June 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
Is the Palm Tree Burning?
Anyone remotely familiar with Puerto Rican politics must view the firefight raging within the sky-blue headquarters of the New Progressive Party (NPP) as baffling. This is not "paintball." This is bloody warfare. The incendiary conflict has pitted former allies against each other, raised petty disagreements to the level of doctrine and called into question the very future of the only political force capable of checking the aspirations of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and its embrace of the political status quo.
Will the flames of this high-octane conflict spread to immolate the structures of the party itself?
The party that last year was well positioned to wrest executive power from the PDP and advance its dream of moving the island towards U.S. statehood, is now still out of La Fortaleza and is using its existing power base in the Puerto Rico Senate and House of Representatives as a boxing ring for individuals to slug each other into submission until there is but one person standing at the top of the NPP hierarchy for the next four years.
Pedro Rosselló, former two-term governor (1992 2000) and current NPP President failed in his attempt to win the governorship in the closest election in sixteen years. In spite of Rossellós rejection by the electorate, Puerto Rico voters gave his party substantial majorities in both houses of the legislature. Puerto Rico, it seemed, found favor in the NPP but not in its long-time icon, Pedro Rosselló.
Then Rosselló, the failed gubernatorial candidate but still NPP party President, strong-armed his way into a Senate seat when a hapless NPP new member from Arecibo "decided" to give up the elected office that he had held for only several months.
Not since 198384, when then second-term NPP Governor Romero Barceló reneged on an agreement to pass up a third term and place the partys hopes on popular San Juan mayor Hernán Padilla, has such disaccord reigned among individuals and factions of the statehood party. In those years, party realists recognized that Barceló, who narrowly won reelection in 1980, was not the strongest candidate to run against PDP stalwart, Rafael Hernández Colón. Barceló, however, put personal ambition before party interests and as NPP President entered the race under the palm tree symbol.
In outrage at the slight, Padilla left the party to launch his own campaign under the banner of the Puerto Rico Renovation Party (PRP), thereby splitting the statehood vote and handing the PDP the governorship for two terms until the reign of Pedro Rosselló began in 1992. It is now Rosselló, whose quest for a position of power that the electorate denied him who is shaking the foundations of the party and threatening to ruin its chances for a return to power in 2008.
The gory details of the current fight remain front-page news in Puerto Rico the personal invective, the party expulsion of Jorge de Castro Font, McClintocks firing of unfriendly Senate committee chairmen, etc. As of this writing, Rosselló has not managed to unseat McClintock as Senate President but he says that he is not yet finished the fight.
Will the NPPs dreadful scenario of 1984 become the script for 2005? Is the New Progressive Party burning?
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