Byline; Puerto Rican Elections
Mr. Maldonado as special news editor of The San Juan Star I know you were at the convention where Munoz the governor of Puerto Rico refused to run again I wonder if you could tell us why and what happened during those dramatic days. Well yes I was at the convention and certainly it was quite dramatic. Some of us believe it's perhaps the most dramatic and decisive moment in the history of Puerto Rican politics. Munoz. At 66 had been urged by some people not to want to get in. But unfortunately he. Never gave any indication of what he was going to do. His silence was interpreted by most of us most of the observers to mean that he was going to run. Well on August 16th the Popular Party his party held its nominating convention. And up to that moment no one really had an idea what was going to happen. Some of us felt that the only way the governor could retire was by not going
to the convention by going this far away from the site as possible. Certainly the party wanted him to run almost neurotically I would say when you know says you know is extraordinary popular appeal and always strong and his own party. Well. What he had to do actually was to accept to run for the Senate. His idea was to retire completely from politics. He went to the platform announced his retirement but he had to sort of sugarcoat it. He had to insist that he was just returning to the Senate seat where he began his political career. That this was necessary for the following reasons. One that the Popular Party had to demonstrate to
itself that it could win an election it could carry on a program of economic and social reform without him. When you look at the helm it had to deposit the trust that it had placed them when used on itself. The second reason the governor said is that he should retire now and thus ensure that he will not die in office. As you know the governor is the first elected governor of Puerto Rico and Munoz wanted and wants to demonstrate you know just how a change of power should take place. When was he elected. 1048 I was one year after Congress passed a law authorizing Puerto Rico to elect its own governor. Up to that time governors and many of the executive officials were named by the president of the United States. What were the other reasons he gave for not running. The third reason is that the Popular Party which was founded in
1938 is quite frankly getting old just as Munoz's gotten old and there's a new generation some younger popularize that have been left out for so many years and the governor felt that this is the moment to allow them to step in and take real effective control of the party. And that this should be done as orderly and as intelligently as possible. Also there's the key question or the problem of Munoz who was given his life to politics and I know that he would like to write probably his biography he certainly would like to write about what's happened since 1940 the so-called peaceful revolution in Puerto Rico. He also would like the freedom which he doesn't have now as governor to go to the country and as he puts it return to the people return to the bad
day by day is a Spanish word meaning the back yard. This is where he began his political career now and his later years he he wants to return. He nominated the robot relay Yeah he's a 51 year old civil engineer who has been Munoz's right hand man for 20 to 23 years and since 1952 leaves him and Secretary of State which is comparable to Lieutenant Governor. The governor at this time felt there was a man that could replace him outwardly honestly effectively and La Fortaleza. He could do just as good a job. I mean straight of Lee as he when you nose believes he has none. Is the Ford less of the governor's mansion before the lessers a governor's mansion. What mansion is a little little pomp. Pompous perhaps. We don't call a mansion. It's to govern as a residence and
office it is that of what the lessers are actually very scenic. Oh forta dating back I believe to early 19th century. Will Sanchez policies be the same as governing when you else's. Yes Sanchez is what I would call a high party man. He defined them you have to go inside a popular party building. I like when you know shoes are always a part of the party he was he was the party he was more in the party and identity of his own. Sanchez's campaign up to now has been almost limited to the Popular Party platform. He does not venture beyond it. He is known as a very meticulous careful man a stranger who follows through with plans that have been agreed to by the popular party leadership. He will follow through but Sanchez
is dramatically different person from the governor. And we really can have a change not so much in policy of programming but in style. Much more dramatic for us is the changeover from kind of duty to Johnson although there is some similarity. Sanchez's is as efficient and also perhaps as dull as Johnson where I was when yours had the the flair of the inspirational quality leadership quality that kind of they had in my opinion. He said that when US had to sugar coat his resignation what do you mean by this and why did he have to do this. Well as I said the party one that not want him to retire too they were not prepared for his retirement because the governor never said anything. He never indicated what he was going to do. Why he never announced his plan to retire was a mystery my own feeling is that he himself did not know what he was going to do until the very last moment. I think he wanted to
retire but he wanted to keep himself free to decide at the last moment he had announced that way he would have to stand by his announcement whatever it was. So the convention. Not one of the time it was quite possible that the convention could have overruled. When you also the decision the convention could have bowed such as nomination and certainly doesn't make much sense to nominate a person while the 5000 delegates booing just doesn't sound good. So it was quite a maneuver for many hours to get his party to accept and go along with something which they did not want. I had a I wrote a piece on that for the San Juan Star in which I said The Munoz in order to retire and thus help Puerto Rican democracy had to become a dictator for that day yet to impose its will against the will
of the convention. That's precisely what he that. As I said as you said also it was quite a dramatic event that it seemed throughout the convention that he would not be able to pull it off. But at the decisive moment while the good part of the delegates was shouting No no no don't retire no soul up his hands and there was quiet and silence. And he shouted almost angrily. He will not force me to violate my own conscience. Well this was quite a phrase I thought and and that silence. They brought Sanchez up to the platform he was nominated and some carefully planted delegates started a pro Sanchez chant and that was a turning point. Will Sanchez do you think take an active role in the status commission. Well Sanchez is now a member of the stoutest commission. I understand however that he will he will resign and he will name when you
post to a status commission. The idea being that the governor of Puerto Rico should not be and the status commision. Why is this. Well. Perhaps you should explain why and also what it is what it Yeah well the the stoutest commission was created by Congress and 1960 3 or early 1964 I quite don't remember. I think it was 64 to study the status problem what we call a status problem Puerto Rico namely whether Puerto Rico should continue as a commonwealth whether it should strive or work toward statehood and whether it should become an independent republic. The question has aroused quite a bit of passion in Puerto Rico it's it's been the basic political issue now for almost half a century. And finally Congress decided to create a top level commission composed of Puerto Ricans representing both rather the three statuses representing the executive branch of the federal government and Congress to
study the Holst matter and render a report to Congress in 1066. As I see it very simply the commission will conduct a very objective study of just what make sense of Puerto Rico in terms of our status. When the commission when we build agreed the commission was discussed and Congress most of the representatives and senators may express an opinion on the congressional record that they thought that the governor should not form part of the commission. I think this was a result of some lobbying by the Republicans in Puerto Rico wants statehood. And there was by direct I mean you know so I think they just and I want to win your house to be in the commission because they felt the Munoz's influence and his power would sort of sway the American members of the commission. Of course the Republican this by the man used to be governor again.
So now this is another it seems to me it's another case of the Munoz playing pulling a fast one of his Republican friends. He is not going to be governor and he will probably be in the commission. Is it true as according to some of the reports in the American papers or the mainland papers that perhaps you call it that Munoz resigned largely so that he could become a member of the commission. I think this is one of the factors in his decision I don't I don't think it's the dominant factor. I think the I think the dominant factor is this question of of trusting the Popular Party and the Puerto Rican people trusting themselves. You have to see this isn't in the context of Puerto Rican history Puerto Rico has been a colony for 400 years and not the usual type of County which is exploited and that has you know natural richness and it's exploited by the Metropolitan power Puerto Rico's been poor
very small and very poor so it's been a colony that instead of being exploited exploited by the Metropolitan powers had to depend on the Metropolitan power. So there's been a sense in Puerto Rico always of dependence of so-called collective inferiority complex. Well since 1952 Puerto Rico has not been a colony it's been a commonwealth. But a lot of people have felt that the Puerto Rican mentality has just substituted the much apart and power for a leader of the magnitude and strength of when you else when you want to sort of a big daddy. And it seems like a sort of communistic attitude. And when you say retirement I think basically at bottom is is to prove that Puerto Rico can get along and can govern itself. You can't have a progressive government and peaceful elections and peaceful transfer of power without the began Big Brother whether big brother be Spain United States and when you're smiling with these some of the reasons you mention that some people had urged him
not to run again would you say these are the reasons. This is one of the reasons I was one of them that continuously urged them not to run my idea. My feeling was that when yours has been governor for consecutive terms and if you ran for a fifth he would have set a very dangerous precedent. You know Munoz being the first governor in Puerto Rico's maximum leader is the sort of George Washington you know 100 years from now they'll be turning back to see how Munoz that there's no one knows that that while staying in office for five consecutive terms is just terribly dangerous. When Yost by retiring has set a precedent and I think now you will also set the example of how a governor should retire and actually you know let the new governor govern and not pull strings from from backstage which I'm quite sure he will do rather that he will retire.
Is such a villager expected to win the election and if so by how much. Yes in all probability he will win the elections. Last election 960 the Popular Party got about 67 percent of the vote and the O I think was last about 65 percent of the vote and the Republicans had 32 percent of the book. The Republicans may increase their vote this this election. My got the 35 percent. If they do 40 percent to be quite significant I don't think they'll do 40 but I think that they'll probably increase one of the reasons for this. Certainly as a fact the Munoz's not running. Some people the following yells may not vote or may turn to the Republicans perhaps because they favor statehood. Another reason is that the Popular Party has been in power continuously since 1940 and any party that's in power that long has to make enemies and I was asked
to be an opposition vote. This fellow was caught making too much money is kept on the public housing project walk. He's going to vote against the power and party. So I think there is a natural tendency for opposition votes to grow particularly in an island that's that's undergoing the many changes. Puerto Rico is a new middle class growing with all the growing pains of urban living. So there has to be an opposition vote which will probably go to the Republicans give the Pen's party 916 1 2 to 3 percent of the vote. I don't expect to go beyond 3 percent. Why is it so low. Well I think more and more Puerto Ricans don't want to dependents the Commonwealth has been quite a success but we can design a biologic quite proud of being American citizens a they're able to move freely between the mainland and Puerto Rico which is very important
because many of them have to come to the north to get a job and I don't think there is a Puerto Rican family doesn't have at least one member that is living in the United States or how to live and the United States and this is important. Also the people I want to depend it's a very independent minded they don't like to join groups and they want to join parties are about 10 pro-independence groups on the island they're always fighting against each other. A large portion of the independent based has actually been campaigning not for independence but for a boycott of the elections. The problem the pen's movement which is sort of a radical fringe to have a name they call themselves pro-Castro they are campaigning quite strenuously for a boycott. So there will be many people that believe in the pencil not vote. What are the basic differences between the statehood in the popular party. Well the the Popular Party is as I say it's been the dominant parties in
140 years it's synonymous with government. But I recall for all intents and purposes has had a one party system since 1940. The Republican Party. It was very was quite small. Twelve years ago I tied a very strong comeback in the last three elections and more than tripled their vote. The party leadership is controlled by several very wealthy industrialists. Some of them are conservative princes we fair play you was the candidate for governor I was conservative interested in what sounds like Goldwater. Now I would say conservative more unlike strength strengthen the Republican Party has its Goldwater and its president rather the to Puerto Rican from the Republican Party. Miguel I think I see Amanda as the senator is generally considered a reactionary and he
controls the party machinery for a more liberal and non gushy Amandas which is crucial because Puerto Rico certainly will not go along with any reactionary. The party then is really composed of two elements there's the machine which is controlled by Garcia man there's a Republican Party machine then there is a mass of Republicans most of whom are really a political They don't really want to get involved in politics but they want statehood. They feel very pro-American or they feel insecure as a commonwealth. The Republicans do campaign on the theme that Munoz secretly in his heart wants independence which is not true. But some people believe this and they feel that the only way they can insure themselves upon a recall that would be independent is by becoming a state. So the status issue is important to this election this time this issue is the basic issue in Puerto Rico.
And elections in Puerto Rico are sort of plebiscites in the sense that each party follows and proposes a status solution the proper last Commonwealth a Republican statehood and independent business independence and yet there's no insurance by the United States Congress that they will go along with either any of these plebiscite. No no the last Congress really has its arms folded the fact is a Congress will not do anything less but we can make up their mind they will not give Puerto Rico the numbing because they have 40 percent and I want statehood. This is a long tradition. You don't give a State to a territory until a great overwhelming majority of the people want it. So Puerto Rico is split it's divided and Congress and nothing Congress could do at the urgings of when you know center pop will ask. Scuse me. Congress created a commission just to study the problem. You can purchase a commission is to enlighten everyone in Puerto Rico and Congress is just what the realities of
Puerto Rico are and what started to make sense has the commission made any findings of the commission isn't even begun to work and the reasons are obvious. All the members almost all the members are politicians and right now they're running for re-election so a mission I think is met once. It's matter of fact. Last weekend Saturday I met Ben Stefanski former ambassador U.S. ambassador to Bolivia whose executive secretary of the commission. And he quite frankly said it's been impossible for him to do anything up to now and he will have to wait till after the elections. The chances are that there will be some changes and the and the commission members as Keating is a member of the commission he doesn't get re-elected so he will have to be replaced. Do you think that if statehood were to win in the future that Congress would grant Puerto Rico statehood if the Republican Party were to win the election. Well there will
have to be a plebiscite in addition to just one of the election. So I mean there are the Republicans when it would mean that there is a majority of people that want statehood but they would have to be a plebiscite. And as I say. A great majority of the bordering the people have to vote for statehood in order for Congress to consider it. Also Congress would have to be convinced that statehood would not be economically disastrous to the US. My opinion is that it would be like Puerto Rico was just tax free. It's doesn't pay federal taxes and this makes it unique. In other words Alaska and Hawaii were paying federal taxes before they were states otherwise they had the obligation they were paying the bill but they don't have the rights and have the representation and they can vote for president. Well Puerto Rico does not pay taxes. Puerto Rico 19 0 5 0 6 I don't recall was made in unincorporated territory which is something new on the
American federal system which means a Puerto Rico Puerto Rico is part of the United States but is an unincorporated territory. It is doesn't it's not under the US Constitution and doesn't have to pay the taxes and doesn't have the representation. And this was done only very simply because Puerto Ricans cannot pay taxes and Puerto Rico today cannot pay taxes. The per capita income in Puerto Rican I was seven hundred forty dollars in just the last while Mississippi which is a poorer state new union is close to $2000. What about the standard of living is that much cheaper too. Well in the rural areas in a small town it's certainly much much cheaper in San Juan my a Western Ponce which is a big urban areas at a cost of living is higher because a good part of the for food is important and you have to pay for the freight. But this is the basic thing the economic issue until that water recall achieves some kind of economic
strength to reach as per capita income. I don't think that statement makes any sense. What is the Puerto Rico's relationship to the rest of Latin America. Well this is always a interesting topic. One to begin with. Puerto Rico is Latin America Puerto Rico's Spanish it's Latin and everyone it calls of a Puerto Rican weighs a lot. But you have a Puerto Rico will not in Latin America because it's tied so closely with North America with the United States. It's part of the United States where you know American citizens U.S. citizens Puerto Rico is often being cited as the bridge between North and South America. And certainly it could be a bridge because the two cultures literally meet in Puerto Rico and they meet in each individual you can see him. You can see he's a Latin we have he's he's Americanized Yes one thing which is another
good deal of them was bilingual and they have some Latin cultural characteristics and I'm American. But they the reality of the situation is that because Puerto Rico is in the middle there it's misunderstood by everyone in the United States for instance I think a great number of people don't know why Puerto Ricans all want to be a state. Hey are American citizens there getting all this money from US Congress which isn't that much. Why don't they want to come out and become a state and pay their taxes have the right to vote for president. So some people think the Puerto Ricans may be a long patriotic and Latin America they don't understand why Puerto Ricans want to be independent. There's a nylon that has its own cultural identity. It's the only I think Spanish speaking people because Puerto Ricans are people that are not independent all do not aspire to be independent. So why not you know assert yourself become independent join the your brothers in Latin America.
This will not mean financial ruin. Latin Americans like to say I don't know where they get us to test it from. But as we see the recall being in the middle and being this bridge misunderstood by both fans. And most Puerto Ricans but understand themselves. So we have a lot of misunderstanding. You've predicted that the poker party will win by a large majority. Do you think that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will become a state within the next decade. Oh I think that Puerto Rico will not be a state within the next decade. Well there will never be a state where I was just absolutely impossible for me to say I think one of the wonderful and creative things of my camo status is that it leaves the future open no doors are closed as long as Puerto Rico is a commonwealth they have the freedom to the people of Puerto Rico have the freedom to choose independence or choose statehood. But certainly Puerto Rico when up you stay I mentioned economic
fact I think this is the important thing Puerto Rico's economy in 10 years will certainly not bring the per capita are up to $2000. If it goes over double the next ten years I think it will be quite good and I want to bring up about fifteen hundred. Also I think Puerto Rico is becoming increasingly aware of its cultural identity of its being as a as a people as a Latin people and unique people. And as I said they have been greatly Americanized but still the Latin. And this awareness of themselves gives them pride and gives them I think a desire to remain America citizen and remain within the American Union but an a new and different way to give them greater autonomy and greater sense of selfhood. I don't say that statehood would mean the complete assimilation of Puerto Rico but I I think
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- Chicago: “Byline; Puerto Rican Elections,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-83kwhpdt.
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