NPP Secretary General Offers his 2 Cents on Political Climate
SAN JUAN – As we get deeper into the electoral year and campaigns intensify their efforts, Caribbean Business spoke with New Progressive Party (NPP) Secretary General José Aponte about various issues of the political scene. His party is facing internal primaries for the gubernatorial candidacy, and the tone has been amplified with regard to how funds are being raised.
“The party is looking to – instructed by its president, Pedro Pierluisi – to maintain a certain level in its communications, but there’s reality and then there’s reality, and there have been people that at a given moment, some issues have come up regarding them or their finances, and they immediately tried to put the responsibility on others, in this case of Ricky’s [Ricardo Rosselló’s] and Pierluisi’s campaigns, and then some public observations along the same lines arise and they try to say it is other people; however, members of Pierluisi’s campaign have expressed the fact that they have created electronic accounts that are not theirs to get information. This dynamic draws attention.
“I have not seen the president of the party, resident commissioner of Puerto Rico in Washington and candidate for governor Pedro Pierluisi, make any remarks about Ricky’s campaign, and I would call for maintaining an appropriate level on their part.”
Aponte also had words for the incumbent Popular Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate, David Bernier:
“He tries to distance himself from [Gov. Alejandro] García Padilla’s administration, but he has been an integral part of the economic, tax and fiscal debacle of the government of Puerto Rico during these three years of this administration. Various tax laws that have been costly for the people of Puerto Rico, he signed as interim governor. So in some way, he is feeling the reality that he is part of this administration, that he has some responsibility for the cost to citizens’ pockets and has to demonstrate that he has his own criteria some way, when he himself pointed out when departing as secretary of state, regarding allegations from the opposition, that he did not take part in meetings where he did not have an opinion. Thus, he demonstrated he was not a leader. When you see that your leader makes a wrong decision, you make your voice heard so that later you don’t not have to say, ‘They did not let me talk.’”
Aponte, who is also former speaker of the House of Representatives, referred to Gov. Alejandro García Padilla as “alienated from reality,” when referring to his last State of the Commonwealth address.
“In general terms, it was a kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ I’m not sure the governor is aware of what is going on in Puerto Rico after the decisions to increase and add new taxes and what that has meant for citizens and for all of Puerto Rico’s economic sectors. Businesspeople who used to have very little now have nothing and those who had a little now have a little bit. In this dynamic, the governor either lives estranged from reality or his advisers keep deceiving him.”
Aponte pointed out that the solution found by many Puerto Ricans has been to leave the island.
“How are they solving the need for better quality of life? How are they solving having to find a job opportunity? Buying a one-way airplane ticket. Where to? To the republics of Central and South America? No. Some 98% of the the island’s residents who are leaving the island, not to visit but in search of alternatives, are settling in one of the 50 states.”
Regarding efforts to revive tax reform, Aponte said, “He [the governor] talks about a tax reform that will not help the people in any way. He talks about some taxes while proposing a higher IVU [Spanish acronym for sales and use tax] called IVA [Spanish acronym for value-added tax]. Meanwhile, he calls those who did not support his so-called tax reform ‘dissidents’ and ‘traitors,’ and now threatened that they will have to face the people and that he will campaign to let people know who they are. It is a clear, unvarnished threat so they feel coerced.
“What we are talking about is there are close to 90 new taxes or increases to existing taxes and he talks about eliminating the income tax and talks about eliminating the B-to-B [business-to-business] tax. Well, what about the other 89 taxes? Where is the value in lowering taxes if everything else he has done is strangling the people of Puerto Rico?”
Finally, regarding the presidential primaries to be held locally Sunday, he said he would take part in the process but made clear he is no longer a Republican Party delegate.
“If I go to the ballot box, I invite all those who identify with the Republican Party to also go. I do not identify with Donald Trump’s campaign or candidacy. I think it does not benefit Puerto Rico. Trump’s expressions do not satisfy me.
“On the other hand, one would have to take a look at Marco Rubio’s participation and aspirations, but I am not blind and there has to be a direct, clear and unequivocal commitment when it comes to solving Puerto Rico’s colonial issue from Rubio’s behalf as well.”