Puerto Rico voted Tuesday to oust an incumbent governor who is under indictment for allegedly violating campaign finance laws, electing a challenger who vowed to fight crime and spur the island’s troubled economy.
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila conceded the election after Luis Fortuno of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party took a strong lead in early returns.
I have written in the past about Acevedo Vila, both in this blog and at the Star Ledger’s NJ Voices. To make a long story short, Puerto Rican governor Acevedo was indicted of two dozen Federal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, false statements and violations of various campaign finance laws. Along with him, prominent Democrat fund-raiser Robert M. Feldman and others from Philadelphia were also charged with conspiring to help Acevedo-Vila evade federal election rules to raise more than $100,000 in campaign funds as a way of gaining access and “to further their business interests” in Puerto Rico.
The Democrat political machinery has deep ties with Acevedo’s party, the Partido Popular – whose color is red – and up until his indictement, Acevedo Vila was Obama’s only declared superdelegate in the island. El Caso Acevedo Vilá has all the details of his case, but Acevedo Vilá claimed that the Federal prosecutor was acting only out of political motives.
He remained in office, even when he’s scheduled to go to trial in February, and ran for governor again. The election was a referendum on him.
The people of Puerto Rico went to the polls and made their feelings clear.
Luis Fortuño, Puerto Rico’s current Resident Commissioner in Washington, DC since 2005, ran for governor under the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) (New Progressive Party) and won big. The PNP won in every district except five.
Fortuño’s been a rising star in Congress, serving on the House Natural Resources Committee and as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, also serving in the House Education and Labor Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and is also Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Conference. He is a Republican, in the House Republican Policy Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Executive Committee.
Puerto Rico’s unemployment problem is increasing due to the world financial crisis and also to the oil price increases from early this year. As I mentioned in the Carnival of Latin America this summer, airlines serving the Caribbean have drastically cut the number of flights arriving in San Juan. Since tourism is one of Puerto Rico’s main industries, the combined effect will linger.
However, Fortuño has substantial experience when it comes to labor and employment. As you can see from his official biography,
In 1994, he became Puerto Rico’s first Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce.
As Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce, Rep. Fortuño was tasked with the development and implementation of large-scale reforms of Puerto Rico’s tax, labor, corporate and commercial codes, aimed at facilitating business growth and job creation, reducing bureaucracy, and tax reform. Some of these initiatives included the adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code, the revamping of the General Corporations Law, an aggressive investment package to jumpstart the tourism industry, and the largest tax cut in Puerto Rico’s history. At the time of Rep. Fortuño’s departure from public service, Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate had reached its lowest level in over a generation.
It was time for a change, and the people of Puerto Rico chose wisely.
Also of interest in this election: In prior elections the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP) had managed to remain in the polls. After obtaining 2% of the total vote, it’s no longer eligible to remain as a registered party and must reapply, along with a new party, Puertorriqueños por Puerto Rico (PPR), which obtained 2.66%.
I’ll be talking about this in today’s podcast at 10AM Eastern. Chat’s open by 10:45AM and the call-in number is 646 652-2639. You can listen to the podcast here