Were Literally Fighting For Our Lives. A New Political Movement Emerges Outside Puerto Ricos Two-Party System
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The question of puerto rico's colonial status and how best puerto ricans can exercise their rights as american citizens has been at the heart of every election on the island in recent memory including this one for the third time. In fifty three years. Puerto ricans voted in favor of becoming a us state in a non binding referendum on the ballot and elected a new governor from the island's main pro statehood party. But for the first time a constellation of new parties that attracted large numbers of younger. Voters could signal a new direction for the territory entirely. We're literally fighting for our lives. Says figueroa miranda founder of la clara political youth advocacy group. These elections have been so important. Because for the last four years we've been improvising. As a country for decades puerto ricans have faced a series of competing economic and political crises. But in the last four years things have gotten worse student. Strikes over austerity measures the devastation of back to back hurricanes irma and maria destructive earthquakes a climbing fiscal that and the local impact of climate. Change has brought the island. To a crossroads many puerto ricans blame the territories to party political system for the current state of affairs for the last fifty years. Control of the island has swung between the two dominant parties that represent competing philosophies on the future of the island the new progressive party n. p. which advocates for full you statehood and the popular democratic party the p. p. which favors retaining the current commonwealth status now. Several smaller parties are gaining popularity with younger. Puerto ricans who've watched multiple bungled federal responses to disasters and aren't necessarily interested in becoming the fifty first state they're touting alternate visions for the island that could bring greater autonomy and improve economic conditions such as seeking full independence from the us or becoming a sovereign nation in free association with the us like its relationship with the marshall islands for the newer generations. All of their live. What they've seen is puerto rico in an economic recession. Says so. Pull the carl. A lawyer based in the washington. Dc area who engages with the federal government on issues of puerto rican self determination. They've seen the very awful response from the federal government after hurricane irma cain maria and the earthquakes. We've had a feeling that. There is some kind of transition happening in puerto rico especially with young people being more anti statehood while fifty. Two percent of the island voted in favor of statehood on november. Third turnout was relatively low. With only about fifty three percent of eligible voters participating the n. p. p. which spent millions to include the issue on the ballot after attorney. General william barr refused to appropriate federal funds for the plebiscite heralded the outcome as a victory for the statehood. 'cause but many see the referendum simply as a political tool for the party to get supporters to the polls and questioned. Whether the results reflect what most puerto ricans actually want to see happen irrespective the viewer positions on statehood for puerto. Rico to say a clear majority of puerto ricans support statehood is factually inaccurate tweeted new year rican researcher and filmmaker. Andrew j padilla days after the vote the island needs to come together and create a process and determination that can really garner a true consensus of the population. He later told time. The election also delivered a slim win to the n. p. p. which has held the governor's seats in two thousand. Sixteen critics have accused the party of mishandling federal emergency aid and the party's members have regularly faced corruption probes. Last year hundreds of thousands of puerto ricans took to the streets to demand the resignation of the scandal plagued n. p. p. governor at the time ricardo raw ceo who eventually stepped down this month. The npp's pedro pierluisi won the gubernatorial race with thirty two point. Ninety three percent of the vote the lowest support of any winning governor around the island while the ppv candidate trailed with just seventeen thousand fewer votes. We see small margin of victory is indicative of the growing support for parties outside of the traditional system including the puerto rican independence party the pi p. And the newly registered anti colonial citizens victory movement. Cv vm and anti corruption project. Dignity parties more voters came out for the three together than for the n. P. p. n. p. p. d. accounting for nearly thirty five percent of the vote. The new direction of the voters from these parties was also able to historically gained six seats in the house and senate of the legislative assembly of puerto rico now the p p. which comprises the majority of the legislature will likely have to work in tandem with some minority representatives. Moving forward those who went to the polls ready to say goodbye to the. Mpp are disappointed by the outcome in the eleven days since the party won reelection and npp lawmaker has already been arrested by fbi officials on corruption charges thousands of uncounted votes from various precincts were found days after the election. According to the new york times with some alleging the ruling party is involved and n. p. p. representative on their election council has since denied. These claims asserting that the party is prioritizing a fair election the times reports figueroa miranda of la clara also blames the n. p. p. for that and other election irregularities like other young puerto ricans. The twenty-seven-year-old has grown wary of the territory's political system and isn't confident in the official results. I'm scared that the numbers don't represent what actually happened here. On november third she says as puerto ricans combat the island's extreme financial troubles with millions going without power or running water for months at a time. Many have tried relocating to the mainland. Us the island's population has been steadily declining for the last decade and hit a new low after hurricane maria and irma in two thousand eighteen for supposed to the lawyer in washington moving to the us after going to law school on the island not only offered a better future. But the chance to advocate for puerto rico. In america in twenty seventeen in the wake of hurricane maria sepulveda co-founded bora unidos and la diaspora a network of puerto rican professionals. That have been lobbying congress to implement a serious self determination and decolonisation process. Puerto rico status has been a disputed topic in washington for several administrations in twenty sixteen congress and former president. Barack obama passed a bill known as pra mesa. A plan set to tackle the island's looming debt crisis through a financial committee that oversees the islands budget reference colloquially in puerto rico as the junta many on the island have been critical of the oversight saying it fails to address the unjust conditions of their day to day life during trump's term. He called the. Us territory quote one of the most corrupt places on earth and made it clear statehood for puerto. Rico would be an absolute no for him. If the current mayor of san juan carmagnole lean crews remains in office he and crews began feuding after she was critical of his handling of hurricane maria including his infamous tossing of paper towels into a crowd of hurricane survivors. In two thousand seventeen last month former interim governor wanda vazquez of the npp endorsed trump for re election. A decision that could have potentially helped the incumbent gain momentum with the latino vote in florida where more than one million puerto ricans live now is president elect. Joe biden takes office. He's signaled he'd be supporting statehood for puerto rico and has proposed a comprehensive recovery plan for his administration to deal with the island's issues. Sepulveda's grew back the puerto rico self determination act that representative nydia velazquez and representative alexandria. Ocasio cortez proposed in august. Which would start. Negotiations between congress and body of representatives elected by puerto ricans to come to a decision about the future of island status the bill which was not endorsed by the pro statehood n. p. remains in limbo as the committee on natural resources has yet to pass it to the house floor. Though they did not publicly say why they didn't back the bill sepulveda's and others suggested may be because they want to remain in control of the statehood process democratic representative. Charlie crist representative. Darren soto of florida. A state with a rising population of puerto ricans have said they will introduce more bipartisan resolutions to the floor in support of the november third referendum's result but with no clear sign that congress will be weighing in. On the many issues that puerto ricans face anytime soon. Many feel like the future of the island is in their own hands. You cannot wait for government to help you says sepulveda's solo blow salva. I'll play blow. Only the people save the people.