Bernier Takes Over PDP Presidency
“A rey muerto, rey puesto,” which roughly translates as “The king is dead! Long live the king!” seems to be the maxim that prevailed yesterday afternoon at the Popular Democratic Party Central Committee in the Puerto de Tierra sector of San Juan, where David Bernier was presented as the new party president after the official exit of Gov. Alejandro García Padilla from the helm.
It was the first time that Bernier, who is also the party’s candidate for governor in the coming general elections in November, was presented as president before hundreds of the party’s officials and leaders, members of the General Council and the Government Board.
His first message as president of the PDP laid bare the party’s main problem: internal division and a lack of party discipline to make its leaders and members comply with the agreements adopted within the party’s core.
PDP Rep. José Báez, who some weeks ago announced he would not seek a seat for San Juan’s fourth representative district, advised Bernier that he should try to get a specific group of party leaders to comply with the agreements adopted by the party. This group includes San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Reps. Luis Vega Ramos and Luis Raúl Torres.
Báez said he did not believe that Bernier would be able to make this group comply with PDP decisions, because García Padilla himself was unable to do so.
In his first message as PDP president, Bernier spoke about the need for internal unity within the party in order to be in a position that could lead to victory. Bernier warned about the duty of all PDP leaders to uphold party discipline and adhere to the precepts that guide it. He was emphatic before the PDP General Council that includes senators, representatives, mayors and municipal committee presidents, that before calling for unity in Puerto Rico, it was essential to promote internal cohesion within the party.
He added that while there is space for disagreements, it is necessary the PDP leadership respect the norms and the government program adopted for the general elections.
“To achieve the country that we want, we must convince the country that we have to put its trust in us. This trust will happen to the extent that, as an institution, we are willing to use the most eloquent word, which is ‘example.’ This institution has to first unite if we are to unite the country,” he said.
Bernier led his first meeting with the PDP Government Council, a three-hour affair where García Padilla officially handed over power to Bernier.
In his message to the General Council, García Padilla alluded to the differences between PDP leaders, which have intensified during the past four-year term.
“To the populares in this General Council, and the populares who are part of the board, the assembly, and the majority of populares… I ask of you to demand of each PDP leader to close ranks with our president,” García Padilla said, pointing out that what happened to him, when much of the criticism to his administration came from his own party, must be avoided.
As part of the steps that Bernier will take to deal with the factions within the PDP regarding the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status, the Government Board approved a resolution to address the issue. He did not provide details about this initiative but did mention that former Govs. Rafael Hernández Colón and Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, as well as former PDP President Héctor Luis Acevedo will take part in the process. These leaders had already taken part in a similar committee named by García Padilla to deal with the issue, but nothing has come of that effort in the past four years.
At Thursday’s event, Rafael Juarbe was announced as assistant secretary general of the PDP, but the naming of the secretary general was left up in the air. The seat became vacant after the resignation of Jorge Colberg Toro.
Also, aspiring candidates for the position of resident commissioner for the PDP, Sen. Ángel Rosa and former PDP President Héctor Ferrer, appeared alongside Bernier in what is considered an effort to seek a smooth primary process that does not create internal division within the party, affecting efforts by the PDP to win the general elections.
Photo: Gubernatorial hopeful David Bernier