Dancing Around The Status Issue

by John Marino

May 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

. JOHN MARINOThanks to Senate Vice President Velda González, el perreo is sure to be the hottest dance of the summer in Puerto Rico.

Outraged over what she calls the lewd moves of young women on rap videos, the senator has filed a package of five bills aimed at limiting the broadcasting of "offensive" videos on television and the songs on which they are based on radio.

Several high profile figures -- including Gov. Calderón and fellow Popular Democratic Party senators -- have jumped on the González bandwagon, which has been applauded by Christian fundamentalist groups on the island -- an important voting block nearly all politicians pay attention to.

Public hearings on the issue got underway with a bang on Wednesday, as the senator revealed that she had received death threats over her bills and proceeded to play a rap video with a half-dressed couple simulating sex.

Under questioning by a minority senator, González admitted that the video is not aired on television but is available only through video rental stores.

The Senate veteran said she intended to invite everyone -- from rap musicians to government agency chiefs -- to testify before what promises to be a lengthy public hearings process on her measures.

That's sure to bring some summer fun to the Capitol, which before these measures were introduced was expected to be the site of hearings on such mundane matters as Puerto Rico's political status, campaign finance reform and the continuing quest to pass a commonwealth budget.

Indeed, the local media frenzy surrounding González's attack on rap music and videos has so far drowned out the most anticipated event of the summer -- Gov. Calderón's call for the creation of a Commission of Puerto Rican Unity which will be charged with deciding on a mechanism to resolve the island's status dilemma.

One reason for this is that el perreo -- a dance, usually performed by a pretty girl in a bikini, in which the hips and buttocks are thrust in a grinding circular manner -- sells a lot of newspapers.

But another reason is that the Calderón administration has kept relatively quiet on its plans for the status commission.

Rather than talking about it in San Juan and Washington -- the two centers of Puerto Rican political power -- the administration has opted to discuss its plans at university communities on the U.S. east coast.

Gov. Calderón first talked about her plans during a speech at Rutgers University in New Jersey several weeks ago.

Then Resident Commissioner Aníbal Acevedo Vilá released further details about the commission in a speech earlier this month at the University of Massachusetts.

The commission, expected to be formed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of commonwealth on July 25, will not push any particular status formula but instead work toward agreeing on the process in which status should be resolved, Acevedo Vilá said. Once that happens, Puerto Rico will go to Washington on the process to be used in resolving the matter.

"The party in power is willing to share its power and open the process, instead of using power to advance just one status alternative," he said.

The nine-member group would consist of the resident commissioner, representatives of the three political parties, three non-party civic representatives and two Puerto Rican jurists.

The non-party members will be appointed by the governor, but must be approved by the political parties.

The commission will evaluate at least three different status procedures:

  • Holding another plebiscite that will either be authorized by Congress or not.
  • Establishing a U.S.-Puerto Rico Commission through executive order or federal law and that having its recommendations ratified in a vote.
  • Convening a constitutional assembly, either organized by Congress or locally.

While Acevedo Vilá told UMASS students that the commission would be „the vehicle to effectively express our will to Washington," political opponents in San Juan who caught wind of the speech had their doubts.

By having the resident commissioner on the commission, it will be immediately slanted towards commonwealth, said Carlos Romero Barceló, who also said that no status resolution can move forward until Calderón admits that commonwealth is a colonial status.

New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera, in a blow for Calderón's call for unity, made clear the NPP would push for a final status solution between statehood and independence.

Puerto Rican Independence Party official Manuel Rodríguez Orellana, meanwhile, said the administration should „come clean and show that this is not another ploy" to delay action on the status front.

Even Popular Democratic Party members have been bickering among themselves, with Ponce Mayor Rafael „Churumba" Cordero getting trashed by colleagues for saying that commonwealth is a colonial status.

No doubt, fireworks are sure to fill the air once the Calderón administration finally moves forward with its plans.

But in the meantime, lawmakers and Cabinet members are keeping busy studying the latest dance craze of the island's youth and pontificating about its potential harm.

Not a bad way to spend the summer.

John Marino, City Editor of The San Juan Star, writes the weekly Puerto Rico Report column for the Puerto Rico Herald. He can be reached directly at: Marino@coqui.net

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