PDP joins May 1 strike called by Puerto Rico unions

PDP President Héctor Ferrer (Agustín Criollo/CB)

PDP President Héctor Ferrer (Agustín Criollo/CB)

SAN JUAN – The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday urged its mayors, legislators and municipal presidents to join the island-wide strike convened for May 1 to demonstrate their rejection of the fiscal and labor policies of the Gov. Ricardo Rosselló administration and the fiscal control board.

The so-called National Strike has been promoted by Puerto Rico’s main unions, as well as by multisector organizations and University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students.

“The people must unite to make their voice heard and confront this administration’s abuse against workers, against students and against the most vulnerable sectors,” PDP President Héctor Ferrer said.

The party leader also urged every “good Puerto Rican” to join the massive demonstration against the government’s actions.

“It is time for all Puerto Ricans, outside party lines, to assume our responsibility for the future of our country and to unite in defense of the rights of our public employees and of all groups that have expressed themselves against this government’s austerity measures,” Ferrer said in his written statement.

“We cannot allow the leadership of the NPP [New Progressive Party] to impose its criteria at the expense of Puerto Ricans’ pockets, much less undermine the rights acquired by workers,” he added.

The minority party leader maintained that all the measures proposed by the government and the fiscal board prioritize paying the public debt before meeting the “real needs” of Puerto Ricans. “We must go out together and defend our rights,” he said.

PDP leadership’s struggle continues

SAN JUAN – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Luis Raúl Torres has reacted to House Minority Whip Rafael “Tatito” Hernández’s remarks in the party’s general assembly Sunday, in which the latter questioned his colleagues’ loyalty.

During the assembly, Hernández declared that “whoever abandons their colleagues during battle is not a PDP supporter.” Torres, however, disagreed with the statement, but said he felt at ease

“I regret  the colleague made some outlandish, unwarranted expressions that instead of promoting unity within the Popular [Democratic] Party, he is promoting disunity, and I wish him the best in his efforts as a legislator,” Torres said in a WKAQ 580 radio interview.

Hernández’s statement prompted Reps. Luis Vega Ramos and Manuel Natal Albelo to join Torres and abandon the House caucus. Torres explained that the legislators left the PDP caucus because they believe the minority whip’s “attack” was against sovereignty supporters.

Torres proceeded to request PDP President Héctor Ferrer to make a public statement on his position regarding the conflict. During the meetings, Ferrer reiterated his call for unity and to creating a broad alliance among party leaders.

In an interview with the aforementioned radio station, Hernández reaffirmed his statement at the general assembly, which was held in Carolina’s Guillermo Angulo Coliseum to decide the party’s official stance regarding the June 11 political-status referendum.


“Any elected official who weakens the Popular [Democratic] Party, whether from the right, left or center during battle must be repudiated and signaled out. I sent a clear message at the Popular Party’s main forum, in which Luis Raúl Torres abandoned the PDP delegation in the House and betrayed that delegation,” he denounced.

Hernández announced that the party’s House caucus will meet Monday to address its differences. “We need loyal [sovereignty supporters], loyal from the right, loyal autonomists, loyalists from the center, how the Popular Party worked  and was established in 1938 when it made a pact of social justice to work for the benefit of all Puerto Ricans,” the representative said.

Meanwhile, the PDP president warned party representatives that they must resolve their differences within 48 hours, stressing that there are personal conflicts in the delegation stirred by hatred.

“I am not a babysitter nor a schoolteacher making sure children are behaving. You are adults, elected officials, leaders of the Popular Party. I spoke with Minority Whip ‘Tatito’ Hernández yesterday and I gave him 48 hours to address the issue and solve it. If they haven’t fixed that situation in the next 48 hours, I will intervene as president,” Ferrer said.

PDP House Minority Leader Rafael "Tatito" Hernández. (File Photo)

PDP House Minority Leader Rafael “Tatito” Hernández. (File Photo)


PDP Approves Status Referendum Boycott

SAN JUAN — The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) General Assembly approved to boycott the June 11 political-status plebiscite, days after the party’s Governing Board made the recommendation.

Although the minimum necessary quorum was about 2,040 out of the party’s 5,000 delegates, sources from the presidential board informed they had registered 911 delegates. Despite this low attendance, PDP Secretary-General Carlos Delgado Altieri certified the quorum.

Prior to approving the boycott, PDP President Héctor Ferrer scrutinized the plebiscitary process endorsed by the New Progressive Party (NPP), stressing that it eliminates the right to question results if there were differences between the number of voters and electoral lists.

PDP president Héctor Ferrer denounced the status referendum as a "rigged" process designed to create a "fictitious majority" for statehood. (Felipe Torres/CB)

PDP president Héctor Ferrer denounced the status referendum as a “rigged” process designed to create a “fictitious majority” for statehood.
(Felipe Torres/CB)

After the meeting concluded, Ferrer told Caribbean Business that it wasn’t necessary to ask the assembly to demand the inclusion of the Commonwealth in the ballot because the boycott had been approved. “Because the boycott was approved, it would be academic to ask to include the Commonwealth,” he stated, adding that PDP will hold an active boycott campaign.

In the resolution approved by the assembly, PDP organizations, such as the Puerto Rico Mayors Association, were instructed to campaign against the status referendum due to procedural differences with the Immediate Decolonization Act, which established the plebiscite, and because it doesn’t represent PDP ideology, they said.

During his message, Ferrer read the definitions included in the referendum and asked the people present if any of those represented their ideology, to which the majority of the delegates replied no. However, when he read the definition for “free association,” three people supported the explanation, including political commentator Nestor Duprey.

After the assembly, San Juan mayor and PDP vice president, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, defended the option for free association, and warned her party’s leadership that it must be inclusive if it wants votes from other sectors in the general elections. “The PDP must achieve internal alliances in order to form alliances with sectors outside the Party,” she said. However, the general assembly didn’t address the issue concerning the Commonwealth as a territorial status, as defined by Congress and the federal Promesa law, and free association.

In that sense, Cruz Soto said the PDP’s official stance is to have a political relation with the United States outside the non-colonial, territorial clause. “I am a sovereigntist and I am a member of the Popular [Democratic] Party,” she affirmed.

PDP leader: Commonwealth is superior to statehood

The PDP has staunchly opposed the status referendum since its consideration in the Legislative assembly, because they argued the process is “rigged” to favor statehood and it allegedly excluded “hundreds of thousands” of voters who aligned neither with annexation to the United States or independence, which was the other status option considered in the ballot design.

After party leaders like former governors Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Rafael Hernández Colón lobbied in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Justice Department addressed a letter to the local government in which they stressed that the language included in the act was not compliant to U.S. public policy, and instructed the administration to include the Commonwealth as a viable status option in the ballot.

This, in turn alienated the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) because they argued that including that territorial option detracts the plebiscite’s original intention, which is to decolonize the island, whether through statehood or independence. Thus, the NPP is the only party left that supports the plebiscite, and must place its efforts toward campaigning for statehood while encouraging voters to participate in the national referendum while commonwealth and independence supporters alike condemn the process.

Jaime Perelló Attends General Assembly

Former House Speaker Jaime Perelló participated in the assembly from the presidential stand. Ferrer acknowledged that he couldn’t deny the former legislator’s right to participate because he hadn’t been formally accused of any crime.

Surrounded by members of the media, Perelló said he was calm and that “the Puerto Rican people have been with me throughout this process, which has been a siege. I am confident that I will be vindicated in this process.”

Perelló was forced to resign from his role as House speaker last year after he was linked to former PDP fundraiser Anaudi Hernández, who was convicted for a fraud scheme involving irregular contracts and recruitments in different government agencies, from both the Executive and Legislative chambers. Although no accusation was presented against him, then PDP president and gubernatorial candidate David Bernier demanded his resignation in an effort to amend the party’s image ahead of the general elections.

PDP to boycott status referendum

SAN JUAN – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Héctor Ferrer announced Wednesday evening that the party will boycott the June 11 political status referendum.

The decision was approved unanimously by members of the PDP Governing Board after a three-hour meeting at party headquarters in Puerta de Tierra, San Juan.

After the meeting, Ferrer said the approved resolution “is to recommend the assembly to approve it and to urge, educate, and request PDP supporters–its leadership and the people of Puerto Rico–to boycott and not participate in a rigged referendum, and we encourage active campaigning to that effect.”

In addition, the party board requested PDP Elections Commissioner Miguel Ríos to present a report that details party officials’ responsibilities in the State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish acronym).

The petition is intended for the PDP president to be able to issue a mandate that those officials not participate in any process aimed at enabling the approved referendum.

Ferrer explained that the measure would ensure that “if we boycott the process, it be done completely.”

With the PDP’s decision to boycott the vote, the New Progressive Party (NPP) is the vote’s only willing participant because the Puerto Rican Party (PIP) and pro-sovereignty groups such as ALAS, headed by former PDP Sen. José Ortiz Daliot, announced they would not participate in the referendum.

The PDP Governing Board’s decision will be put up for vote before the 5,000 party delegates in the General Assembly, and Ferrer is confident it will be approved. The decision to boycott the plebiscite was approved after the NPP didn’t include the commonwealth as a status option in the ballot.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions questioned the language in the Immediate Decolonization Act, which established the referendum, and demanded the commonwealth status option be included along the options for statehood and free association/independence.

After Gov. Ricardo Rosselló‘s administration accepted the attorney general’s request, pro-independence and -sovereignty sectors decided to not participation in the process because they believe it would no longer be a decolonizing process.

PDP: US senators side with party on Puerto Rico status referendum

SAN JUAN – The president of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), Héctor Ferrer, welcomed a letter signed by eight U.S. senators in which they say the June 11 Puerto Rico status referendum is unconstitutional and say commonwealth is a viable option.

“What’s happening with the letter sent by eight senators, which includes the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who determines the money [U.S. funds for the referendum], [and] who is not only telling the secretary of Justice not to give the money, but that the plebiscite ballot does not comply with the Constitution, laws, norms, nor public policy of the United States. It is a fatal blow to the plebiscite and the result of the plebiscite,” he said in a WKAQ 580 radio interview.

PDP President Héctor Ferrer is confident that the U.S. Justice Department will declare the June 11 political-status referendum as unconstitutional. (File Photo)

PDP President Héctor Ferrer (File Photo)

In February, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request an evaluation of the status options included in the ballot, “statehood” and “free association / independence,” and to request$2.5 million set aside by the administration of President Obama to finance the plebiscite. New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders, who drafted the Immediate Decolonization Act, said the referendum will be held even without the federal funds.

Ferrer said the eight senators make up 10 percent of the body and raise a similar arguement to that of the PDP’s over the past few weeks, that the process is rigged, anti-democratic and infringes on the rights of thousands of Puerto Ricans. The PDP’s president said he cannot advance what the party will do.

“I’ve been listening to the party leadership. What I’ve done is give that discussion some room. I have spoken with the mayors, with the legislators, with people within the party, always listening to them, allowing that conversation to go on ahead of the assembly,” he said.

Called Out for Endorsing Colonialism

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Juan Dalmau said the PDP has no reason to celebrate.

Whoever celebrates that letter is like the slave who dances to the sound of his chains. Frankly, and paraphrasing the Letter to the Philippians in Bible teaching, “their god is the colony and they are proud of things that should embarrass them. Their colonial vocation and obsession cloud their understanding,” he said in a Radio Isla 1320 interview.

Dalmau said two senators who signed the letter voted in favor of the fiscal control board, which has been criticized and condemned by the PDP itself.

“Now they are celebrating that those same congressmen are demanding to include the colony, which allows them to legislate unilaterally over Puerto Rico by imposing a fiscal control board, affecting pensioners, affecting the University of Puerto Rico, affecting the country’s public and private sector working classes, affecting the healthcare system. What those congressmen who wrote that letter are doing is reiterating and reclaiming the authority they believe they should have over Puerto Rico,” he denounced.

Dalmau added that the PDP should have reacted differently to the letter.

“What the leadership of the Popular [Democratic] Party should have done is, upon receipt of that letter, express repudiation, denunciation, indignation and head what… is attainable as a political mechanism to face that colonial regime that allows that kind of humiliation,” he said.


No consensus among PDP leaders ahead of status referendum

SAN JUAN – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Héctor Ferrer stirred controversy after he urged party voters to write “no” on the June 11 political-status plebiscite instead of selecting “statehood” or “free association/independence.”

PDP Rep. Luis Vega Ramos believes that, rather than nulling the ballot or boycotting the referendum, the best way to defeat statehood is by voting for the “free association/independence” option.

“I don’t think it would be right to damage the ballot as Ferrer has suggested, because that ballot wouldn’t count. The most effective way is to vote massively under the circle [for free association/independence],” the legislator said, adding that during the party’s April 23 general assembly, he will urge PDP delegates to vote for that option.

PDP Rep. Luis Vega Ramos scrutinized Ricardo Rosselló and the NPP for their ties to the accused former UPR rectors. (Inter News Service)

PDP Rep. Luis Vega Ramos (File)

During a Tuesday press conference, former PDP Presidents Héctor Luis Acevedo and Victoria Muñoz Mendoza said the party must work to include the commonwealth option in the plebiscite.

Acevedo said that by excluding the commonwealth, the NPP intends to create a false majority for statehood, “and that is an assault against democracy and we can’t remain silent.”

Prof. Ángel Rosa, a former PDP senator, urged voters to boycott the referendum, arguing that writing “no” to protest the referendum is an ineffective strategy. He said polls suggest that if PDP supporters had to vote between statehood or independence, they would choose statehood three to one to keep their U.S. citizenship and continue the permanent union.

See also: Ángel Rosa Urges PDP Supporters to Boycott Status Referendum

Likewise, PDP Mayor Miguel “Papín” Ortiz decided that he won’t vote because he believes it is a better tactic to oppose the referendum, confident there will be more voters boycotting it than voting for either statehood or free association/independence.

“When people see independence and statehood [on the ballot], a high percentage of Popular [Democratic] Party voters may lean toward statehood. The goal is not to lead them there. The Popular Party is excluded, the Popular Party philosophy isn’t there. We aren’t pro-independence, we don’t want separation from the United States, nor do we want to annex as a state. Therefore, PDP voters aren’t included in the referendum,” he said in a radio interview (WKAQ 580).

Muñoz Mendoza, meanwhile, assured that “not voting isn’t an option because it would represent a false majority before Congress if statehood prevails.”

‘Contradiction’ in the PDP

Meanwhile, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, who is pro-statehood, said there is a “regrettable” contradiction in the PDP’s discourse because one faction seeks parity in federal funds, while another rejects it.

“What is on the line in June 11 are only two columns, one is independence and the other is statehood. Voting ‘no’ or damaging the ballot with a ‘no,’ or leaving it blank, and to a certain extent, not voting, means that we don’t want those federal funds. People have to understand its impact,” the resident commissioner said in Radio Isla 1320 interview.

González added that “while one is fighting and literally begging for funds, and asking and clamoring by using every mechanism available, on the other hand you have the PDP leadership telling people to reject those funds.”


PDP urges voters to ‘damage’ status referendum ballots

SAN JUAN – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Héctor Ferrer will recommend his party to vote in the June 11 political-status plebiscite, but write “no” on the ballot, which would technically invalidate it.

Ferrer said the PDP aims to stir opposition to defeat statehood in the referendum. His proposal, to be presented in the party’s April 23 general assembly, will request its delegates to write “no” instead of selecting one of the proposed status options, “statehood” or “free association/independence.”

Foreseeing that possibility, the Legislative Assembly, with its New Progressive Party (NPP) majority, approved legislation to exclude ballots left blank or considered “damaged” from the final count.

Héctor Ferrer (File Photo)

PDP President Héctor Ferrer. (File Photo)

Elections experts said that with its strategy, the PDP is seeking high electoral participation to reveal a significant number of voters against statehood.

Although Ferrer didn’t deny it, the PDP’s ideological definition will be addressed after the referendum, which is typical of the party whose definition of a “developed” commonwealth had been thought of since 1952, when that political relation with the United States was approved.

“I began a dialogue with the party’s different structures, the different organisms, to listen to them, and reach a determination,” Ferrer said as he affirmed there is consensus in the PDP that the entire plebiscitary process is designed to provide statehood a “false” and “deceitful” victory.

“The Popular [Democratic] Party’s purpose must be to defeat [statehood], as I have said before,” the Ferrer said, abstaining from revealing his recommendation to his delegates during the assembly. He said his strategy will be to unite PDP supporters and those who oppose statehood.


However, other sources inside the party said that although voters will be told to write “no” on the ballot, they may vote for free association if they please.

PDP Vice President and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz vouches for plurality in the PDP’s general thinking as well as alternatives to defeat statehood.

Ángel Rosa Urges PDP Supporters to Boycott Status Referendum

“The PDP, in my opinion, should allow – in accepting the plurality of thinking that we have already accepted without any kind of cover-up – the expression of all those aspects … (From) those of us who believe in free association and want to check that box [independence / free association]; those who make another type of manifestation and are stopping statehood should also be allowed,” Cruz Soto said while indicating that the goal is to achieve a front against statehood.

“The call for PDP voters is to stand in defense of Puerto Rican-hood, and statehood is precisely the denial of the nation we are,” the PDP leader said.

However, other party leaders, such as José Alfredo Hernández, believe that urging voters to pick free association could favor statehood. They argue that voting for that political status tends to generate votes in favor of annexation, regardless of the campaign, because PDP voters tend to value the island’s relation to the United States.

Meanwhile, former PDP Sen. Ángel Rosa urged PDP affiliates to boycott the plebiscite, arguing that the NPP intends to weaken the PDP by increasing ideological “irreconcilability” within the party, which would be made more evident through divisive efforts to tackle the referendum.


PDP President Insists Party Needs Discipline

PDP President Héctor Ferrer (Agustín Criollo/CB)

PDP President Héctor Ferrer (Agustín Criollo/CB)

SAN JUAN – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Héctor Ferrer emphasized Monday that party members must abide by the party’s regulations and have discipline.

Ferrer was reacting to Hormigueros Mayor Pedro García‘s announcement that he would vote for sovereignty while at an event he held with PDP Rep. Manuel Natal, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Juan Dalmau, and former independent gubernatorial candidate Alexandra Lúgaro, all of whom have joined forces in favor of the “free association/independence” option in the June 11 political-status plebiscite, in which voters must choose between sovereignty or statehood.

“No party, no organization, and no individual in their personal character will tell the PDP what to do. This is a party, there is a governing board and there is a president here that is following the strategy outlined by the governing board and the party itself,” the PDP leader declared in a Radio Isla 1320 interview.

Ferrer emphasized that whoever isn’t abiding the party’s processes is acting in their personal character and outside party lines.

“In order to participate in any entity, one has to uphold the party’s discipline. I have my position on what we should do, how we should do it and when we should do it, but I am the first person who must abide by the party’s regulations because I am its president,” he said.

Ferrer, who also ran for resident commissioner in the Nov. 8 general elections but lost to Jenniffer González, said he spoke with the Hormigueros mayor Monday morning, but didn’t provide details about their conversation. He also avoided commenting on possible disciplinary actions against those who don’t follow party guidelines.

In the meantime, García reiterated his comments at the event and explained that he held the forum to provide education on sovereignty alternatives.

“It was an educational forum to [explain] what independence is, what sovereignty is, what free association is. Obviously, I’m with the sovereign ELA [Spanish acronym for free-associated state, or commonwealth], outside the territorial clause… I welcomed the hundreds of Puerto Ricans who showed up with lots of enthusiasm,” he stated.

The Hormigueros mayor was clear about his participation in the PDP’s upcoming general assembly.


PDP continues efforts in Washington against status referendum

“I will request a turn and I will speak in favor of our participation [in the status plebiscite], for PDP voters to participate, to not leave that window open for the NPP [New Progressive Party] so it can win a rigged referendum, a trick plebiscite. The strength of all the political parties is needed to win,” he said.

For his part, former PDP senator and political analyst Ángel Rosa stressed that the party’s lack of leadership has been a key factor of the delicate situation it is in.

“Beyond what Pedro [García] may think and what has always been his political status ideals, this is what will continue happening in the PDP as long as there isn’t a clear leadership position. Every day there will be new leaders who will hold onto the cause for sovereignty/independence, or some will vote in favor of statehood to defend the issue that only sovereignists can clarify, which is what is the future of U.S. citizenship when born in Puerto Rico under sovereignty. The most they can say is it is a matter of negotiation,” he said in a WKAQ 580 radio interview.

Rosa, who is also a university professor, maintained that the PDP lacks discipline and that its administration is more concerned with determining who will be its next gubernatorial candidate than the party’s ideological future.


PDP continues efforts in Washington against status referendum

PDP president Héctor Ferrer accused the chief executive of placing the financial oversight board's interests above public interest. (Felipe Torres/CB)

PDP President Héctor Ferrer. (Felipe Torres/CB)

SAN JUAN – The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) is still conducting its efforts in Washington, D.C. to deter the June 11 Puerto Rico political-status plebiscite proposed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló‘s administration.

PDP President Héctor Ferrer seeks to hold a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions or his representatives to present a letter that outlines his party’s opposition to the plebiscite, arguing the referendum is rigged to result in an “artificial” majority for statehood.

“This week Héctor [Ferrer] intends to present a letter to the attorney general and one of his staffers, expressing our concern over this referendum,” stated Isabela Mayor and PDP Secretary-General Charlie Delgado Altieri.

The PDP aims to question the plebiscite’s legality because it doesn’t include the “Free Associated State,” or Commonwealth, as one of the eligible status options.

Advocates of the status referendum, led by the governor and Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz -who authored the bill that established the plebiscite-excluded the commonwealth option after Congress left no doubt about the territorial nature of that political status.

Last weekend, the PDP president said he will convene a general assembly on April 23 to decide the party’s next move on the proposed plebiscite.

Ferrer argued that the PDP is the “largest political alliance” in Puerto Rico, comprising voters who are neither pro-independence nor pro-statehood, and it is therefore unnecessary to define its ideological position ahead of the status referendum. Ferrer isn’t auhtorizing any party, organization or individual to represent the PDP’s position in the plebiscite, including party leaders such as Rep. Manuel Natal and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto.

The status referendum could potentially divide the PDP as things are.

The Immediate Decolonization Act states that the U.S. attorney general has until April 16 to report whether he approves of the plan proposed by Rosselló to hold the referendum; failure to do so will be seen as acceptance.


Héctor Ferrer says former Sen. Maritere González’s case should serve as example


Sen. Mari Tere González

Former Sen. Mari Tere González (File)

SAN JUAN – The president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Héctor Ferrer, said Tuesday that the outcome of the judicial process begun against former Sen. Mari Tere González should serve as a precautionary note for anyone who tries to abuse the people of Puerto Rico’s trust in its elected officials.

He argued that the country expects more from elected officials and that it is up to them to restore people’s confidence in their institutions.

“I have always firmly believed that laws should apply to all equally, without distinction. Being in positions of public responsibility, we must measure ourselves and act according to a higher bar. The Popular Democratic Party has to be a reflection, today and in the future, of those values,” the party leader said in written statement.

He maintained that the legal process against González must continue its course and that the presumption of innocence and the procedural guarantees of the penal system will protect her rights as a citizen.

Judge Geisha Marrero, of the Court of First Instance in San Juan, found Monday cause for arrest against González, who was charged with 13 criminal counts by the Independent Special Prosecutor’s Office.

The charges were filed by two special prosecutors. The crimes attributed to the former senator are four of perjury, four for ideological falsification, possession and transfer of forged documents and one charge for violation of the Government Ethics Act. The bail was set at $65,000, $5,000 for each charge, which she paid.

The charges were filed by prosecutors Ramón Mendoza and Leticia Pabón. The preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 20.