June 4, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
This Is the Week That Was
Let us review the week that was!
It began with yet another Boricua, the beauteous Cynthia Olavarria, 2005s Miss Puerto Rico, placing second in the Miss Universe contest held in Bangkok. It is a safe bet that every island TV set switched on Monday night transmitted images of svelte contestants frolicking among the countrys archeological treasures, and later showcasing their intelligence, poise and pulchritude.
Any disappointment felt that Cynthia was not the overall winner was ameliorated by her finishing first among the four runners-up, all women from Latin America. The winner, Natalie Glebova of Canada, is an émigré to that country from Russia. Ms. Olavarria will serve as her alternate for the year leading up to the next contest, assuring that the face of Puerto Rico seen internationally will be an appealing one.
That same Monday began with Memorial Day observances throughout the nation, honoring American men and women in uniform, especially those whose lives were lost in defense of the stars and stripes. On the island, the military cemetery in Bayamon became the venue for honoring the more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans that have worn the uniform of the United States in its many conflicts and for the 2000-plus of that number who were killed in combat. The recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan has claimed 32 more Puerto Rican lives, two of them women.
Expressions of relief were registered at the ceremony that Ft. Buchanan had been spared from the Pentagons impending base cutting spree, but bitter memories still linger of the closing of the Navys training facilities on Vieques and the subsequent shuttering of activities at Roosevelt Roads that has cost the island thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Follow-up reporting during the week of Puerto Ricos downgrading in the worlds credit markets reminded islanders that investors are weighing the advisability of holding Puerto Rico bonds in their portfolios. Many corporate pension funds are not permitted to hold risky financial instruments and, although Puerto Rico issuances have not yet reached "junk bond" status, some analysts think that they are getting close. Difficulty can be foreseen in the governments attempt to produce short-term cash infusions at reasonable rates.
In an article circulated in The Bond Buyer, Tim Blake, an analyst for Moodys Investment Service, said Puerto Ricos "financial results for the last year have been much more negative than expected." He pointed out that Moodys downgrade of the Commonwealths credit ratings is the first in 25 years and resulted from its fiscal policies over the past two years. He further said that island officials were aware of what was needed to turn around the serious financial situation but, "Whether they will be able to do this we will have to see."
While this news was wafting over the heads of the islands residents, the months-long struggle for control of the Puerto Rico Senate moved from intrigue to revolution. The unseemly power grab by New Progressive Party (NPP) Senator Pedro Rosselló to replace Senator Kenneth McClintock as the Senate President morphed into an angry shout-fest on Tuesday with supporters for both men but mostly partisans of Rosselló bringing the chambers business to a halt.
Such has been the Machiavellian maneuvering and acrimonious verbal attacks between the two that it seems impossible that any unity could eventually return to that majority partys delegation. Rosselló has obtained the support of a majority of the NPP Senate delegation but it is not enough to bring off the legislative coupe detat he envisions. McClintock says that he is determined to stay in the Senate Presidents office for the entire four-year term, regardless of threatened sanctions on him, envisioned by the NPP.
The next day, a voice from La Fortaleza was heard.
In a five-minute televised speech, paid for by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá smiled unctuously from the desk of Ponce de Leon, informing each and every Puerto Rican that he would not allow the Senate impasse to deprive him/her from needed services. If necessary, he vowed to use his decree powers to trump the stalled legislature and provide funds from special accounts that he controlled, beginning with public safety and education.
Puerto Rican modern history provides no example of a governors party not being in control of the legislature. The results of last Novembers election indicated that the Puerto Rican electorate wanted just that. One wonders if voters could ever have imagined the present situation, wherein five months into the new government, the legislature would be in gridlock and the Governor was considering dictator-like solutions.
Perhaps the most ludicrous of all of the Governors initiatives was his plan to create a committee of citizens to serve as mediators between La Fortaleza and El Capitolio in the budget battle. It is doubtful that they will be able to achieve anything where duly elected office holders have so far failed.
One wag suggested that United Nations peacekeepers might be called in to separate the warring parties.
Most Puerto Ricans are likely to draw their comment about the situation from a line in Shakespeares tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, "A pox on both of your houses.
To sum up the week that was: nobody can be unhappy about Ms. Olavarrias triumph in Bangkok, nobody can be happy about Puerto Ricos budget crisis and dire credit situation, only the PDP can be happy about the NPPs suicidal fight in the Senate and only his staunchest fans can be happy with Gov. Acevedos plan to turn Puerto Ricos democracy into government by executive fiat.
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