|December 31, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
Puerto Ricos Best of 2004: You Decide!
As is traditional in its final edition of the year, the Herald asks its readers to choose among five persons or entities that its editors have selected as having made a significant impact on the life of Puerto Rico.
This years selections include:
- Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, Puerto Ricos newly elected Governor,
- Luis Fortuño, its newly elected Resident Commissioner,
- Sila Calderón, the islands outgoing Governor,
- The Puerto Rico Olympic Basketball Team, victor over the U.S. team,
- The Puerto Rican Soldier, both men and women of all military services who over the past twelve months have left home to serve their country far from family and friends.
Needless to say, these selections leave out many individuals and groups that have contributed to the well being or delight of Puerto Ricans, or have achieved success, honors or victory in their chosen professions of politics, public service, sports, the fine arts, education, entertainment and business. If you are of the mind that another selection should replace our choices, there is a place for you to so indicate by email and the Herald will report your choice in next weeks edition.
Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, Puerto Ricos newly elected Popular Democratic (PDP) Governor, clearly belongs among the top achievers in Puerto Ricos 2004 political campaign. His energetic and unrelenting campaign produced a victory however narrow -- over the New Progressive Partys (NPP) candidate, Pedro Rosselló. Clearly an underdog going into the race, both because he was a third choice to carry his partys flag, and also because of the early popularity of his opponent, he gradually rose in the polls as November 2nd loomed and ultimately prevailed at the end of that night and nearly two months later after a contentious recount of votes and law suits in both the local and federal courts. His ultimate victory by a scant 3,566 votes out of 1,990,372 votes cast (.018%) is nevertheless significant in that his PDP party was walloped by the voters in other races, giving the NPP control of both houses of the legislature and the office of Resident Commissioner. As he is sworn in as the new Chief Executive of Puerto Rico, he will face the first divided government in the islands modern history.
Luis Fortuño, a rising star in both the NPP and the national Republican Party (GOP), bested three of the NPPs tested vote-getters to decisively win a primary election (63%) and go on to beat the PDPs candidate, Roberto Prats, a national Democrat and President of the populares. In the general election, his name, office and NPP party affiliation appeared on the same ballot as that of the losing candidate for Governor, Pedro Rosselló. In spite of the association, he prevailed over his opponent by more than 11,000 votes to earn a ticket to Washington and a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. As he explained to the Herald in a far-reaching exclusive interview, he attributes his victory to his campaign identification as a national Republican, available to serve in a U.S. Congress now controlled in both Houses by the GOP. The first part of his interview with the Herald may be read in the "Island Politics" section on the index page of this issue.
Sila Maria Calderón, the islands outgoing Governor, leaves office as the first woman to hold the post in Puerto Ricos history. Her selection to be included among the five choices herein offered relates as much to that fact as to any single accomplishment during her four years in the Fortaleza, although she has had a few and claimed many more. In our view, her role as a defender of the commonwealth arrangement as a permanent political status, her attempts to project Puerto Rico as an independent player in international circles and her intense lobbying to persuade the White House to dampen any enthusiasm it might have had during the past four years to advance the self-determination process in Washington, each had an impact for good or bad, depending on your political inclination - on the manner in which Puerto Rico is perceived on the U.S. mainland. During her term in office, the U.S. Navy departed from Vieques, the U.S. Armys Southern Command departed from Fort Buchanan and the U.S. Government pulled up stakes at Roosevelt Roads. Accordingly, she became despised in important Washington circles, in spite of her efforts to register new mainland voters from her offices in key U.S. states.
The Puerto Rico Olympic Basketball Team
The Puerto Rican Basketball Team of 2004 proved to be giant killers and Puerto Rican sports heroes for their victory in the first game of the Olympics in Greece in August. They accomplished the impossible by defeating the "unbeatable" US Dream Team, composed of some of the worlds best professional basketball players, all NBA stars, while the Puerto Rican team included only two NBA players, most notably Utah Jazz star Carlos Arroyo. Not only did they beat the US team, they crushed the mainlanders by 19 points. Though the team finished only sixth in the final results of the Olympics, their victory on that first day knocked the highly favored US team off their desired course for gold and into a final bronze medal. The 2004 Puerto Rico team not only caused great pride and jubilation on the island, but proved that the little island team can compete with anyone.
The Puerto Rican Soldier
Puerto Rican soldiers continue to represent their country in unprecedented and disproportionate numbers. Nearly all of the National Guard and Reserves from the island have been mobilized since the start of the War on Terrorism and twenty-three Puerto Ricans have been killed in that war, the most recent on December 27, in Baghdad. Twenty-six-year-old Spc. José A. Rivera Serrano was the last of nine Puerto Rican soldiers to die in Iraq in 2004. The injustice of fighting, sometimes to the death, for the United States and not having the right to vote for the Commander-in-Chief who sent them into battle, is readily apparent, especially in this election year. Puerto Rican soldiers have been faithful and efficient combatants under the American flag in every war in which their country has fought since they received US citizenship in 1917. The Puerto Rican men and women wearing the uniform in 2004 have been outstanding successors of the 200,000 boricuas who have preceded them in the service of their country.
Please add your vote to the person or group that merits recognition as the Heralds top entity of 2004.