Candidate Profile: Vance Thomas
October 26, 2000
Vance Thomas, a leader in efforts to organize the youth of Puerto Rico in support of independence for the island, is the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) candidate for Mayor of San Juan. Having never before held elected office, he proposes a renewed focus on issues like social welfare and environmentalism and a break from Puerto Ricos mainstream political blocs, the New Progressive Party (NPP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).
Thomas became a member of the PIP in 1984, when he was still a student at the University of Puerto Rico. Four years later, he worked on the gubernatorial campaign of PIP President Rubén Berríos Martínez. After the election, in which PDP governor Rafael Hernández Colón was reelected, Vance Thomas went to work in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives as part of the PIPs legislative team.
In 1992, when he was only 27 years old, Thomas ran in the election for Mayor of Culebra. The following year, he was elected the National Youth Secretary of the PIP, as well as the Vice President of the youth wing of the Latin American and Caribbean Political Parties Organization (known as COPPPAL in Spanish). He was reelected to the latter position in 1995.
Thomas directed the campaign of Dr. Irma Rodríguez for Mayor of San Juan in 1996. In 1998, he organized the First International Youth Congress for Puerto Rican Independence. Impressed by this leadership experience, an assembly of PIP supporters from San Juan selected him in June of 1999 as their mayoral candidate.
In his candidacy for mayor, Thomas has pledged to represent "the thousands of inhabitants of the capital city [who] are living on the margins of economic and social progress." He proposes building housing to shelter and rehabilitate the homeless of San Juan, as well as an intensive program to provide more effective treatment for the mentally ill. If elected, he also plans to improve the city by cleaning up its beaches and limiting car access on the congested streets of Old San Juan.
As he has campaigned, Thomas has not shied away from controversy. He was arrested for trespassing on Vieques this summer, and, along with PIP Vice President Fernando Martín, he refused to pay a fine imposed by a United States federal judge. He also created a stir when he addressed the Rotary Club of San Juan recently and spoke only in Spanish, despite the presence of many native English speakers in the audience. "If I were in the United States and addressing someone in the United States," he told the audibly offended group, "I would speak in English."