[News] No Means No - A People's Victory in Puerto Rico

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 20 09:55:01 EDT 2012

/*No Means No:*/* A People's Victory in Puerto Rico *

By Ed Morales

<http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WhzMcReIP7aH_z8_mKh-OnAi6uYI-jtCWwfWa_JIrXoIMRM4nFc_FxOKNnh-IEQc4XGWS_gE0yNssLvLq2NSFBIFiKzx5jF8zgZVNtuQ5ZScWr8kcFIUikwghUABL-GjsWUiEfh_gD1xw_o5eI7oOZ7UF_VJcrj77Hp0fWuqFCoKFw-S1r3YIbxbM12lhrjqhoYTw8NeYqtsTOWr_rUYBg==> (August 
20, 2012)

All month long the people of Puerto Rico have been assaulted by a 
barrage of advertising on television, radio, and billboards urging them 
to vote for two constitutional amendments that would eliminate the 
absolute right to bail for the accused and decrease the size of the 
legislature by 30 per cent. They were told these changes to the 
constitution, which had not been amended for nearly 50 years, were not 
political in nature --- they merely were intended to address the 
increasing problem of violent crime on the island and save the 
government some money by cutting back on the costs of voter representation.

But Puerto Ricans knew different --- they saw the proposed amendments in 
their proper political contexts and voted them down 54% to 46%, causing 
a stunning political defeat for not only the ruling New Progressive 
Party, but electoral politics as usual on the island. They knew that 
Governor Luis Fortuño's administration was engaged in a demagogic 
campaign to manipulate the fear factor among citizens weary of the daily 
reports of murder, mayhem, and domestic abuse and the failure of a 
corrupt and deficient police department to contain it. They understood 
that the elimination of absolute right to bail, a provision of a 
constitution more progressive and humane than the U.S. constitution it 
was based on, was a threat to the sacred right to the presumption of 
innocence, and that poor people and people of color would be most 
vulnerable. They understood that the reduction of the size of the 
legislature, currently the pet project of ALEC devotee, Republican 
Representative Sam Smith in his own state of Pennsylvania, would result 
in a contraction of democracy. So they went to the polls in massive 
numbers as they do in Puerto Rico on Sundays, the way they vote in the 
rest of Latin America, and they said No and No. Loudly.

All month long, the common wisdom would be that the referenda would be 
passed, that the people were too cowed by the relentless domination of 
the New Progressive Party, which controls both houses of the 
legislature, the executive branch, and by virtue of expanding the number 
of judges in its Supreme Court, the judicial branch as well. They had 
control over the political system and seemed to have control over most 
of the established media, and in their arrogance they pushed this vote 
to happen less than three months before the election, seemingly part of 
a strategy to all but assure victory in November.

Part of that arrogance was fueled by the fact that the current candidate 
for the opposition Popular Democratic Party, Alejandro García Padilla, 
is perceived as so ineffectual that even though most of the body politic 
is dying to excise the cancer of Fortuño and his henchmen, they would 
not be energized enough to go out and do so because García Padilla's 
current profile is a little bit below buffoon status. He even proved his 
craven nature by refusing to oppose the referenda, for all intents and 
purposes going into hiding when he had the opportunity to take a 
courageous stand that might finally energize the PPD base. His 
appearance tonight on local television was so stilted and absurd in 
claiming "victory" over two amendments he voted for that it could go 
down in history as the night the PPD began its irreversible decline into 

Tonight belonged to the people, even though the media focused on the two 
major political parties, and even though there were several PPD members 
celebrating at the /Colegio de Abogados/ in Miramar, it was almost as if 
that party didn't mean anything anymore, that the politics of status, 
long rumored to be in decline, didn't mean anything anymore, and what 
meant something was saving democracy and a sense of dignity among the 
people. It was about the chance to address social, political, and 
economic crises long neglected. It was a chance to restore a national 
and cultural identity that somehow is carefully protected at this 
institution that is ostensibly about the law, but is ultimately a 
bastion of the arts, philosophy, and culture. An institution under 
attack by the PNP, whose members belong to both the Republican and 
Democratic parties.

This is where the President of the /Colegio/, Osvaldo Toledo, stood next 
to Carmen Yulín Cruz, progressive PDP candidate for mayor of San Juan, 
and union leader José Rodriguez Báez, not extolling the virtues of the 
nebulous Commonwealth, but chanting, with the gathering throng, "El 
pueblo, unido, jámas será vencido!" That's when the television cameras 
shut down, and there was a pause for a commercial, and when we returned, 
it was to reveal the angry authoritarian sneer of Senate President Tomás 
Rivera Schatz, who looked like an annoyed car wash owner forced to come 
into work on the weekend, chastising García Padilla for being a loser 
for voting for the amendments his own party had just been humiliated over.

No, as much as the media tried to avoid it, the people were gathered 
around Toledo, Yulín, Rodríguez, three passionate Puerto Ricans who just 
over two years ago were tear-gassed and clubbed by the NPP's storm 
troopers at the /Capitolio/ and the Sheraton Hotel. Last summer all 
three of them told me, sometimes, haltingly, others defiantly, always 
with an incredulity of what they had experienced, that, for exercising 
their constitutional right to protest, or in Toledo's case, observe and 
offer to negotiate between parties in a protest, they were met with the 
most crude violence seen here in years, orchestrated by a party whose 
leader claims to bring peace to this island's citizens, and who instead 
is presiding over a corrupt and violent dismantling of a democracy that 
again and again outdoes that of a country that despite its claim to 
being the leader of democratic ideals continues to hold this island and 
its people as a colonial possession.

They were not swayed by the cowardly displays of the steel baton, or 
those who would try to use fear and demagoguery to manipulate the 
people. That is why this is a night to celebrate. /Ganó el pueblo./

/ /


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