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Hoof in Mouth Award and other Not-So-Great Political Moments

by Lance Oliver

January 21, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Politics in Puerto Rico seldom yields a good belly laugh, but it provides ample fodder for frequent wry smiles. You know, those moments of absurdity or irony that you have to take with a dose of humor, because otherwise they're merely mundane and mildly depressing.

Recent days have yielded a few.

The award for Worst Campaign Tactic so far of the brand new decade (it's early) must go to Carlos Pesquera who unveiled his "intelligent war against crime and drugs" strategy. He promised to reduce violent crime by 50 percent in four years, an extremely difficult task but a laudable goal.

He should have quit there, but instead he also promised to eliminate all drug "puntos" around the island. All of them, he said.
Imagine the great day that will dawn sometime before January 2005 when no drugs will be sold on any street corner, in any public housing project, behind any park basketball court in all of Puerto Rico. Not one. They will all have been eliminated by Gov. Carlos Pesquera.

As a campaign promise, this one makes the now infamous "Read my lips ­ no new taxes," which helped sink George Bush, look like a brilliant campaign line.

That scritch-scritch sound heard around Puerto Rico came from the scissors of a dozen Popular Democratic Party strategists cutting those newspaper clippings to be filed away just in case Pesquera does get elected this year and is up for re-election in 2004, when drugs will certainly still be sold in Puerto Rico.

But if promising to eliminate street corner drug sales is an example of how Pesquera's campaign will continue between now and November, those clippings will be tossed in the trash right after the election. They won't be needed because Pesquera won't have a chance to try to make good on his impossible promise.

Does anybody in Puerto Rico believe such a campaign promise can or will be kept? If not, what is gained by it?

Does an "intelligent war" begin with an insult to the intelligence of the voters?

Meanwhile, the Hoof in Mouth award goes to La Fortaleza Press Secretary Alfonso Aguilar who said Gov. Pedro Rosselló was "like a Josco" despite having to undergo surgery for a kidney stone. Josco was the Puerto Rican bull that had to face an intruder, an American bull, in writer Abelardo Díaz Alfaro's short story that is a well known allegory about the Puerto Rican colonial experience.

The intent, one imagines, was to say that Rosselló was strong as a bull. But Aguilar might well have reconsidered his analogy considering that Rosselló is now negotiating with such U.S. bulls as the president and the Navy over Vieques. Remember that in Díaz Alfaro's story, Josco ultimately lost out to the American bull and killed himself.

We can only hope Rosselló will not be too much "like a Josco."

In a related vein, the award for Most Effort Expended on an Irrelevant Journalistic Scoop goes to a column in El Nuevo Día that labored point by constitutional point through the question of who should or could have been acting as governor during the five hours when Rosselló was under surgery and anesthesia last week.

The natural human tendency to think that the center of the universe is very close to home might lead one to think Puerto Rico can't get by five hours without constant governing. Rosselló himself recognizes otherwise, it appears, since he has been off the island at moments labeled by the press as "crises" such as the first days of the Puerto Rico Telephone Company strike and the day Congress was voting on Section 936's future.

So the governor was off-line for five hours. What's the issue? Who has their finger on the button of the Puerto Rico nuclear arsenal if the governor is under anesthesia? Who will call out the Puerto Rico Air Force if the Dominican Republic seizes the moment of Rosselló's kidney stone operation to invade Mona Island?

Puerto Rico can easily survive a few hours without being governed. It's actually breathtaking to imagine how well Puerto Rico might function if it had half as many administrators and legislators, half as many laws (losing the proper 50%, of course), and the remaining laws were actually enforced and obeyed.

But that's a daydream for another time. Maybe for a week when there's a little less of that wry irony in the air.

Lance Oliver writes The Puerto Rico Report weekly for The Puerto Rico Herald. He can be reached by email at:

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