On Saturday, June 20, 2020, 5 months shy of Puerto Rico’s November 3 general elections, the interim “Constitutional Governor” Wanda Vázquez of the PNP statehood party, and former PR Justice Department Secretary, ratifies the disputed New Electoral Reform Code, in defiance of opposition lawmakers, and the ACLU’s admonitions about the biased, antidemocratic process.
By July 2020, we had come full circle back to where we started a year ago in July 2019. This time, the House of Cards that Wanda Built comes tumbling down like a ton of bricks. Within the ranks of her interim PNP statehood administration came allegations of obstruction of justice by her own Justice Department Secretary, reported AP’s Danica Soto on Latino Rebels in conjunction with the David Begnaud exclusive:
Fired official, Dennise Longo, issued a statement Tuesday saying the governor and other officials are targets of an investigation that began earlier this year involving the alleged mismanagement of supplies slated for Puerto Ricans affected by a series of strong earthquakes. Longo, who did not provide any details of the case, said she had referred that matter for investigation the day she was forced out.
And, while we all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, we can always count on the “Diehard Patriots” to circle back to the “Unfinished Business” of the Summer of ’19 Revolution: prophetic words to live by from spokespersons placed high on the mantelpiece of Puerto Rico justice.
On July 24, 2020, El Nuevo Día (ENDI) journalist Torres Gotay scores the “Interview of The Century” that blows the lid off the “mafia institucional” that keeps getting in the way of island progress.
The "whistleblower" breaks his silence concerning the actual events leading to the downfall of the “Deposed Rosselló.” Torres Gotay writes, “In this interview, granted on the occasion of the first anniversary of Rosselló's fall, Maldonado (right), occasionally supported by his son (left) and lawyer Mayra López Mulero (center), talks, for the first time, about how he came to amass so much power in the government, how his breakup took place, his ideas about the chat, who really ruled in that administration and the investigations he referred to, to no avail, to the then-Secretary of Justice and now Governor Wanda Vázquez.” Truth-saying that doesn’t bode well for the “Constitutional Governor’s” bid for the PNP party's 2020 primary nomination. Simply put: ♪Another One Bites the Dust♪
2020: The Year of the Bungled Elections
“If you run the country properly, you can rig the election well in advance, to make sure the final result suits you” – Time, Sunday Times
The Botched Primary (August 9 and 20)
The unprecedented two-day primary fiasco August 9 and 20, the lowest voter turnout ever (giving way to Carmen Yulín’s crushing primary defeat) could not be blamed on voter apathy and the COVID-19 scare alone. “Hundreds of frustrated voters who wore the required face masks and braved a spike in COVID-19 cases were turned away from centers across Puerto Rico as officials told them that no ballots were available” informed Politico.
After the “Constitutional Governor” changed the rules of the game in midstream (primary candidate campaigns were still in full swing) voters were being held hostage “secuestrados” by an incompetent political lackey she placed at the helm of her newly appointed State Elections Commission. “Who had never had the experience of leading an electoral process at any level. It was the first appointment made unilaterally and without consensus of opposition parties in the history of Puerto Rico's State Election Commissions,” denounced the former “First Woman Governor” Sila María Calderón in the ENDI op-ed.
The then-candidate for governor for the opposition PPD, Carlos "Charlie" Delgado, for his part, shoots straight for the jugular: “Wanda Vázquez lied the day she said she would not sign any transcendental measure without the consensus of all parties. The PNP stole during the hurricane emergency, it stole during the earthquake emergency, they continue to steal during the pandemic, and now they want to steal the election.” reported ENDI.
From where I sat, islanders were riddled with fear and anxiety over the ill-defined protocols of the prematurely enacted Electoral Reform Code. Voter suppression legislation sponsored by then-Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, that was calculated to give the upper hand to the Republican-controlled PNP statehood party in power on Election Day. (Sound familiar?)
Panic was the order of the day: Where to vote? How to vote? Will their vote count? Is it safe to visit the polls? Are early voting ballots subject to mail fraud? Will the Election 2020 ballots for the final ‘Six Candidates for Governor’ be printed on time? Will absentee ballots from stateside registered Puerto Ricans be counted?
Has our democracy, once a paragon of integrity, efficiency, and balanced execution among world leaders, been compromised to the point of no return? “It was the first time primaries have been halted and led many to worry that it has cracked Puerto Ricans’ confidence in their government and could affect the outcome of upcoming November general elections on an island with a voter participation rate of nearly 70%,” the Puerto Rico-born Nicole Acevedo contextualized for NBC News.
What’s at stake? The idea that being American is better than being Puerto Rican. That, the American way is better than the Boricua Way. That American professionals are superior to Puerto Rican professionals. A self-degrading (and self-defeating) “colonial mentality” that brought us the likes of “Julia Cruella"—the Betsy DeVos of Puerto Rico. The “Deposed Rosselló’s” Education Secretary, six-digit consultant, the ex-convict Julia Keleher, robbed our children of their future under the guise of “Education Reform”; and, at the end of the school day, left a heart-wrenching trail of school ruins in her wake. (see “The Disappearing Schools of Puerto Rico” NYT Magazine 9/12/19)
When suddenly (as though heaven sent but with strings attached) the Washington Post story headline breaks: Trump announces aid package for Puerto Rico in a campaign year reversal Democrats call brazenly political (Sept. 18, 2020):
The FEMA package announced for Puerto Rico on Friday includes $9.6 billion for repairing the island’s electrical grid and a separate $2 billion grant for the island’s education department to rebuild schools and facilities…a move that comes as his reelection campaign increasingly relies on winning Florida with support from its Latino communities.
A few weeks later (Oct 1, 2020) social media influencer Jay Fonseca blasts the earth-shattering headline: “Wanda Vázquez se montará en el Air Force 1 para hacer campaña con Trump en Florida”/Wanda Vázquez will board Air Force 1 to attend Pro-Trump Rally in Florida (Trump’s handmaiden???)
At long last, the slow-moving wheels of justice start to kick in: “Federal Prosecutors Are Ramping up Efforts to Tackle Corruption in Puerto Rico” reported Floricua/Americano News. (Oct 20, 2020)
Soon after (Oct 25, 2020) the “Constitutional Governor’s” supporters (some 150,000 disappointed primary voters) launched a last-ditch write-in campaign determined to win a full term in office (by hook or by crook, it would seem). Political hopes thwarted (as time would tell) by the Super Pac smear campaign (an attack ad painting a grotesque picture of “Wanda the Lying Witch” that made me cringe with disgust, her misogynistic enemies could stoop so low.)
The Nov. 3rd General Elections and… “The Big Lie”
The final island wide election results, compiled by the McConnell and Valdez legal firm Nov. 13, 2020, must be taken with a grain of salt. In light of the widespread ballot tampering, State Elections Commission (CEE) irregularities, illegalities, and ballot counting snafus, recorded by the seasoned journalist Mivette Vega in the timeline “Puerto Rico’s Election Debacle Explained” (Not the least of which was the “discovery of the cardboard briefcases with uncounted ballots in a vault.”) [Floricua/Americano News]
On November 3, even before the official ballot count was completed, the overzealous Pedro Pierluisi declared himself the victor. In concert with the 67% who voted for the opposition parties—the PPD, the PIP, the MVC, Proyecto Dignidad, and Movimiento de Consciencia that represented a shift towards Patriotism and integrity in government—I flinched at his phony appeal to solidarity “I send you all a very respectful greeting and I urge you all, and I include myself, to put aside politics and focus on the common causes that we must have as a people." (An insult to the intelligence of the people whose hands were tied by an illegal and corrupt electoral process. Our people deserve better and he should know better than to rub salt on the wound.)
The good news is: our newly-appointed U.S. District Attorney Stephen Muldrow (a Spanish fluent friend of the people) brings his proven strategy of identifying and rewarding “whistleblowers” in the fight against corruption, thereby restoring confidence for the release of stymied federal funds.
The bad news: the former Puerto Rico District Attorney (who also prosecuted the “Corruption Governor” Pedro Rosselló (father) administration) had been hand-picked by President Trump, who as far as “Diehard Patriots” were concerned, had shown nothing but “contempt” for Puerto Ricans.) [Latino Rebels]
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Lest we forget, the “White House Reality Show” Trump 2020 reelection campaign trail statement to the press: “It’s Puerto Ricans here who want statehood. The people over there are happy to stay the way they are.” (He said WHAAAT?!)
WE ARE FIGHTING FOR OUR LIVES! Should the U.S. continue to shove their fossil-fuel energy privatization and price-gouging plans down the throats of islanders, in collusion with our Republican-controlled PNP statehood government, and “without the consent of the governed.” As points out the ex-candidate for governor and former senator Juan Dalmau—master architect of the “Patria Nueva” New Homeland PIP independence party platform—in the political commentator’s scathing retrospective of the truth “LUMA No Sirve” LUMA Does Not Work (07/20/22):
The last straw has been that on a tropical island in the Caribbean, where sun and water are accessible renewable energy sources, LUMA opposes implementing those energy policies. It has already publicly opposed the use of recovery funds for a transition to energy away from fossil fuel. Their interest is profit, not the common welfare of the country.
Since the rise to power of another unscrupulous, power-hungry autocrat in the ‘Rosselló Dynasty’ line of succession (who ostensibly usurped the “Governor’s Chair” for the second time around) it would also appear “the jig is up.” When one considers the PNP statehood party’s gaslighting history of manipulating voters with promises that go against their self-interests as a political franchise, asserts the Harvard Review op-ed by Diego Panzardi Serra (11/11/20):
The topic of statehood in Puerto Rico serves a political agenda: the support for the New Progressive Party. The leaders of the PNP use the promise of “prosperity” and “federal funds” through statehood to gather votes for their candidates. This has been the case for decades, and it was the purpose of this plebiscite. And the one in 2017. And the one in 2012. Both were boycotted by the people and promptly dismissed by Congress. However, this mirage of statehood is even more crucial for the party now because this last election witnessed its lowest voter count in history: just above 32%, or around 400,000 votes.
(For the record, the paltry endorsement of 400,000 voters out of a total universe of 2,314,362 registered voters does not a mandate make.)
Ultimately, my blistering indictments will draw some flak from backers of the “meaningless” ‘Statehood: Yes or No?’ referendum also on the Nov 3, 2020 ballot.
In that, for "Yes" supporters, the “Truth” is better left unsaid.
Nearly Two Years Later…
By Jove! The truth finally hits the fan! Or better said, the “Facts Come to the Rescue in the Age of Gaslighting” to quote Ron Elving of NPR News, who reminds journalists and other observers: “There are many versions of the truth, many misuses, and many disagreements about what it even means. The idea of fact is something we feel better prepared to defend on objective grounds.”
On 05/22/22, the update by journalist Damaris Suárez of the Center for Investigative Journalism CPI, “Electoral Comptroller Reopens Investigation into Possible Coordination of Pierluisi Committee with Save Puerto Rico” presenting the facts in the case of the 2020 rigged elections, merits the following long and explicit citations (inserting my observations, as needed):
Super Pac creator Joseph 'Joey' Fuentes Fernandez (the “Indifferent Governor’s” intimate childhood friend) pleaded guilty in federal court to covering up for the real donors who contributed $495,000 to the Save Puerto Rico campaign against Pierluisi's 2020 election campaign rivals by creating two phantom foundations. Dávila (Wanda’s campaign manager) confirmed to the CPI that the ECO (Electoral Comptroller’s Office) notified him last Friday of the reopening of the investigation. He reiterated his conviction that there was a "close coordination" between Pierluisi's political committee and the Super Pac, after the information that has transcended with the admission of guilt of Fuentes and the official documents of the case about the participation in the scheme of an associate of the current Governor. (Revealing an appalling roll call of "super influential" 2020 election campaign donors.)
Further, the criminal investigations confirm the adage “there is no honor among thieves” when one also listens (as I did) to the shocking audio cited in the Latino Rebels report by freelance journalist Berríos Polanco headlined “Puerto Rico Super PAC Pleads Guilty to Dark Money Scheme, Possible Link to Gov. Pierluisi” (May 23, 2022):
Gov. Pierluisi has repeatedly denied these claims, saying “it’s impossible” that his campaign was involved in any sort of collusion with Salvemos a Puerto Rico. (A likely story.) Audio in possession of En Blanco y Negro con Sandra disputes these claims. In the audio, businessman Ricky Castro, who was implicated in the federal charges against Salvemos a Puerto Rico, can be heard explaining that he donated $50,000 to attack Vázquez Garced and names one of his six lawyers as Andrés “Andy” Guillemard, husband of Caridad Pierluisi and the Governor’s brother-in-law.
!Anda p’al cará! (Lo and behold) the unbridled corruption at the hands of the “Indifferent Governor” and Co. is a family affair. The flagrant nepotism suggests violation of hiring laws enforced by the PR Office of Government Ethics (OGE). Two days after Fiona struck (09/20/22), his administration had already come under scrutiny by the Feds “New York AG Calls for Federal Probe into Puerto Rico’s Energy Provider After Outages” (jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.) [The Hill]
For what it’s worth, the “Indifferent Governor’s” sister Caridad Pierluisi, and former campaign manager, now functions as her twice-divorced brother’s “First Lady” in La Fortaleza according to a released White House itinerary (compliments of the surprised David Begnaud) of President Biden’s post-Fiona visit to the southern coastal town of Ponce, Puerto Rico. (10/03/22)
I also have it on good authority (having worked for municipal government) unless “La Fortaleza” Governor’s Office is above the law, OEG mandates that all public service appointments of close relations process a special waiver justifying the permanent or contractual services hire. I was stunned by the double standard, the lack of due diligence by journalists in this potential Fortaleza ethics violation story.
As was the case concerning the former Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulin Cruz who Jay Fonseca revealed “agreed to pay an $8,000 fine to the Office of Government Ethics (OEG) after reaching an agreement to dispose of a complaint (no doubt instigated by her petty PNP party successor, Miguel Romero) that accused her of violating the Government Ethics Act by hiring the wife of a municipal employee without proper dispensation” (or waiver). (10/19/22)
(To be fair, I suspect the former mayor took the fall for the incompetence—or betrayal—of HR clerical employees responsible for completing the hiring paperwork, who she was hard-pressed to oversee from her outdoor trailer office. Where she was stationed at a remote distance from “La Alcaldía” City Hall and the toxic work environment fostered by employees inherited from her PNP predecessor, who by all accounts were hostile towards her. In the end, the former HR manager for such corporate giants as Colgate Palmolive, Banco Popular and the U.S. Department of the Treasury took the high road, preferring to settle the account rather than making a federal case about their negligence.)
It struck me that the fair-minded Jay Fonseca had stopped giving the politically persecuted mayor the benefit of the doubt like he used to. But then again, it’s conceivable the now hugely successful news media personality, producer of his own conglomerate of commercial news sources, felt honor-bound to insulate the corporate sponsors of his brand from any perceived sympathy towards the so-called “leftist-commie.”
On another occasion, the producer of the daily news briefing Noticias Con Calle, covering the news beat on the streets, Jay Fonseca, appeared extremely agitated on FB, that once again the “Indifferent Governor” was MIA and couldn’t be reached for comment about the post-Fiona intermittent blackouts and LUMA’s negligence in restoring power.
“Everybody knows it’s his sister who’s calling the shots” he publicly shames the “Indifferent Governor” while blurting out the following insider tidbit about him (I’ll paraphrase for artistic effect): Rumor has it, he was out and about, skipping the light fandango with the ladies in San Juan, the night before. Frankly, this was the first time I’d heard the social climber was a player (mum’s the word.) Causing me to wonder about his first wife, mother of his four children, Maria Elena Carrión—daughter of banker José Carrión, first chairman of PR’s Fiscal Control Board—the NY Times once billed as “Puerto Rico’s Prosperous D.C. Power Couple” in 2016. Curiosity was also piqued about the mysterious, stylish woman attending his swearing in as governor in 2020.
Anyway, when the “Indifferent Governor” was finally reached for comment, the elitist corporate attorney (who had also been spotted frolicking under the hot sun playing volleyball ‘footloose and fancy free’) revealed his rather cold-blooded nature: “What can I do? I’m not an engineer.” (So much for having a comforting and kind word for distressed islanders surviving without power and running water.) At one point, the righteously indignant Jay Fonseca read him the riot act on his FB channel (08/18/22). (The brother was livid!)
Lastly, while it’s true the “Indifferent Governor” is innocent until proven guilty of the Super Pac campaign finance criminal charges, we mustn’t forget, this is not the first time his campaign fundraising activities have been under the microscope, as ascertained Politico (05/25/16) with reference to the ex-resident commissioner’s failed 2016 gubernatorial run against the MIT scientist Ricardo Rosselló.