Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

PRdream mourns the passing of José “Chegui” Torres, 1936 – 2009

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
January 29, 2009
9:49 am

Boxing’s renaissance man Jose Torres commanded ring & respect
by Mike Lupica

torres-jose.jpg

For the old-timers, the ones who come out of fight nights at the old Garden and out of a much older New York, it will always be 1965 for Jose Torres, when he was young. It will be the night at the old Garden when he beat Willie Pastrano, dancing and jabbing and finally body-punching his way to a TKO. He became the light-heavyweight champion of the world that night and seemed to have won the championship of the city as well. Jose Torres came from Puerto Rico, but by then he was more here than there.

The next day he made his first stop as champ at 110th and Lexington Ave., climbed up on a fire escape and addressed a crowd of thousands.

“This is for everybody,” he said, and told the crowd that if he could do something like this in the city of New York, anything was possible.

But he was so much more than just a prizefighter, even if that is how the world first knew him. He became the first Latino columnist in town, at least in an English-language paper, when my old boss, the great Paul Sann, put him to work at the old New York Post. He would later become a commentator on television, and radio host, and in the 1980s even became the New York State Athletic Commissioner.

He was a friend to Norman Mailer, who was once brave enough to get into the ring with him, and Pete Hamill. He once said that Pete had given him his first book and how he now owned more than 800 of them, and was confident that “Pete’s responsible for six or seven hundred.” He had a good enough voice to sing a ballad one time on the Ed Sullivan Show.

“I keep telling you,” he used to say to me, “I am more a lover than a fighter.”

Jose Torres wrote books about Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, and spent so much time trying to save Tyson from himself and what he called the “parasites” around him. And became a friend to Robert F. Kennedy when Kennedy became the U.S. senator from New York.

Kennedy wanted to learn about the city, to know the city, and not just the avenues of power in Manhattan. So Hamill and the late Jack Newfield became guides for him in those years. So did Jose Torres. They would get in the car at night and drive the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, get out and talk to the people who lived in them. A Kennedy doing this, and the kid from Puerto Rico who had won a silver medal in the ’56 Summer Olympics, won the 160-pound division of the ’58 Golden Gloves, would later end up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.

And Kennedy and Jose Torres would talk through the night. One of the things they talked about was what Robert Kennedy talked about in speeches in those days, about how within 40 years a man of color would be President. It was why Torres thrilled so much to the run Barack Obama made to the nomination and finally to today, even though he was back in Puerto Rico by last year, there to write and grow old as gracefully as he had fought once.

Pete Hamill said Monday that the last time he talked to Torres, his dear friend of half a century, was 10 days ago.

“It’s amazing, Pete, this country – what a place. What an amazing place,” Torres said to Hamill on the phone that day. He was talking, of course, about Obama.

Jose Torres did not make it to Obama’s inauguration. Did not make it to today. Did not live long enough to hear Obama, whom he believed was the heir to Kennedy’s ideals and compassion and spirit, give his speech today.

Jose Torres died in his sleep early Monday, at the age of 72. He suffered from diabetes and his friends believe that his body was never right after the pounding he took from Tom McNeely, a heavyweight, in Puerto Rico in 1965. It was a non-title fight and Jose ended up winning it, but McNeely brutally worked Jose’s body that night.

Jose finally lost his title to Dick Tiger, a future Hall of Famer the same as Willie Pastrano, the same as Jose. It was some amazing time in their division. Then Tiger beat him a second fight at the Garden, even though that one nearly caused a riot when it was announced that the decision had gone against Jose. He fought twice more after that and then retired.

And this wasn’t the beginning of some slow, sad ending for a retired boxer who had taken too many shots to the head. This was the beginning of a joyful, amazing life, one so well-lived and so well-enjoyed, in the city of New York.

For the next four decades he lectured and wrote his books and became Commissioner Torres finally. His last columns were for El Diario. At the boxing Hall of Fame, he is described this way: “Boxing’s renaissance man.” He was all that, a splendid ambassador for the island of his birth and the city he adopted and of his sport.

He was a lover: of his boxing career, of being a champion, of being a writer, of knowing that books he wrote, in his second language, would be on library shelves forever. More than anything he would have loved Barack Obama’s speech today, about the world Jose Torres imagined once from a fire escape on 110th Street, one where anything really is possible.

FBI: No sabotage in Puerto Rico tank explosion

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

By DANICA COTO (AP) – 1 day ago
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The FBI said Friday there is no evidence of sabotage in last week’s explosion at a Puerto Rico fuel depot, which burned for more than two days and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people. Gasoline vapors from an overflowing fuel tank caused the blast at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. facility near the U.S. territory’s capital, San Juan, according to Luis Fraticelli, the FBI special agent in charge for the island. He said more than 240 investigators analyzed the explosion and did not find evidence it was intentional. But Fraticelli said authorities are still investigating whether negligence was involved. “Since this is a federal investigation, the word ‘accident’ will not be used,” Fraticelli said at a news conference.

The explosion shortly after midnight on Oct. 23 shattered windows and sent tremors across San Juan. The fire destroyed 21 of the depot’s 40 fuel storage tanks and sent up a plume of thick, toxic smoke. More than 1,500 people were evacuated out of fears of contamination, but there were no deaths. Immediately before the blast, a tanker ship had released nearly 28,000 gallons (106,000 liters) of fuel into the tanks, and an undetermined amount spilled into a drainage ditch that is capable of handling a 10 percent overflow, said ATF spokesman Marcial Orlando Felix.

The fuel released a large amount of vapor, and one of three items could have caused the spark, although Felix declined to name them because officials have not pinpointed the source. Federal and local agents questioned more than 100 people, including company employees, and investigated leads including graffiti found after the blast in a highway tunnel in the capital with the message: “Boom, fire, RIP, Gulf.”

Agents also are investigating what security systems were in place to prevent such an explosion and why apparently no alarms were activated, Felix said. The explosion damaged more than 200 homes, and crews have installed new doors and windows and repaired walls, Gov. Luis Fortuno said. Twelve homes required more extensive repairs, and six will be partially or completely torn down. President Barack Obama had designated Puerto Rico an emergency zone and ordered federal aid to supplement local efforts.

Caribbean Petroleum spokeswoman Frances Rios said the company is cooperating with authorities, and crews have built dikes and contained toxic material to prevent further contamination of water sources.
Caribbean Petroleum supplies 200 Gulf gas stations in Puerto Rico.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Which Side Are You On?

Friday, December 5th, 2008

By SUZANNE VEGA

In the last few months I have had a chance to review a song I wrote in October of 2007. It’s called “Daddy Is White,” and I haven’t sung it out loud yet in front of an audience except to record a demo of it. My daughter worries that people might make fun of me. However, I feel that it is a truthful song.

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was raised in a half-Puerto Rican family and spent five years in East Harlem as a young child. At some point, when I was about 9 years old, I learned that my birth father was actually English-Scottish-Irish. Or white, as we used to say in my old neighborhood. Actually, anybody looking at me could probably tell that this was the case, but I felt I was the last to know, partly because I was treated by my Puerto Rican abuelita and my aunt and uncle as one of their own. I was proud, and still am proud, to be a Vega.

One person wrote in after my last blog entry to ask whether I had any plans to record Puerto Rican songs or songs in Spanish as a way of honoring those roots. I thought about this, but have to say no, even though I have had experience singing songs in Spanish. One of my first performing jobs was with a group called The Alliance of Latin Arts. I was 15 years old, and it was a government sponsored job, where we traveled from borough to borough singing songs in Spanish, like “La Bamba.” I attracted attention wherever I went, and it wasn’t because of my singing. (Somewhere in storage in a folder marked “scrapbook” I have a flyer from that job — when I find it I will post it here.) If you could look at the photo, you would see one girl in the line of dark-skinned Latinas to the far right looking down, and that is me, sticking out as usual.

It always struck me that in this picture I look like I am not only of a different race, but of a different century, as though I were Emily Dickinson and had somehow wandered into the Bronx in the 1970’s. (It should be noted that Puerto Ricans are not of one race — there are blue-eyed blond Puerto Ricans, though I never actually met any until recently.) I feel it would be false of me to do an album of Puerto Rican songs, since pretending I fit in, even back then, always felt a bit forced.

Songs brand us a part of a tribe. We can pick and choose what tribe we belong to. Goth, emo, hippie, punk, folk, alternative, for example. “Mom! Why are you wearing all black?” my daughter recently shouted at me. “You look so emo!” “I always wear black,” I mumbled. “But we are at the beach!” she said. Well, maybe she had a point.

I am of Irish descent, among other things, but I feel it would be false of me to perform traditional Irish music, even though I find some of it very moving. When I worked with Mitchell Froom, I liked that he said, “I will reveal you to be the mutant you really are!” when he heard how I grew up and about the mixed bag of stuff I grew up listening to — from Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs to Motown, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. But perhaps one day I could do an album of Jewish folk songs in A-minor, or an album of cante jondo, which Federico Garcia Lorca wrote of; this would take guts. I love sad and tragic songs, and I love the sensuality of Brazilian bossa nova; perhaps my melancholic temperament could do justice to an album like this.

I remember walking down the street one day, wearing a Smiths t-shirt, back in the mid-’80s. I was headed for the subway station, and I had to pass through a crowd of black teenagers to get there. There were maybe eight or so young men, looking me up and down as I picked my way through them. My neck prickled with worry. What would they say? Would they call me a goofy white girl, or worse?

One of them snickered. My stomach dropped. Then another one sang out, “I am human and I need to be loved!! Just like everybody else does!!” Morrissey’s transcendental lyrics from “How Soon Is Now?” It was so unexpected that I burst out laughing. They knew the song! Then we all laughed, and the tension was broken. Maybe we were the same tribe after all.
* * *
ed-vega-guitar.jpg

Ed Vega, circa 1972.
This song is called “Daddy Is White,” and I don’t know what tribe it represents. Maybe you also thought your daddy was Puerto Rican, and then you turned out to have another father! The song doesn’t even apply to my brothers and sister, whose daddy really was Ed Vega, who is shown here at the dining room table with the family guitar. However, the second and third verses were also drawn from reality — the second verse applies to the neighborhood I live in, where if you walk anywhere you run into the projects, where you can still feel those prickles, and feel all eyes on you: “What is she doing here?”

In the weeks following the recent election, though, there has been a very different feeling in the air in these neighborhoods, a feeling of relief, of recognition, of pride. There is going to be a man in the White House (Barack Obama) whose mother was white and whose father was black. He was a mixed-race child; he is a black man. His family is multicultural, as mine is. What a relief to see this represented in the realities of power and politics! In the media!

We say these words out loud and in print. Black, white. When I recorded the demo of this song earlier this year my engineer and I discussed what the song was about. At one point I realized we were whispering those words. Now we say them out loud, and they reflect our reality. It matters.

The last verse was inspired by a real-life discussion I overheard at a bar in Baltimore. A black man and a white woman were discussing a recent sports event. He called her “baby” playfully. She called him “stats boy,” meaning, I guess, someone well-versed in statistics. The conversation escalated quickly into a loud yelling argument, as he did not feel he was a boy of any kind and that word had racist overtones. Maybe the recent election means my song is on its way to being obsolete. I hope so.

Daddy Is White (By Suzanne Vega, 2007)

I am an average white girl who comes from Upper Manhattan.
And I am totally white, but I was raised half Latin.
This caused me some problems among my friends and my foes,
Cause when you look into my face, it’s clear what everybody else knows:

Chorus:
My daddy is white.
So I must be white too.
When you look into the mirror, what
Comes looking back at you?

If your daddy is white,
You must be white too.
When you look into the mirror
what comes looking back at you?

I feel it in the city when I take a walk uptown
I feel the tension in the air, I feel it ticking all around,
I feel it filling up the sidewalk, in the spaces in between,
Between my face and your face in public places where we get seen.

Chorus

He called her baby. She called him boy, and then it started.
They were strangers at the bar, and they both ended broken hearted.
And it was a conversation, but it ended as a fight.
And I can tell you it’s because he was black, and she was white.

Puerto Rico’s Moment in the Sun

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

By MICHAEL JANEWAY
New York Times (May 22, 2008)

PUERTO RICO, an afterthought trophy for the United States 110 years ago at the end of the Spanish-American War and an island in limbo since, has become an improbable player in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Its primary on June 1 could bolster Mrs. Clinton’s claim to a majority of the popular vote — the combined tally for all the Democratic primaries and caucuses held across the country over the past six months.

Puerto Rico’s formal role in the process is indeed weighty. Its 63 voting delegates — 55 elected ones and eight superdelegates — at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer will outnumber delegations from more than half the states (including Kentucky and Oregon) and the District of Columbia. Yet Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the Electoral College, nor will its 2.5 million registered voters cast ballots for president in November.

How in the world did this happen? From the beginning, the question of Puerto Rico has perplexed the United States. The island was essential to the defense of the Panama Canal, so we did not make it independent, in contrast to two other Spanish possessions we gained in the war, Cuba (which become independent in 1902) and the Philippines (1946). And we judged it foreign in language and culture — and worse, overpopulated — so New Mexico-style Americanization leading to statehood was out of the question.

Similarly, Puerto Ricans have never resolved their relationship with the United States. For almost 50 years after the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rican sentiment was divided between dreams of statehood and of independence. This ambivalence deterred the island from ever petitioning Congress for one or the other. And until mid-century, sporadic outbursts of violent nationalism haunted the scene.

Partly to put such extremism out of business, Congress in 1948 allowed Puerto Rico to elect its own governor and then in 1950 gave it an intricately designed, semi-autonomous “commonwealth” status short of statehood. Two years later, the island adopted its own Constitution, and Congress quickly ratified it.

Puerto Ricans elect their own Legislature, along with the governor. They enjoy entitlements like Social Security, but they do not pay federal income taxes. They retain their own cultural identity (Spanish is the prevailing tongue) but live under the umbrella of the American trade system and the American military. They have been citizens since 1917, but they have no vote in Congress or for the presidency.

The man who brought forth this unique arrangement, which has come to seem permanent, was Luis Muñoz Marín, who dominated Puerto Rico’s politics beginning in 1940. In 1948 he became the island’s first elected governor. He won three more terms and could easily have been “president for life.” A stretch of 116th Street in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem is named Luis Muñoz Marín Boulevard in his honor.

Muñoz was an eloquent advocate of independence until, faced with daunting statistics at the end of World War II, he concluded that Puerto Rico’s impoverished economy could not support nationhood. So he began packaging his third-way brainchild.

When pitching commonwealth on the mainland, Muñoz — an artist of words and imagery who also enjoyed a drink or two — would observe that Puerto Rico is the olive in the American martini. The phrase went down well in Washington, but Muñoz used different language at home. Neither Congress nor the American courts have ever embraced Muñoz’s Spanish-language phrase for “commonwealth,” universally recognized in Puerto Rico: “estado libre asociado,” or free associated state. Those three words suggested an autonomy (or even statehood or independence) beyond what came to pass. But Muñoz was too popular on the island for that to cause him trouble.

Still, Muñoz always intended to bring “enhanced autonomy” in trade, self-governance, taxation and entitlements to Puerto Rico. But Fidel Castro’s seizure of power in Cuba in 1959 moved Washington’s attention away from the commonwealth.

Muñoz left office in 1965. His dreams faded. The economy he jump-started went flat. Today, the government accounts for 30 percent of Puerto Rico’s work force (compared with 16 percent on the mainland).

Then in 1974, the Democratic National Committee and some shrewd local political strategists came up with an idea for how to play to lingering discontent over the island’s status: Why not make nice with Puerto Rico (and, as important, with the Puerto Rican vote in American cities) by awarding it the number of delegates to the Democratic presidential nominating convention that its population would yield as a state? But not until this year has a presidential race been close enough, long enough, to yield Puerto Rico a role in the endgame.

On the island, politics is focused on the longstanding deadlock between the two dominant parties, whose identities — one is for statehood and one is for enhanced autonomy — today bear no relation to those of the Republicans and Democrats in the 50 states. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are, gingerly, bidding for support from both of them.

But the mainland population of Puerto Ricans (like the island’s, almost four million) is watching, too. That fully enfranchised constituency is up for grabs in November. Republicans have fished in these waters, too.

Presidential candidates usually offer Puerto Ricans hazy promises that are sure to be unfulfilled. First on the list: We’ll do whatever you want about the island’s status if you deliver us an overwhelming majority for one or another option. That’s not going to happen.

Since 1967, public support on the island has seesawed inconclusively between statehood and enhanced autonomy — a better version of the deal they already have. Muñoz’s commonwealth helped eclipse independence; that course enjoys only limited support today. An overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans wants, one way or another, to be American.

The next president could just appoint another commission, more high-level and forceful than past ones, to reopen the dormant question of Puerto Rico’s status. But there is an additional option.

Fidel Castro is gone from office, Hugo Chávez’s influence is growing, Brazil is becoming an oil power, and the United States has no Latin American policy to speak of. John F. Kennedy wisely turned to Puerto Rican leaders to help him frame a new policy for the region in 1961. Similarly, the next president could ask Puerto Rico, with its democratic tradition and its past success with economic development, to help us plan for the post-Castro Caribbean.

The United States is overdue in re-engaging with this special place, which landed in our lap as a stepchild of imperialism in 1898, and which we have never seen clearly.

Michael Janeway, a former editor of The Boston Globe and a professor of journalism and arts at Columbia, is writing a history of the United States and Puerto Rico in the 20th century.

Puerto Rico’s Moment in the Sun

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

By MICHAEL JANEWAY
New York Times (May 22, 2008)

PUERTO RICO, an afterthought trophy for the United States 110 years ago at the end of the Spanish-American War and an island in limbo since, has become an improbable player in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Its primary on June 1 could bolster Mrs. Clinton’s claim to a majority of the popular vote — the combined tally for all the Democratic primaries and caucuses held across the country over the past six months.

Puerto Rico’s formal role in the process is indeed weighty. Its 63 voting delegates — 55 elected ones and eight superdelegates — at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer will outnumber delegations from more than half the states (including Kentucky and Oregon) and the District of Columbia. Yet Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the Electoral College, nor will its 2.5 million registered voters cast ballots for president in November.

How in the world did this happen? From the beginning, the question of Puerto Rico has perplexed the United States. The island was essential to the defense of the Panama Canal, so we did not make it independent, in contrast to two other Spanish possessions we gained in the war, Cuba (which become independent in 1902) and the Philippines (1946). And we judged it foreign in language and culture — and worse, overpopulated — so New Mexico-style Americanization leading to statehood was out of the question.

Similarly, Puerto Ricans have never resolved their relationship with the United States. For almost 50 years after the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rican sentiment was divided between dreams of statehood and of independence. This ambivalence deterred the island from ever petitioning Congress for one or the other. And until mid-century, sporadic outbursts of violent nationalism haunted the scene.

Partly to put such extremism out of business, Congress in 1948 allowed Puerto Rico to elect its own governor and then in 1950 gave it an intricately designed, semi-autonomous “commonwealth” status short of statehood. Two years later, the island adopted its own Constitution, and Congress quickly ratified it.

Puerto Ricans elect their own Legislature, along with the governor. They enjoy entitlements like Social Security, but they do not pay federal income taxes. They retain their own cultural identity (Spanish is the prevailing tongue) but live under the umbrella of the American trade system and the American military. They have been citizens since 1917, but they have no vote in Congress or for the presidency.

The man who brought forth this unique arrangement, which has come to seem permanent, was Luis Muñoz Marín, who dominated Puerto Rico’s politics beginning in 1940. In 1948 he became the island’s first elected governor. He won three more terms and could easily have been “president for life.” A stretch of 116th Street in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem is named Luis Muñoz Marín Boulevard in his honor.

Muñoz was an eloquent advocate of independence until, faced with daunting statistics at the end of World War II, he concluded that Puerto Rico’s impoverished economy could not support nationhood. So he began packaging his third-way brainchild.

When pitching commonwealth on the mainland, Muñoz — an artist of words and imagery who also enjoyed a drink or two — would observe that Puerto Rico is the olive in the American martini. The phrase went down well in Washington, but Muñoz used different language at home. Neither Congress nor the American courts have ever embraced Muñoz’s Spanish-language phrase for “commonwealth,” universally recognized in Puerto Rico: “estado libre asociado,” or free associated state. Those three words suggested an autonomy (or even statehood or independence) beyond what came to pass. But Muñoz was too popular on the island for that to cause him trouble.

Still, Muñoz always intended to bring “enhanced autonomy” in trade, self-governance, taxation and entitlements to Puerto Rico. But Fidel Castro’s seizure of power in Cuba in 1959 moved Washington’s attention away from the commonwealth.

Muñoz left office in 1965. His dreams faded. The economy he jump-started went flat. Today, the government accounts for 30 percent of Puerto Rico’s work force (compared with 16 percent on the mainland).

Then in 1974, the Democratic National Committee and some shrewd local political strategists came up with an idea for how to play to lingering discontent over the island’s status: Why not make nice with Puerto Rico (and, as important, with the Puerto Rican vote in American cities) by awarding it the number of delegates to the Democratic presidential nominating convention that its population would yield as a state? But not until this year has a presidential race been close enough, long enough, to yield Puerto Rico a role in the endgame.

On the island, politics is focused on the longstanding deadlock between the two dominant parties, whose identities — one is for statehood and one is for enhanced autonomy — today bear no relation to those of the Republicans and Democrats in the 50 states. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are, gingerly, bidding for support from both of them.

But the mainland population of Puerto Ricans (like the island’s, almost four million) is watching, too. That fully enfranchised constituency is up for grabs in November. Republicans have fished in these waters, too.

Presidential candidates usually offer Puerto Ricans hazy promises that are sure to be unfulfilled. First on the list: We’ll do whatever you want about the island’s status if you deliver us an overwhelming majority for one or another option. That’s not going to happen.

Since 1967, public support on the island has seesawed inconclusively between statehood and enhanced autonomy — a better version of the deal they already have. Muñoz’s commonwealth helped eclipse independence; that course enjoys only limited support today. An overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans wants, one way or another, to be American.

The next president could just appoint another commission, more high-level and forceful than past ones, to reopen the dormant question of Puerto Rico’s status. But there is an additional option.

Fidel Castro is gone from office, Hugo Chávez’s influence is growing, Brazil is becoming an oil power, and the United States has no Latin American policy to speak of. John F. Kennedy wisely turned to Puerto Rican leaders to help him frame a new policy for the region in 1961. Similarly, the next president could ask Puerto Rico, with its democratic tradition and its past success with economic development, to help us plan for the post-Castro Caribbean.

The United States is overdue in re-engaging with this special place, which landed in our lap as a stepchild of imperialism in 1898, and which we have never seen clearly.

Michael Janeway, a former editor of The Boston Globe and a professor of journalism and arts at Columbia, is writing a history of the United States and Puerto Rico in the 20th century.

Puerto Rico eyes statehood status

Monday, May 5th, 2008

By Brian DeBose

Washington Times (April 26, 2008)

The status of Puerto Rico — commonwealth, U.S. state or independent — could be settled soon by the island’s populace if Congress will allow it.

Earlier this week, a bill to allow Puerto Rico residents to hold an official vote on whether to become a U.S. state or continue commonwealth status, passed a congressional committee for the first time, and the head of Puerto Rico’s governing party says the time has never been more ripe for the Caribbean island to become the 51st state.

The New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, which is pro-statehood, has been trying to get Congress to sanction a vote for more than two years and says it thinks a bill can be passed this year. Previous referendums on the island’s status have been held by its government without U.S. authorization.
“In the past, we’ve never had a federally sanctioned vote, which caused turnout to drop to about 70 percent, and we feel we can reach our average of 83 percent participation if we have Congress’ support,” said Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock, a party member.

Mr. McClintock’s party is at the height of its political power, controlling both Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives and Senate, and 42 of the island’s 78 mayoral posts. Party Chairman Luis Fortuno is the territory’s nonvoting delegate to Congress. In addition to that, their chief rival and leader of the opposing party, Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila has been indicted on 19 count of campaign-finance violations and mail fraud, negating his ability to effectively advocate against the bill.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, New York Democrat, introduced the Puerto Rico Democracy Act in 2006, along with with Mr. Fortuno, but the bill had been languishing in committee until this week. “I am very pleased that the process is finally moving forward to allow Puerto Ricans the ability to decide once and for all whether they would like to be a state or an independent nation,” Mr. Serrano said.

Mr. McClintock wants a congressional floor vote by summer in order for his party to reach its goal of a referendum on the territory’s status before the end of next year. “We are very excited now, because my trip here was to advocate for the bill to come out of committee, and an hour before I arrived Tuesday, it was moved, and we are now calling for Congress to hold a vote on the floor,” he said. Mr. McClintock is also involved in the Democratic presidential race as co-chairman of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s National Hispanic Leadership Council.

He said it should be no surprise that recent polls of Puerto Rico voters show her getting 50 percent to Mr. Obama’s 37 percent in advance of the island’s June 1 Democratic primary, in which 63 delegates are up for grabs. While both Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have significant Puerto Rican populations in their states, her policy record is far more robust in terms of issues specific to Puerto Rico.

“In six years, she has either sponsored or worked to get passed a number of bills, including the domestic-manufacturing tax cut, and working to expand the child care tax credit so that any Puerto Rican with a child is eligible,” he said. Currently, Puerto Ricans must have three or more children to receive a child tax credit. He also said Mrs. Clinton has visited the island many times, most notably after Hurricane Georges to make sure the island received Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. Mr. Obama’s only recent trip has been a fundraiser, in which he met with Mr. Acevedo Vila, but not with Mr. McClintock.

“Senator Obama has not sponsored or co-sponsored any legislation related to Puerto Rico,” Mr. McClintock said. “I have had two private meetings and one political meeting with her, and none with him.”

Las elecciones y la agenda inconclusa de Vieques*

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

El periodo actual de elecciones, tanto en Puerto Rico con en EU, nos abre una ventana para reubicar el tema de Vieques en la agenda de los candidatos y los partidos políticos. Tenemos que aprovechar hasta el máximo este momento para lograr acción concreta a favor de la justicia y la paz en la Isla Nena.

Varios acontecimientos en enero y febrero apuntaron al interés que todavía genera en Washington el tema de Vieques. El 12 de febrero, el Senador Barack Obama, candidato presidencial del Partido Demócrata de EU, señaló lo siguiente en carta enviada al Gobernador de Puerto Rico:

“Mi administración trabajará (…) para lograr una limpieza ambiental aceptable en las ex tierras militares de Vieques. Monitorearemos la salud de los viequenses y promoveremos soluciones para las condiciones de salud causadas por las actividades militares y trabajaremos por un desarrollo sustentable en Vieques.”

Además de Obama, dos importantes congresistas demócratas hicieron declaraciones significativas sobre Vieques recientemente.

El 25 de enero, el Congresista Joseph Crowley (D-NY), miembro de la Comisión de Medios y Arbitrios y de la Comisión de Asuntos Exteriores de la Cámara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos, envió una carta al Contralor General de los Estados Unidos y jefe de la Oficina de Contabilidad Gubernamental (“GAO” o “Government Accountability Office”), David Walker, sobre el proceso de limpieza y descontaminación en Vieques.

El congresista manifestó, entre otras cosas, “(…) la presencia de la Marina todavía se siente en Vieques a través de la grave contaminación en tierra y agua (…) y las agencias responsables por la limpieza no han trabajado adecuadamente (…).”

Crowley, fue parte del movimiento para sacar de Vieques a la Marina de Guerra de los Estados Unidos, visitó las tierras contaminadas en Vieques poco después de la salida de la Marina de Vieques en el 2003 y ha expresado, en varias ocasiones, su preocupación con el proceso de limpieza y descontaminación en Vieques.

Por su parte, la congresista demócrata Hilda Solis, presidente del grupo legislativo hispano sobre salud y medio ambiente, según artículo en el preriódico, El Paso Times, “ (…) puso en duda la veracidad de las versiones del gobierno estadounidense de que las maniobras navales realizadas en Vieques durante 60 años no dejaron rastros nocivos para la salud en esa isla municipio puertorriqueña.” Solis, le pide atender las contradicciones entre
los estudios federales y de grupos independientes, y asegurarse de que se estuviera protegiendo la salud pública durante la actual limpieza y descontaminación.

Aprendimos hace tiempo a no confiar en los políticos – porque la historia no lo permite. Sin embargo, aprendimos también a aprovechar del poder de los políticos cuando fuese posible, para adelantar los procesos en la lucha por la justicia y la paz. Así que, si Obama y Hillary quieren los votos boricuas y latinos en EU, tendrán que pronunciar sobre Vieques en varias ocasiones adicionales de aquí a noviembre. Y para nosotros, esa atención es importante para presionar por la descontaminación, la devolución de las tierras y a favor de la salud de nuestra gente.

Otro hecho político positivo para Vieques fue el nombramiento en febrero del Lcdo. Flavio Cumpiano para dirigir la Oficina de Asuntos Federales de Puerto Rico en Washington, DC (PRFFA). Entre 1999 y 2003 Cumpiano representó, pro bono, al Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques, en Washington, D.C. y logró, entre otras cosas, que decenas de congresistas escribieran cartas a favor de la salida de la Marina de Vieques. Referente a las expresiones de la congresista Solís, señaló el nuevo director de PRFFA:

“Pero esta carta (de Solis) nos dice que no se puede dejar de lado el sufrimiento diario de los viequenses por la contaminación dejada por la Marina y debe ser un impulso para renovar la atención de Washington en que éste es un caso todavía pendiente con Puerto Rico”.

Las expresiones de los congresistas y de Obama, y el nombramiento de Flavio Cumpiano en PRFFA nos ofrecen una nueva oportunidad de colocar el tema de Vieques en espacios decisionales que pudiera aportar a los procesos de reconstrucción de un Vieques liberado de la Marina. Tenemos ante nosotros un gran reto: convertir estas oportunidades en pasos concretos que contribuyan a la descontaminación, la salud de nuestras familias, la
devolución de nuestras tierras y una economía realmente viequense.

Próximamente, el CPRDV se reunirá con miembros de la Coordinadora Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques para dialogar sobre estrategias dirigidas a insertar en los procesos eleccionarios la agenda incompleta de la lucha por la justicia y la paz en Vieques. Entre otras exigencias de esta lucha que continua se incluyen:

1. asignación de fondos suficientes y recurrentes del Gobierno Federal para lograr la descontaminación más profunda posible, con la participación genuina de la comunidad; una limpieza cónsona con los deseos de la comunidad de recuperar su patrimonio territorial para la creación de espacios de vivienda, recreación, desarrollo de turismo, conservación y preservación, entre otros usos articulados en el Plan Maestro para el Desarrollo Sustentable de Vieques;

2. fondos para contratar a los asesores científicos comunitarios tan necesarios para ‘traducir’ a lenguaje entendible la gran cantidad de documentos técnicos producido por la Marina, las compañías privadas contradas para la limpieza ambiental y las agencias de gobierno;

3. fondos necesarios para establecer un proceso de diálogo y trabajo comunitario sobre la descontaminación, más allá del Restoration Advisory Board (entidad creada según las leyes federales que rigen la limpieza en bases militares) que se reune solamente cuatro veces al año y que no ha querido incluir la participación comunitaria crítica;

4. el fin de las detonaciones abiertas y la implantación de nuevas metodologías sanas para eliminar el peligro de las bombas sin detonar en la ex zona de tiro de la Marina;

5. un proceso de diálogo y trabajo en Vieques, Puerto Rico y Washington, conducente a la transferencia de los terrenos todavía en manos federales – el 90% de las tierras antes controladas por la Marina, actualmente se encuentran bajo la jurisdicción del Servicio de Pesca y Vida Silvestre del Departamento del Interior de EU;

6. los recursos económicos y otras ayudas necesarias para levantar un centro de salud moderno, con todas las facilidades y personal para ofrecerle a nuestra comunidad los tratamientos para el cáncer y otras enfermedades catastróficas; además de un centro para el estudio e investigación sobre los efectos de los tóxicos militares en la salud;

7. un proyecto con implicaciones internacionales para el estudio de los procesos de la descontaminación y lo relacionado con la salud para compartir información, estrategias, tecnologías, etc. entre pueblos en diversos lugares afectados por los destrozos del militarismo;

8. compensación justa para las familias viequenses expropiadas en los años cuarenta y para las víctimas de daños a la salud y/o propiedad del bombardeo y otras actividades bélicas en Vieques.

Esta corta lista, sugerimos, debe formar parte de la plataforma de los políticos tanto en Vieques como en la Isla Grande y en Estados Unidos. Es menester insertar, de nuevo, el tema de Vieques en el pensar de los líderes y grupos comunitarios, culturales, laborales, políticos y religiosos puertorriqueños y latinos en Estados Unidos para que los políticos que buscan sus votos sepan que Vieques todavía ocupa un espacio vital en la mentalidad colectiva de los votantes hispanos en las grandes ciudades estadounidenses.

R. Rabin, CPRDV
Marzo 08

*buscamos ayuda con la traducción de este texto al inglés

THE INCOMPLETE LATINO VOTE:

Monday, February 25th, 2008

PUERTO RICO AND THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
By Angelo Falcón

Hispanic Link News Service (March 2, 2008)

The increasing interest in the role of the Latino vote in the Democratic primaries for United States president has opened up an important opportunity to educate the U.S. public about the Latino community. We have, hopefully, dispelled the myth that Latinos will not vote for a black for president. We have, in the process, also demonstrated that the Latino vote should not be taken for granted by the Democratic Party establishment, as the Clinton campaign now apparently views Latinos as her last best hope to revive her flailing campaign.

When talking about the Latino vote, reference is made to the fact that the Latino population in the United States now stands at 44 million. This figure is incorrect. There are actually 48 million Latinos in this country, if you include the four million living in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and others.

These are all U.S. citizens, mostly Puerto Ricans, with a significant number of Dominicans.

One could argue that they should not be included in the Latino population count when discussing the presidential election because, although U.S. citizens, these four million do not have the right to vote for president. But they can and do vote in the nominations process of the two major parties, so they are relevant to a discussion of the role of the Latino vote in selecting the next president of the United States.

Take the case of Puerto Rico:

Island Puerto Ricans will be holding their caucus and convention on June 7, making it the very last race for the nomination before the party conventions this summer. In the Democratic Party, Puerto Rico has a delegation of 63, which is larger than that of 24 states. If the party upholds its sanctions against Florida and Michigan for violating party rules in the scheduling of their primaries, Puerto Rico’s convention delegation will be larger than that of 26 states.

In the past, Puerto Rico’s was a winner-take-all system, but party rules have changed so that it is now supposed to be proportional. While the smart money had been that Clinton could count on all of these delegates, recent events are reflecting the Obama tsunami. The presumed solidity of the Puerto Rican delegation in this regard is crumbling.

Most recently, Puerto Rico Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá has endorsed Barack Obama, and it appears that Obama has raised more contributions than Clinton in Puerto Rico. The notion, advanced by Michael Barone and other analysts, that Puerto Rico would deliver all of its delegates to one candidate and could be decisive, inasmuch as it would be the last contest in a long nominations battle, is not panning out.

Despite this, the very idea that a territory (or, as I like to call it, colony) like Puerto Rico even has the possibility of determining who would be the candidate for president of a major U.S. political party is deliciously ironic, given that its residents, all U.S. citizens, do not have the right to vote for U.S. president or voting members of Congress.

In this inequity, they are joined by another million U.S. citizens in the territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and other smaller islands, as well as the District of Columbia. (Some will note that it is perhaps no coincidence that these are areas populated overwhelmingly by people of color.)

So in this very exciting presidential election, it is important that we also understand there are over 5 million U.S. citizens in the territories (colonies) and the District of Columbia who continue to be disenfranchised. The so-called “Latino vote” is diluted by this inequality, as is its potential impact. Of course, none of the presidential candidates are raising this issue.

Angelo Falcón is founder and president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, based in New York City. A political scientist, he teaches at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He is the author of the Atlas of Stateside Puerto Ricans and co-author of the book, Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City. E-mail him at afalcon@latinopolicy.org.