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Peace And Harmony?


January 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The overall theme that dominated the swearing-in ceremony of Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá last week was "peace and harmony." The event appeared to be more of a political rally than a gubernatorial inauguration ceremony, with party members distributing white flags bearing the words "peace and harmony" to those who attended. The new governor’s speech, at times, however, sounded not so much conciliatory as a call to battle.

The inauguration ceremony held at the Luis Muñoz Rivera Park in Puerta de Tierra, away from the Capitol Building, the site where gubernatorial swearing-in ceremonies are traditionally held, but now in the hands of the New Progressive Party (NPP) majority, in itself seemed symbolic of the division in Puerto Rico’s new government.

The battle lines for the next four years have been drawn. With Acevedo Vilá having won by such a slim margin (less than two-tenths of 1% of nearly 2 million votes) and his need to plead for votes from Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) followers and nonaligned, independent voters, the NPP has given the governor’s victory little credibility or weight. NPP party leaders state their party’s overwhelming victory in the Legislature, winning the resident commissioner post and most of the island’s municipalities, is evidence voters were in reality in favor of the NPP platform.

But, just whose mandate is it anyway? Did Puerto Rico’s electorate vote for the PDP or the NPP?

Regardless of political parties, the people of Puerto Rico voted for an administration that will, among other things, reduce the island’s high crime rate, stimulate economic growth, lower unemployment, tame the bureaucratic spending beast that the government has become, reduce the deficit, reform the tax system, improve the quality of both education and healthcare, provide every community with access to water and electricity, and improve our roads and highways. Puerto Rico’s private sector voted for an administration that will improve its permit-issuing process and reduce both bureaucratic delays and the cost of doing business on the island.

What Puerto Rico clearly didn’t vote for was four more years of political battles and persecution that will in no way benefit the island’s economy nor improve our relationship with Washington, D.C. The Sila Calderón administration left local taxpayers with a deficit estimated at between $500 million and $900 million, $17 billion in new debt on top of what she inherited, a bloated government bureaucracy with more than 327,000 employees, and a tax system that begs to be reformed.

Over the past four years, thousands of Puerto Rico residents have migrated to the U.S. mainland in search of employment and a better quality of life for their families. Those of us who have remained demand the same–economic opportunities and a better quality of life.

That is the mandate for Puerto Rico’s new bipartisan government from the island’s electorate. A bipartisan government has been a part of the U.S. mainland for centuries, and it has worked. It isn’t unusual for a Democratic Congress to work with a Republican president, and vice versa.

It is easy to put on a public display calling for "peace and harmony," but it can only be achieved through the mutual respect of every elected official who has been entrusted with the welfare of everyone in Puerto Rico. One thing is clear, Puerto Rico’s voting public will be watching this new government much more closely than it has any other in the past. And, it will pass judgment on this bipartisan government in 2008.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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