Ferrer, Rosa Debate for PDP Resident Commissioner Ticket
SAN JUAN—Popular Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Héctor Ferrer and Ángel Rosa engaged in a lively and, at times, heated debate Wednesday morning as a preamble to the June 5 PDP primaries for the party’s resident commissioner ticket.
Ferrer, a former three-term PDP representative, and Rosa, a current majority senator, exchanged barbs throughout the hour-long debate aired on AM news radio station WKAQ, with Rosa blaming Ferrer in part for the commonwealth’s $70-billion debt load, mostly the result of various bond issues that were carried out throughout various government administrations.
“As a legislator, you voted in favor of many such bond issues, all the while taking advantage of legislative food stipends and other benefits,” Rosa told Ferrer. “Meanwhile, in the current term, I not only renounced all benefits, I also voted against additional bond issues, at times even going against the party’s consensus.”
While Ferrer acknowledged he voted in favor of some bond issues, particularly during the Sila Calderón administration, said bond issues were used strictly for public work, including the construction of schools, roads and bridges, and not to pay old debt. “You may have a doctorate in economics, as you like to remind everyone constantly, but when it comes to history, you need to go back to school,” he said to Rosa.
Rosa also criticized previous remarks by Ferrer, in which he catalogued PDP gubernatorial candidate David Bernier as “a lightweight” who offers no real substance. “At this juncture, it is not the time to attack members of our own party,” Rosa pointed out. “Instead, we must unite on a common front and contribute to the discussion on how to best improve the situation on the island.”
Rosa sought to paint Ferrer as a “leader of the past” who represents outdated attitudes, while Ferrer highlighted his experience and accused Rosa of having a large ego, particularly with regards to a PDP proposal to impose a debt moratorium in which the commonwealth would postpone payments on the principal and only pay interests.
When Rosa referred to a recent press conference in which Bernier announced the debt moratorium proposal, Ferrer responded “don’t tell me you’re going to take credit for that; we were both at the conference,” he said. “That’s the problem, you think you’re the center of the universe.”
When asked about their views on the position of resident commissioner in Washington, both agreed the seat has remained “decorative” in the sense that it has no true political power in the U.S. Congress. With that in mind, Ferrer has proposed to eliminate the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration office in Washington and consolidate its responsibilities to that of the resident commissioner’s.
“This way, the resident commissioner can provide more attention to municipal affairs, non-profit institutions, transportation, security, energy production and healthcare, including Medicare and Medicaid,” Ferrer said.
Meanwhile, Rosa’s approach would aim more towards fostering economic development by securing federal funding for small and midsize businesses as well as startups, the senator said.
In a similar vein, Ferrer highlighted the need to amend Section 243 of the Federal Internal Revenue Code, so that foreign companies with operations on the island are able to distribute their profits to their parent companies in the United States.
Despite undergoing treatments after being diagnosed with cancer, Ferrer has persisted in his political bid. It would mark only the third time in the PDP’s 77-year history that a primary has been held for the resident commissioner’s chair. When asked whether Ferrer’s health would be an obstacle for Ferrer to carry out his responsibilities if elected, both pre-candidates said no.