Rosselló’s De La Hoya Strategy

by John Marino

August 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

. New Progressive Party officials may deny it, but former Gov. Pedro Rosselló appears to be employing a front-runner’s strategy in limiting his public appearances, sending surrogates in his place to public forums and opting to address the Puerto Rican public through paid televised addresses to drive home the major points of his political platform.

Former Senate President Charlie Rodríguez, who is Rosselló’s campaign platform director, has substituted for Rosselló at public forums on five occasions this year, according to local press reports. The two-term former governor has appeared at about as many forums this year.

Meanwhile, the former governor is undertaking a campaign strategy to utilize special paid televised addresses to the Puerto Rican public to discuss his political pledges and to criticize the performance of the current administration on these issues.

NPP leaders, including running mate Luis Fortuño, simply chalk up the Rosselló absences to calendar problems. Further, they say the paid addresses are just one part of the former governor’s reelection strategy.

Responding to critics, they say Rosselló is not hiding from the public. He campaigns directly with the public on weekend campaign swings, and talks to reporters following the activities and after party and campaign press conferences at other times.

That may be true, but there is also no doubt the former governor is more carefully controlling his public image, and therefore his interaction with the public.

No one should fault the former governor for more closely listening to his campaign handlers three months from the election. And the strategy confirms the perception that despite the controversy surrounding the federal Supertubo indictments against former NPP figures and the local investigation into Rosselló’s own pension, he is still running ahead of the competition.

Most major polls have put the former governor in front. Political party campaign strategies -- with the PDP trying to turn the election into a referendum on the Rosselló years, while the NPP appears intent to focus on the former governor’s accomplishments and to carefully control his public persona — also support that take on the horse race.

Rosselló, perceived to be out in front, can afford some defter handling. But he will still have to perform in public — he will have to debate his opponents directly and appear in live press conferences, a lot before he is reelected.

And he needs to be sure his more carefully choreographed public appearances don’t build into a perception of a candidate on the run.

That’s what happened to Oscar "Golden Boy" De La Hoya, when he fought against Puerto Rico’s Félix "Tito" Trinidad. Ahead in the early rounds, De La Hoya thought he could dance away from a surging Trinidad in the later rounds and preserve a victory on decision. But the judges thought otherwise, awarding the bout to the challenger.

Rosselló should look back on that fight. After all, nearly everyone in Puerto Rico saw every second of it — the fight that made Trinidad a world champion.

Most students skip first day of classes

Want to know what’s wrong with Puerto Rico’s public school system?

A good place to start is checking attendance records for the first day of classes. According to Education Department figures, only 59 percent -- that’s less than six out of 10 students -- even bothered to show up for the first day of classes.

In San Juan, the percentage of students showing up for class was the lowest on the island, with just 32 percent attending.

While one could reasonably assume the low attendance figures were at least partially attributable to the current meningitis epidemic, Education officials took pains to argue that that was not the case, and that the paltry number of students attending school on the first day of classes was in fact the norm in Puerto Rico, and has been for sometime now.

"When we begin the year in the middle of the week, a lot of students don’t come to class until the following Monday," one official said. "This is normal."

It may be normal, but it’s also a big sign that something is awry in Puerto Rico’s public school system.

It’s interesting to note that San Juan’s public schools are among the worst performing on the island. And some of the better school districts out on the island reported higher attendance records, such as Mayaguez with 80 percent.

Sure, the problems with island schools are legendary, with a lack of educational materials and qualified teachers, among other problems.

But equally troubling, attendance figures indicate, are parents who don’t believe the first day of school is important enough to merit their child’s presence.

John Marino, Managing 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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