Political events of the past two weeks are reminiscent of Albert Einstein’s statement that, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.”
Pedro Rosselló, the former pro-statehood governor aspiring to reprise, kicked off the religious holidays with his own remake of “The Passion” by equating his present political cul-de-sac to the way of the Cross. His suggested road to Calvary refers to press reports lashing him with his apparently contradictory tax returns during the years after he left office, and with the time spent in tennis tournaments forty years ago miraculously converted to public service for his retirement pension. Although he could shed light on these mysteries, his Jesus-wannabe attitude prefers to characterize the questions raised as “vicious attacks” resembling “a cross we must bear in order to be redeemed.”
The stations of Rosselló’s cross include the burgeoning list of close associates who have been charged or convicted by federal or local authorities of bribery, fraud and other acts of corruption during his incumbency. When suspicions were first brought to his attention, his response was: “Bring me proof!” When charges began to be brought, his reaction was: “Political persecution!” When convictions began to mount, his pose became a parody of a Christ betrayed not by a single Judas but by a list of co-workers that promises to substantially outnumber the 12 apostles: his Secretary of Education, his Ports Authority Director, his Director of the State Insurance Fund, his deputy chief of staff, his personal secretary in the Governor’s Mansion, his campaign director, and his party’s secretary general, among others. And to claim a right of forgiveness for he knew not what they were doing simply crowns his credibility with thorns of painful doubt. To offer neither apologies nor plausible explanations suggests that his inspiration was the more terrestrial paraphrase of Abraham Lincoln attributed in Washington to George W. Bush: “You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”
If he concentrates on foolishness, he would lack the moral and political strength to get the U.S. government’s commitment on status even more than in the 1990s when, with a spotless reputation and a personal friend in the White House, he failed. No wonder a prominent ecologist and statehood advocate recently implored Rosselló to “get out now” in order to keep a vehicle open for those who desire a change in status “above and beyond the local political brawl.” (STAR, April 14)
While the New Progressive Party president seems to think he can pull off a resurrection, sadder but wiser voters must look for an alternative. Staying home is tempting but not constructive. Voting for the Popular Democratic Party candidate is a waste. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá has proved that, as resident commissioner, he can stall any action on status to attempt to prolong the military colony. As governor, if elected, he proposes a referendum next year to determine if Puerto Rico should proceed to solve a status problem he contends does not exist, since Puerto Rico’s status is allegedly non-colonial and non-territorial. His credibility competes with Rosselló’s!
Moreover, his party’s incumbent governor unabashedly announced the use of millions of dollars in public funds for government advertising in violation of Puerto Rico’s election laws, and for a multitudinous entourage to accompany her on an ego-boosting junket to Costa Rica paid with public funds. His dynamic and forceful response was a wimpy promise that he would not to do next year, as governor, what he lacks the courage to prevent his party from doing this year, as president.
Voting for the PDP candidate is stagnation, and voting for the NPP candidate is high risk. No wonder a growing number of PDP voters are also wondering what to do. The leaders of the two colonial parties that have governed Puerto Rico for 20 years each within the past 40 have achieved growing corruption, social deterioration, status inaction, and deflation of public trust. One wonders, in the words of Mark Twain, “whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
The only option seriously worth considering by those who are seriously seeking an option is the Puerto Rican Independence Party’s Rubén Berríos. The PIP proposes electing a permanent body representing status alternatives to colonial commonwealth that would initiate a process for Puerto Rico’s decolonization. Such a mechanism—a constitutional or constituent status assembly—allows everyone the opportunity to vote for the PIP now, without renouncing individual status preferences, to pressure Washington to negotiate. Furthermore, voting for the only political party that has never been tainted with even an accusation of corruption in its 58-year existence allows voters an honorable way out of the dilemma of complicity posed by voting for either of the other two parties that have progressively eroded their legitimacy as governing options. Moreover, a vote for Rubén Berríos is a constructive way to register voters’ righteous discontent with NPP and PDP leaders’ insistence on further demeaning the meaning of democracy, and provides an honest chance to vote against foolishness.