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Home / US / In Puerto Rico, voters who withdrew due to political turmoil and crisis will face a crucial election

In Puerto Rico, voters who withdrew due to political turmoil and crisis will face a crucial election

Bryant Guardado joined more than half a million Puerto Ricans who participated in the largest protest in U.S. history last year and ousted Governor Ricardo Rosselló. A political scandal involving him and cabinet members.

Guardado, 28, said in Spanish: “That was the first time I saw the vast majority of Puerto Ricans fighting for the right.” “We have all witnessed this awakening, but there are concerns about voting. These actions will Is it converted into a vote?”

On Tuesday, nearly a year and a half after Rosselló’s resignation, voters on the island will elect a new governor, as well as local legislators and mayors, who will work to resolve the compound crisis that has accumulated in Puerto Rico over the past few years. years. Since Puerto Rico is not a state, the islanders do not vote for the president.

The island is continuing to recover from Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria was the deadliest natural disaster in the United States in 1

00 years, killing at least 2,975 people in 2017, and also striving to escape the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

On September 21, 2017, a man walked past a house destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Cataneo, Puerto Rico.Hector Thame/AFP-Getty Image File

Carlos Vargas-Ramos, a political scientist at the Puerto Rican Research Center at Hunter College in New York, said that during the decade-long recession, large-scale protests “released a sense of suppressed frustration. , Anger and incompetence”, the response after the hurricane was also poor.

At the same time, the protests have made voters more critical of partisan lines. These factions have divided Puerto Rican voters for more than 50 years. Most of the islanders support the New Progressive Party or the People’s Democratic Party in favor of the founding of the nation, the latter supporting the island’s current federal status. A smaller proportion of “independenceists” support the Puerto Rican Independence Party, which advocates the island’s independence from the United States.

Before the historic protest, the warning sign

The frustration and desperation that thwarted Roussello first appeared in 2016, when Puerto Rico’s voter turnout reached a record 55%, which is a good thing for an island known for its high turnout rate of 73% to 89%. An unusual milestone.

Vargas-Ramos said that part of the reason for the low turnout was “extreme lack of trust in Puerto Rico’s government institutions,” which has caused all voters in the referendum to lose their right to vote in the past decade. After Puerto Rico accumulated about $72 billion in public debt, the islanders have been struggling to deal with the biggest financial crisis in Puerto Rico’s history-unlike other jurisdictions in the United States, it has no legal bankruptcy petitions.

People waved Puerto Rican flags at a rally to celebrate the resignation of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló in July 2019.Marco Bello/Reuters Archive

As a result, Congress passed the PROMESA Act in 2016 to establish a federally appointed finance committee to allow Puerto Rico to restructure its debts. This has led to severe austerity measures and increased tension and frustration with the government and parties. mood.

This mistrust led to a surge of independent governor candidates in 2016. After the failed bid, many of them gathered together last year to form new political parties, such as the Civic Victory Movement based on anti-colonial ideas, and the Dignity Project, which is conducive to Christian democracy.

Considering the protests and the new party, Vargas-Ramos said that he thinks “maybe these will inspire more participation by voters.” But for many Puerto Ricans, the beginning of 2020 is bleak.

In January, Puerto Rico was hit by several strong earthquakes, which destroyed hundreds of houses, schools and small businesses, followed by more than 9,800 earthquakes. Two months later, the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus-related shutdowns have led to widespread unemployment and food insecurity and a poor quality transition to distance learning.

On January 7, a house collapsed after an earthquake in Guanica, Puerto Rico.Reuters TV

Vargas-Ramos said, but the failure of local governments to respond to the earthquake and pandemic could trigger the same frustration, leading to low voter turnout in 2016, despite some warnings. A new electoral law expands the island’s early voting rights, and a scheduled referendum may also help increase voter turnout in the governor election.

Voters make choices

The talented and energetic 85-year-old Iraida Quiñones still remembers the day when Luis Muñoz Marín officially announced the establishment of the People’s Democratic Party in 1952, which supported Puerto Rico as the United States The current status of the federation or territory.

“I even have a photo in the office next to me. It shows Muñoz Marín announcing the’Estado Libre Asociado de’ of Puerto Rico,” the Spaniard said, referring to the Commonwealth Government The official name.

Quiñones is one of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have already voted. Although she admitted that she had considered voting for Puerto Rican Independence Party governor Juan Damou, “because I think he has a very good idea,” she said, not sure that the best option to overthrow the pro-state status is her ruling party.

On January 7, a man carried the statue of St. Jude from the ruins of the Inmaculada Concepción church after collapsing in an earthquake in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.Ricardo Arduengo/AFP-Getty Images

Quinyons, who voted for the People’s Democratic Party, said: “I think the People’s Democratic Party is the only one who can bring down the New Progressive Party. I don’t think we can tolerate the four years of corruption and turmoil they have brought.” Party candidate Carlos · “Charlie” Delgado.

But loyal New Progressive voters, such as 47-year-old Miguel Hernández (Miguel Hernández), are preparing to appear in the polls on Tuesday to help maintain their regime and vote “yes” in the referendum. This directly asked voters whether they should immediately accept Puerto Rico as a state union. Voters can answer “yes” or “no”.

Vargas-Ramos said that after the resignation of former national governor Rossello, the failure to respond to the disaster triggered an “institutional crisis” and damaged the reputation of the New Progressive Party.

Ricardo Rosselló, then governor of Puerto Rico, at a press conference in San Juan in July 2019.Carlos Giusti/AP file

Hernández, the former Minister of Housing on the island, expressed his support for the founding of the nation. He was full of confidence in this because the party had made great efforts to tell voters that the actions of certain founding leaders could not reflect the whole Party values. He will vote for the New Progressive Party candidate Pedro Pierluisi, who defeated interim governor Wanda Vázquez in the primary election.

But his two children did not believe so.

His 20-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter will vote for the first time on Tuesday. Whether they should vote in the traditional way they have been in the fence.

Hernandez said in Spanish: “What they are really questioning is the best way they can use their vote to break the deep partisanship that still exists between the New Progressive Party and the People’s Democratic Party.”

He said that for young voters like Guardado, this means supporting new candidates, so he is ready to vote for 39-year-old Alexandra Lugaro of the Civic Victory Movement.

Guardado said: “But, in fact, the most important thing in this election is for voters to prove that we are not blindly voting to support the ideology that parties have been touting for decades and did nothing.” “We need to vote for candidates seeking solutions that can immediately improve our lives.”

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