Rosselló, Pierluisi Cast their Votes in Puerto Rico Primaries
SAN JUAN – Ricardo Rosselló and Pedro Pierluisi, who are vying to become the New Progressive Party’s (NPP) gubernatorial candidate in Puerto Rico’s primaries, exercised their right to vote Sunday.
“We are confident we will prevail today,” Rosselló said during a brief press conference before entering Caparra’s Academia San José polling school. “We can change the course Puerto Rico is on, and that is a responsibility I am ready to take on,” he added.
When asked by the press about his position in polls that peg him as the most vulnerable candidate in a general election facing the Popular Democratic Party’s David Bernier, he responded: “We have seen in all sorts of polls that we are going to win the general election–that we have a comfortable lead in primaries and the general election.”
Rosselló was dismissive of remarks by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s camp that he was the best candidate to represent the NPP. “That is the strategy they have chosen; I remain positive and firm in a strategy that I commenced long ago to build a new Puerto Rico.”
“We are ready to welcome all of our NPP supporters with open arms,” said Pierluisi, who voted at the Luchetti School in Condado. “I expect to come out victorious, and tonight we begin the work of bringing all of the NPP together en route to a solid victory in November,” he added.
The week prior to the primary, as Pierluisi was in Congress helping to build consensus behind the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa), Rosselló was out on the campaign trail criticizing the resident commissioner for flip-flopping on the bill that would establish a federal fiscal-control board as well as provisions for debt restructuring.
“At first he was against it, saying that he would never support Promesa in its original form,” Rosselló told Caribbean Business during an interview that took place last week. “I have been against pushing for a structure—I’m the only one who has opposed Chapter 9 and Super Chapter 9 like restructuring for Puerto Rico from day one because I think that if you are going to sit at the table in good faith negotiations, [why would you] then jump on a plane and go to Washington, D.C., to ask for instruments precisely not to pay.”
Although Rosselló has been very vocal in his opposition to Promesa, as statehooders, he and Pierluisi concur that Puerto Rico’s territorial status will put Puerto Rico’s next governor in the unenviable position of having to report to an oversight board.
“We have thought about this. Being a territory and a colony, unfortunately we don’t have much say in this,” Rosselló said. “We have a strategy to push forward—short term, medium term and long term. Short term, as soon as I’m elected governor, I am going to execute a strategy with the bondholders. You know that you have 18 different creditors and I believe that putting them all into one big umbrella is a big mistake. You have hierarchies, you have different conditions—some are revenue-pledged bonds, others are not. I have a plan to sit at the table with them and achieve the best solution for Puerto Rico. The plan has several simple steps—step No. 1, produce the audited statements, no matter how bad they are and be transparent with the creditors.”
Pierluisi insists that negotiations in achieving consensus in a very divisive Congress are more complex than people understand. “This has been a moving target, so to start quoting me at different times is not right—back then when it was a fiscal control board on steroids without anything else, I came out against it,” Pierluisi told Caribbean Business in reference to his quotes against Promesa in the investigative magazine Mother Jones. “When it was first circulated as a draft I was against it, but this has been evolving. Right now, the legislation that we have is the best that we can put forward. Promesa in its current form is the result of an agreement between House Speaker Paul Ryan, [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and Treasury officials. I can understand those who criticize it from their particular angle.”
Should he prevail in the June 5 contest, Pierluisi said he has no qualms about governing with the board in place. “It is time that people accept that as a colony, as a territory, we are subject to the plenary powers of Congress,” Pierluisi told Caribbean Business. “I am going to be fine with it [the board]; the same way that I get along with White House officials, congressional officials and fund managers. That is going to be the case with Promesa’s board members. I can guarantee that I will have an excellent relationship with the board when the time comes. And I will do what has to be done as governor—that has not changed with Promesa. I will have to come up with a good fiscal plan, I will have to come up with a balanced budget and I will have to make certain that our spending falls in line with our budgets. That is the role of a governor,” he said.
Dennis Costa contributed to this report.