By Howard Hills
The new Governor of Puerto Rico needs a crash course remedial civics lesson about continuity of democratic representation and government by consent during an orderly transition of power under rule of law.
Through an accident of history and a flawed law of succession, the appointed Attorney General of Puerto Rico now has become the unelected Governor of the last large and populous U.S.territory. In a bizarre pronouncement she has renounced all duties of the office that are “political” in nature.
Apparently intending to appease critics who charge she had complicity in the misconduct of her predecessor, Wanda Vazquez has appointed herself to be political referee of partisan politics instead of the political leader under the territory’s constitution.
That could mean she sees herself as a caretaker who is prepared to step down after appointing a more powerful political leader as her successor. Or, it may be a ploy to buy time and consolidate power as Governor.
Either way, her gesture pretending to be above politics is perhaps the most political thing she could do. Especially because it included her declaration of intention to abandon the Puerto Rico territorial government’s formal petitions to the U.S. Congress seeking the 119 year-old American federally ruled territory’s admission to statehood.
Ignoring majority rule electing the pro-statehood Legislative Assembly and the pro-statehood Governor she succeeds, the novice Governor has by executive fiat and unilateral edict abdicated her role representing the freely expressed will of the majority in the most recent democratic elections.
Despite high voter turnout in those elections that installed pro-statehood majorities in the political branches of the territorial government, the new Governor is abandoning and refusing in effect to carry out the measures adopted as law and policy seeking statehood for the 3.2 million Americans in the territory.
Ignoring pro-statehood votes
What makes that even more anti-democratic and promises to foment even greater political frustration is the reality that while she was never elected she was in the line of succession and has become Governor only because she was appointed by a Governor who was elected, and she ran as a member of the same party as the Governor who appointed her.
That party comprises a bipartisan alliance of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico who are both Republicans and Democrats. The central pillar of that party’s platform is that Puerto Rico can realize its potential for private sector led prosperity and attain equal civil and politics rights under the U.S. Constitution only through admission as the Fifty-First State of the Union.
A turning point for Puerto Rico
No one paying attention in America or beyond is unaware that the “commonwealth” model of home rule established by Congress in 1952 has failed democratically, politically and economically. It needs to be replaced through an orderly transition to statehood or nationhood on terms approved by Congress and ratified by the voters in an informed act of self-determination.
If U.S. citizenship is to continue, statehood is the only status that secures equal rights. If nationhood is instituted, the U.S. Constitution will cease to be the supreme law of the land.
By declaring that she is suspending the island’s law and policy seeking federal certification of the first political vote on a permanent non-territorial political status, the new Governor not only has disenfranchised and denied government by consent to the majority who voted for statehood in two past locally sponsored vote. She is also disenfranchising those who elected a majority pro-statehood government that is petitioning Congress and the President for a federally sponsored vote to confirm majority support for statehood or not.
Thus, ultimately her supposedly non-political gesture only appeared humble or populist, but in reality it was self-aggrandizing. By ignoring the disciplines of democratic representative self government and the legitimate role of even flawed political parties she is denominating herself party of one. That is how political cult of personality syndrome starts, usually led by a usurper who gained power without being elected.
The former Attorney General initially denied any ambition to be Governor, but now she has assumed the office through circumstances she pretends to have been beyond her control. The best way to support her success — for someone who hopes she does not make a bad situation worse — is to remind her that statesmanship is not the absence of political influences, but rather mastery in reconciliation between political narratives redeeming sound democratic values, integrity in the rule of law, and principles of human liberty and dignity.