Monday, June 2, 2008

Puerto Rican Primary - FANTASY ISLAND????

After my week-end without access to email and cable TV I am slowly catching up with the appalling coverage of the PR primary.

The turnout was a record low. Normally, 80% of Islanders vote in the elections for Governor. Sunday's turnout was 20%. Why? The Independence party called for protesting, since this has nothing to do with resolving our Status question and because Islanders may not vote in the general presidential election. Many pro-Commonwealth party members are, ultimately, pro-Independence if the only 2 options were becoming the 51st state or separating from the USA. As I write below, Clinton's public embrace of controversial members of the extreme Right-wing of the PNP pro-Statehood party surely hurt her. On the Island, you can't have it both ways, as she tried to pretend by claiming she'd unify the PNP and pro-Commonwealth parties.  

I have to grant it to FOX, who seems to be the only major mainstream news corporation to grasp the crucial nuance: Puerto Ricans residing on the Island may not vote in the Presidential election.

Some choice items:
On MSNBC they are saying that a delusional HRC hung on to the "landslide" in PR as an indicator of her possibilities for victory, viewing it as "FANTASY ISLAND." 

My sister commented on the bizarre factoids/trivia running on the CNN ticker as they waited for results, among the jewels "....PUERTO RICO IS 99% HISPANIC....." I have seen: comments about the fantastic weather down there, about the dancing and Spanish-speaking skills needed to campaign (hello? English was imposed on us as soon as the USA invaded, officially we are bi-lingual, and all official Federal business is conducted in English, also, about half of us live on the "Mainland," and many of us do not speak Spanish!). 

Video of HRC's victory speech, more demagogic pandering to the Island, as if she or anyone else in the US government or Congress give a flying fuck about conditions on the Island, and as if those on the Islands have ultimate say on the question of their status. Revolting to watch HRC pretend to speak Spanish and celebrate to the tune of Ricky Martin's anthem composed for the World Football Cup. 

I am increasingly frustrated by the uninformed commentary related to HRC's advantage and now landslide win in Puerto Rico. US media overlooks certain key facts that mitigate the interpretation of this primary as an unequivocal victory for Clinton and as evidence that "Hispanics" as an alleged bloc support her over Obama.

The facts are these:

1. Local political struggles have an impact on the party affiliation chosen by Island politicians. I know for a fact, because my family has been involved in politics, that members of the pro-Statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista are registered Democrat though they are far-Right politically, as a means to gain access to Democratic politicians that they need to lobby for their cause. 

Here, HRC campaigns alongside Carlos Pesquera, Sec. of Transportation under PNP Governor Pedro Rosello, Pesquera himself ran unsuccessfully for Governor under the PNP rubric. This is a very Right-Wing guy with GOP ideology. 

Here, HRC is standing beside Carlos Romero Barcelo, PNP ex-Governor of the Island, notorious for the Cerro Maravilla case. This guy is EXTREMELY Right-Wing and really GOP. 

2. The above brings up the "spoiler" issue - Republicans who vote for HRC as a way to thwart Obama and drag out the contest. This happened in more than one state where, inexplicably, Republicans were allowed to vote in Democratic primaries.

3. This last point is the most politically sensitive and I can understand why it is not aired publicly by US media and especially not by locals - it is racism. Although US commentators simplistically might assume that a fair number of the Island's mixed-race population might identify with Obama, the sad truth is that there is a lot of internalized racism (only furthered by the discrimination faced by darker skinned Islanders not only in Puerto Rico but especially on the so-called Mainland) among us. Thus, Obama's skin color must have harmed him on the Island. 


Anonymous said...

I haven't been following the PR primaries too closely, but I don't think that the fact that HRC allied with politicians center and right in PR hurt her. It clearly helped her. She used it to her advantage, and at the end she got the most votes. This is impossible to deny, even if I cringed at the sight of seeing Romero Barceló congratulate her with a kiss. Qué asco. FOOO!!!

I think the reasons why there was only a 20% turnout in the primaries are complex. For one, many islanders indeed felt that this vote didn't count for much if at the end they are not allowed to vote for the president. But advocates of independence also refused the right to vote in the primaries as they saw them as an attempt assimilate them into the politics of the "invading" country.
I dare to think another reason beyond party politics might have been indifference, as many islanders do perceive US politics as foreign. They define themselves against the US and even though part of their family might live there, they might not see a reason why it should be their responsibility to decide who is their president.

On the point about trivia facts on CNN and other channels, Puerto Ricans are officially bilingual, but in the island there are still many, many people who don't speak or understand English. Seeing BO and HRC campaigning in English in PR did give the impression of a campaign that was far from universal, geared towards people who had the fortune of being educated to speak and understand both languages.

Petite Maoiste said...

Those are great points, thank you. Yes, I forgot to mention that despite efforts to impose English, many Islanders don't speak it well or at all, which further complicates matters.

Taína said...

her speech is revolting, I do agree, but the more I think about it, the more I get unnerved as well by the jingle of the Obama campaign in PR. "Un amigo presidente que respeta a nuestra gente." Hello? how pathetic is that. Go on, admit openly and to the rhythm of plena that we are second-class citizens;but not worries, Obama is your friend.
it's a song for third-graders and the worst is that it was no-doubt a Puerto Rican who composed it.

Petite Maoiste said...

Yes, it's true. Overall I think his campaign is good, but as I've discussed lately w/other Latinos/Latin Americans who support him, Obama needs to do his homework when it comes to the situation in Puerto Rico. His statements on the Island were non-committal. Now that he's likely the nominee he cannot fall back on the idea the Latinos in NY will automatically back Hillary or that since FL was a no-go, he didn't have to inform himself about events there (where there are hundreds of thousands of Boricuas)....

Anonymous said...

Dear PM - excuse me, but it seems to me that you excuse Obama's demeaning and infantilizing attitude towards Boricuas (as Taína rightly pointed out) by blaming Hillary insofar as she had the Latino vote anyway? So actually, it's all Hillary's fault once again? Brilliant! :-)

Petite Maoiste said...

No no no what I meant was that Obama has been complacent and lazy and he needs to be held accountable for dropping the ball with understanding issues that concern Latinos, including Puerto Ricans. And that one of the reasons he may have been complacent or lazy is that he assumed they would vote for her and not for him so he blew it off and concentrated on other so-called interest groups, which in itself is problematic because as we know, one cannot lump people into a monolithic group!