10,000 independence supporters marched noisily through Old San Juan yesterday calling for a boycott of the entire primary?

The small yet influential movement kept labeling the primary a colonial charade, then surprised everyone with the biggest political rally of the entire campaign.

You need look no further than New York's own Jose Rivera, Bronx assemblyman and chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, to see how politically schizophrenic some Puerto Ricans have become.

All day Saturday, Rivera campaigned for Clinton. He rode with her in the same flatbed truck for eight grueling hours, urging Puerto Ricans to turn out to the polls. Then yesterday morning, he joined the massive protest against the primary.
"I don't see a contradiction," Rivera told me. "This whole contest between Hillary and Obama has forced everyone in the U.S. to pay attention to the issue of Puerto Rico's status. Maybe now it will finally get resolved."

Rivera means the more-than-century-old debate that dominates island politics but U.S. politicians continue to ignore: whether Puerto Rico will become the 51st state, an independent nation or remain in some other form of association with the U.S.
Rivera noted that Clinton received her only standing ovation Saturday night from some 6,000 attending a church service in Hato Rey when she pledged to resolve the island's status during her first White House term.

Obama has made similar promises. But he spent only a day here, missing an opportunity to shore up his poor support among Hispanics, which could hurt him in November. John McCain will make an even bigger push to win Latino votes than President Bush did four years ago.

Clinton won her landslide because at least she paid Puerto Ricans some attention.

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