To The Puerto Rico Herald
Where Is Puerto Rico Headed?
By Dr. William Quintana Ruiz
December 3, 2004
To The Puerto Rico Herald:
A question that has not been asked during all this process of counting, recounting and adjudication of votes of the past general election in Puerto Rico is: where is Puerto Rico headed?
This is a very relevant question, given the rumblings of separatism that we are seeing from leaders of the Popular Democratic Party. I find it fascinating that a former military man like Hector Luis Acevedo is making pronouncements to the effect of disobeying the U. S. District Court provisional ruling in the so called "mixed votes" controversy. Furthermore, the current Resident Commissioner, Anibal Acevedo Vila, a federal employee, is also echoing that call.
Is victory in the 2004 election so important as to jeopardize the relationship that Puerto Rico has with the United States? Apparently it is.
Mind you, I want to see this relationship disappear and for Puerto Rico to become a state of the Union, but the way in which this process is developing, might lead to consequences that even the people that voted for Acevedo Vila will not approve.
The vast majority of the "Populares" are in favor of a close relationship between Puerto Rico and the U. S., the so called "bilateral pact". What they are not in favor of is to move Puerto Rico farther away from the U. S., which is exactly what the current leaders of the PDP are doing when they call for their poll workers to disobey a legal order given by Judge Dominguez.
The so-called four pillars of the Commonwealth, "Common Market, Common Defense, Common Citizenship, and Common Currency" are coming down one by one.
Common Market came down with the approval of NAFTA: Puerto Rico no longer enjoys exclusive rights to import and export products from the U. S. With increasing globalization, many countries in the world are taking advantage of a situation that for a long time only Puerto Rico enjoyed.
Common Defense is dead with the withdrawal of the U. S. Navy from Vieques and the closing of Roosevelt Roads. Surely other military bases in the Island will also close in the near future.
So the current status is balanced on the remaining two pillars.
The actions of the PDP in challenging the authority of the U. S. District Court in Puerto Rico undermine the Common Citizenship pillar of the Commonwealth.
Citizens must obey the courts of the country to which they belong. It might not be a pleasant experience, but in a society of law and order is it essential that the citizens follow the orders of the court. As an integral part of the United States, the unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico is under the rule of law of the United States, which the U. S. District Court represents.
I find it mind-boggling that the current leadership of the PDP, which includes individuals who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States (including the current Resident Commissioner and many others) are on record stating that the PDP is for a permanent union with the United States but are so brash as to call for disobedience of an order from a federal judge. This action is not one that can be reconciled with their belief that Puerto Rico is part of the United States.
The federal judges in Puerto Rico are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate of the United States. Their backgrounds have been checked and double checked and they are individuals who have passed the muster of the confirmation process. They are cognizant of federal laws and their decisions are based on them, not personal preference.
Judge Dominguez has been very forthcoming in stating that he will analyze in depth all the evidence in front of him and come to whatever decision is legally warranted in this case. Nobody knows what that decision is going to be; I am sure that he does not even know it himself.
By undercutting the authority of this judge, for the aim of securing the governorship of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo Vila has betrayed all the democratic principles that he says he defends.
In a democracy, unlike any other form of government, the courts are equal partners in the government. They serve as the arbiters in a dispute, such as the one that Puerto Rico is confronting right now. Given the new landscape created after the Bush v. Gore case during the 2000 Presidential Election, the NPP is within its rights as a political party to ask the federal court to interpret the votes in dispute during the Puerto Rican 2004 General Election. It owes the close-to- 950,000 voters that cast their valid votes for its candidate that much.
In a democracy, one vote cannot weigh more than other. They must have the same weight, they must reveal a clear intent on the part of the voter and when that weight and intent cannot be easily determined by the legal structures appointed to perform that task, and political parties do have the right to invoke protection from the courts.
The PDP is banking on the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico to rubber stamp a decision that will give them victory. The NPP is looking for justice in the only forum that is known to be unbiased in Puerto Rico.
Trying to undermine the credibility of the federal courts in Puerto Rico, with smoke screens of lack of jurisdiction, calling the integrity of a federal judge into question is an assault to democracy.
Is the PDP really that blind? Apparently so!
They do not realize that with their stance, they are helping the cause of separatism in Puerto Rico and the independence of Puerto Rico might be decided in the halls of Congress and not by the voters of Puerto Rico, which election after election have rejected it by wide margins.
So where Puerto Rico is headed might not be the place that the supporters of the PDP want to go, but surely and truly, its leadership is taking them there.
By Dr. William Quintana Ruiz
Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, in his capacity as Resident Commissioner, continues to be a sitting member of a U.S. Congress that makes the laws that Judge Dominguez is now interpreting and, as a licensed lawyer, Mr. Acevedo is an officer of the same court that he is now disparaging.