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The New Pesquera Is More Forceful

by Ivan Roman

April 2, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

SAN Juan, Puerto Rico -- When Gov. Pedro Rossello announced last May he wouldn't run for re-election, the New Progressive Party tapped then Transportation and Public Works Secretary Carlos Pesquera to be their Superman.

They even talked about his bookish Clark Kent looks. Drawings of him with a big S logo on his chest started showing up.

But then his soft-spoken, and what some interpreted as indecisive, manner had some party loyalists worrying that Superman was turning out to be a wimp.

In came the campaign consultants and, alas, now we have the new Pesquera.

The debut: his forceful speech at the "My Citizenship Party" March 5 before thousands of people shaking his fists as he touted the majority of Puerto Ricans' loyalty to the United States in the face of tension with Washington.

"Enough with the fear, the fear that we can't do it," he yelled to the cheering audience.

He spoke right after former governor and Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo, one of the NPP's best orators. But he held his own. To some, he is getting too close to Romero, adopting part of his campaign style.

His early gentleman's agreement with Popular Democratic Party opponent Sila Maria Calderon to raise the level of campaigning was tossed. He blasts her every chance he gets. His rhetoric against independentistas and people the NPP's right wing pejoratively calls "separatists" also has become more pointed.

Opponents hope the "romerization" of his campaign, which plays well to party faithful, will be the Kryptonite that kills him among independent voters. Some NPP leaders warn of a backlash if Pesquera and the party don't cool the rhetoric.

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