A South Bronx avowed progressive, powerless in “colonial” Puerto Rico, is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode, and spill the toxic truths about insular partisan politics (“Politiqueo with a capital “P.”) If only to cleanse the lush tropical scenery of all the mind-boggling hot air, opposition dirt, and century old (I hate to say it) “White Wannabe ‘American Copycats’ Syndrome’ (or “malas mañas Americanas”) holding sway over the political panorama. And place an X on the political landmines; to safely maneuver and (hopefully) defuse the reactive core of our politically volatile Borinquen Nation: Before we self-destruct!
Today, after having a front-row seat throughout five gubernatorial elections, leading up to the misguided public trust bestowed upon the “Deposed Governor” Ricardo Rosselló, on Elections 2016. While chronicling the “build and destroy” administrations of his predecessors—since my return from the San Francisco/Bay Area Latino immigrant mecca, in 1999.
Followed by the two controversial pinch-hitters post-Rosselló’s scandalous ouster, July 25, 2019, then vying for governor in the botched 2020 primary runoffs, August 9 and 20. Namely, the self-appointed “Usurper Governor” Pedro Pierluisi (PNP Dem) who went on to upset the applecart by “stealing” the governorship on Election Day, November 3, 2020. And the unelected “Constitutional Governor” Wanda Vázquez (PNP Rep) who begrudgingly conceded defeat having been the "wild card" in the governor’s race (for all intents and purposes) the figurehead for the real power behind the throne, then-Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz.
NOTHING and no one can convince me that statehood is viable (let alone credible) decolonization option for “Mi Gente.” For reasons ascribed to two tried-and-true Writer’s Guiding Principles applicable to this scenario:
Rule #1: Do not take at face value the politically motivated corruption scandals (or smear campaigns). These (mysteriously) pop up during an election cycle (or soon thereafter) to “make or break” each successive administration, as if “Los Federales” or FBI were waiting in the wings for the right time to strike and topple the regime, by defaming partisan leaders (or candidates for office) House of Cards Criollo-Style—guilty or not.
I take no pleasure (or pride) in airing the dirty laundry of high-ranking civil servants, political hack appointees, and their blood-sucking consultants. Whose illicit activities and improprieties have caused much-needed federal disaster recovery funds to be held in abeyance by mean-spirited U.S. government officials; distrust disgracing all hard-working, law-abiding, decent, and proud Boricuas by giving Puerto Rico a bad name.
Suffice it to say that influence peddling, money laundering, federal contract-bidding violations, quid pro quo schemes, and elections tampering are par for the course in the Game of Thrones to protect the PNP statehood party’s stronghold over the executive, legislative and judicial spheres of governance. Including (but not limited to) the Machiavellian designs by the legislative body (in cahoots with Rosselló) to put the clamps on freedom of the press. While dragging us through the mind-numbing distraction of a “constitutional crisis” over the laws of succession.
Not to mention "fast-tracking" the PNP Planning Board’s “Junta de Planificación” (JP) Land Use Reclassification Map (while they are in control) against the better judgment of environmental conservationists and opposition Green Leaders, who expressed their vehement objections on the weekly Claridad (the pre-eminent news forum for “Diehard Patriots”):
For his part, environmental planner José Rivera Santana, catalogued the JP's claims as "another outrage and an example of corruption in the management of planning regulations." In effect, what the Planning Board intends is to abolish through a process, in my opinion illegal and fraudulent, the Land Use Plan and the territorial plans of the municipalities." He warned that if the proposal is approved, it will not only have dire consequences for natural systems, but also for urban centers and the quality of life of their residents.
And, the band plays on…
As if that kind of absolute power weren’t enough of an anticlimax—undermining the participative and transparent democratic processes, the “Summer of '19” revolutionaries demanded—the PNP statehood party sees fit, for the sake of party survival and damage control, to play an endgame straight out of the playbook “How to Get Away with Corruption.” As though they had forgotten that we the people and the WHOLE world were still watching.
In a nutshell, even before the 2020 PNP primary candidates for governor were officially announced in December 2019 (from the arguably slim pickings within the fractured pro-statehood party) our election cycle had begun FULL throttle—
Run, Win, Rob, Cover-up, Voters Rebel…Rinse, and Repeat
To think, the highly coveted “Governor’s Chair” was robbed right from under our very noses in the first place. On Election Night 2016, the 700,000 (or so) gubernatorial electronic votes did not a mandate make, as the delusional Rosselló falsely claimed, when the vacation interrupted governor refused to step down, at first. While underestimating the fire in the belly of the Feminist Collective he’d scorned who were waiting for him at the San Juan airport, demanding his resignation. (Who were also the first to join the worldwide protests outraged by the racist and cold-blooded murder in Minneapolis of our brother, the “gentle giant” George Floyd (QEPD/RIP).
The 2016 “winner-takes-all” was due in large part to widespread voter apathy and the ramifications of the split-vote, as recalled the independent Rep. Manuel Natal during his illuminating Democracy Now interview:
Well, I think, in 2016, in the general election, politics in Puerto Rico changed completely. Close to 20% of the people that voted for the governor’s position voted outside of the two-party system. That number is unheard of. An independent candidate, Alexandra Lúgaro got close to 12% of the votes. Another independent candidate, Manuel Cidre, got close to 6% of the votes. So, we’re already seeing the people of Puerto Rico looking for options outside of the two-party system.
Such that, another independent candidate, the charismatic Dr. José Vargas Vidot, faith healer and guardian angel of San Juan’s forgotten street people, won and still controls a Senator-at-large seat, serving as a conflict mediator.
Moreover, the Election 2016 results warranted a voter recount (in my opinion) considering the political hanky-panky also taking place, in a democracy where the integrity of the oversight State Elections Commission is compromised by bad apples, too. Think: #VotosEncamados. The alleged scheme of conducting home visits, completing hand-filled ballots for the bedridden and terminally ill leaves the door wide open for electoral fraud, the PPD commonwealth opposition denounced. But the PNP statehood party got away with some 1,000 votes anyway.
Or, as “el dicho” or wise folk saying goes “el que hace la ley, hace la trampa” whosoever drafts the law, incorporates the legal loophole.
To the extent that ALL EYES were on the PNP legislative majority’s sweeping changes to the Electoral Code “La Reforma Electoral” (voter suppression tantamount to gerrymandering in the States). About which, the ENDI op-ed emits the following cautionary tale:
Due to the critical nature of the electoral structure, any change must arise from a thorough debate and consensus among the different entities, experts and other stakeholders committed to strengthening our democratic system. Such criteria should guide the analysis of Senate Bill 1314 and House Bill 2164. The voting system must guarantee a transparent and reliable process. Otherwise, it would undermine the already declining voter turnout and, even worse, would make the system more vulnerable to fraud.
But, to no avail. When it comes to elections tampering, the PNP statehood party has it down to a science. Sadly, consensus-building is not their strongest suit.
The 2016 gubernatorial elections tampering #WhatsAppGate chat room conspiracy (Mueller-type investigation) and the heads that rolled of cabinet chiefs and agency directors, was but the “tip of the iceberg.”
Olivia Pope of the hit TV series Scandal would be spinning her wheels and possibly lose her winning streak should the clean-up woman be hired to ‘fix’ our hornet’s nest of American Copycat Scandals. Note: We even had our own Ben Carson token Black, bottom right-hand corner. (Sorry, but you know that’s the truth.) We also counted on primo stewards of good conscience, who resigned their government posts rather than be associated with mediocrity and unethical business practices. (ENDI 2/3/19)
Pictured here is the Rosselló “Musical Chairs Cabinet.” Try to imagine the Scandal team tackling this pin-up wall of persons of interest in Our Mini-Trumpworld. Where impunity rules for partisans on the take. Unless suspects are subjected to the rigors of public exposure (as when the "whistleblower" dropped the dime on the in-house corruption or “mafia institucional.”) And, of course, via the FBI leaks (designed to ferret out credible and brave witnesses during a dead-end investigation.)
Even as the bigger scandal (behind the scenes) was the blatant intent by the deposed Rosselló to suppress evidence in the on-going investigations into the secret chasms of systemic political corruption, by denying his executive veto of proposed PNP-majority legislation disguised under the misnomer “Ley de Transparencia” or Transparency Act.
From this point forward, to the consternation of the investigative journalists of CPI “Centro de Periodismo Investigativo ” Center for Investigative Journalism, the Association of Puerto Rican Journalists and the Overseas Press Club, the new "Transparency Act" LIMITS quick and easy access to public records corroborating the alleged cases of corruption, abuse and/or misuse of public funds.
1. The most scandalous of which are the #EmpleadosFantasmas “bogus consultants” who are famous for cooking up “El Guiso” (a money feast) of partisan quid pro quo, money-laundering schemes and kickbacks subsidized by the state legislature’s coffers. (This clever form of legalized corruption is commonly known as “El Banquete Total,” the title of an eye-opening Jay Fonseca book.) And is only one of many miscellaneous FBI probes (there are more arrests in the pipeline we’re told, and still we wait.)
During the ENDI public opinion poll (April 2019), 57% of respondents found the cabinet high-turnover and musical chairs Rosselló administration to have been highly incompetent. Eleven of whom were profiled on this Noticentro “Wall of Shame” featuring the most notorious resignations and destitutions.
And yet, had the 2020 elections been held concurrently, Rosselló was favored to win reelection by 48%. From the viewpoint of the diehard Rosselló supporter, the false bravado of his threat to “punch the bully in the mouth” (referring to Trump) was the indiscretion that sealed the “Deposed Governor’s” fate.
Beyond a doubt, the FBI was cleaning house. Douglas Leff, special agent in charge of the San Juan division, who had become a household name for islanders, was named by then-FBI Director James B. Comey (in 2015). Over time, the white-collar crime expert had endeared himself to our abused population with his humorous, anglicized version of local Spanish vernacular:
“Ellos son lo pay-or day lo pay-or. Le vahmos a daar “PON” a lah kaarsel.
(These are the worst of the worst. We plan on giving them a “FREE LIFT” to the jailhouse.)
Meaning, there was a new sheriff in town, and All the Governor’s Men implicated in the TelegramGate conspiracy had been put on notice.
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Whatcha gonna do.
Whatcha gonna do.
Whatcha gonna do.
When they come for you?
(Bob Marley message for crooks who think they are above the law.)
At first, the contents of the 889-page document dubbed “Ricky Leaks” (obtained by CPI from an anonymous source) were leaked at the Chinese water torture rate of only 11 pages per day. The above news headline demands “Release the Whole Chat.” Little did the maverick CPI journalists imagine they had scooped the “colonial emancipation” story that would rock the world. (Since then, winning Harvard’s distinguished “Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.”)
“The Troll Network”
Social media trolls were being influenced to talk trash of Carmen Yulín by News/Talk radio political pundits, pro-statehood fanatics (some loyal to Trump) who I listened to, day in and day out, hateful threats, public ridicule, and TV defamation by stalkers.
That intensified with the ‘cyber-terrorist email’ sent to her inbox June 30. The FBI investigation was made public July 11, in connection with the chat room revelations, the underhanded Rosselló had (and was succeeding) at efforts ‘’’to manipulate public narrative through mass media, influence public polls to favor the administration, and a ‘Troll Network’ to discredit negative press coverage and criticism from opposition leaders’’’ reported ENDI. (July 13, 2019)
All told, the chat room threads supply probative evidence the alleged contract-bidding corruption charges leveled against the PPD Mayor’s purchasing department may have been a malicious frame-up. “The fraud investigation was sparked by an anonymous tip to the comptroller’s office of favoritism in how the mayor’s office rewarded contracts” informs ENDI. When asked if San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was implicated in the investigation, Leff said “We have no information about that, but we are going to follow the investigation where it leads us.”
Investigations conceivably involving disgruntled staff members inherited from her three-term PNP predecessor Mayor Jorge Santini (a shady character, to say the least). The animus within mixed-party City Hall ranks Carmen Yulín demurely alludes to in the Torres Gotay podcast (Dec 5, 2018) I have firsthand knowledge of inside the Municipality of Vega Alta, Federal Programs Office, a municipal bastion of the PNP statehood party (for some 20 years). That like some other municipalities had flipped to the PPD “poor people’s party” on Elections 2016. The early signs that a “silent revolution” was already brewing.
Of the 78 municipalities, 45 were led by PPD “populares” (the majority), and 33 remained loyal to PNP “estadistas” (the minority) who made up the 41% casting their 2016 votes for the amateur Rosselló, who had never held a government job, whose only claim to fame was his father’s name—ex-Governor Pedro Rosselló.
Like father like son, junior made his father proud by continuing his legacy of partisan corruption, cronyism, nepotism, and quid pro quo dealings, until the power-drunk and immature young governor got caught, having made the same secret “chat messaging mistake” not once—but twice. (Specifically, the #WhatsAppGate conspiracy nabbing the mystery chat room participant of the cryptic initials *RR*.)
The bombshell of the Ricky Rosselló “Troll Network” downloads like water for chocolate to release my repressed outrage and writer’s frustration. I am in the middle of editing my Yulín vindication story, my long-standing suspicions and fear I could become easy prey for the nasty trolls, stop me dead in my tracks.
Having nothing to fear but fear itself—Sin Miedo—I switch gears and begin to delve more closely into the chat room conspiracy. Eureka! The missing pieces of the Yulín-bashing and stalking puzzle, moreover, the short shrift being given to the ‘Nationhood’ perspective, start falling into place—hence, this extended segue edition of the memoir/essay series.
“La Politiquería” (Dirty Politicking)
On another ‘Yulín-bashing’ occasion by the opposition, the PPD primary front runner (at the time) was ridiculed as "la loca" the crazy one, for being the only mayor showing the chutzpah to take the PROMESA Fiscal Control Board to court. In the San Juan mayor’s bold attempt to stop the fiscal usurpation—by our 7 colonial overlords—of the island’s 78 self-governing municipalities, struggling to stay afloat in their respective jurisdictions, some through no fault of their own. Major population hubs having high hopes for the windfall of federal disaster dollars to begin rebuilding their Hurricane-wrecked communities, and strive towards solvency and prosperity.
“We have a responsibility to fight for the interests of Puerto Ricans,” the San Juan mayor of our most populous municipality—that lost $1.5 million in the first round of budget cuts—states in an official communiqué condemning the tacit consent by the PNP-controlled legislature, while citing the Fiscal Control Board’s failure “to guarantee sufficient funds to cover essential public services” as mandates PROMESA congressional law.
And well she should have…
The indiscriminate budget-slashing measures by “La Junta” to merge, downsize or otherwise eliminate municipalities, portends untold calamitous ruin for our ghost towns of hollowed-out barrio communities in the making. When islanders weathering the storm of post-Maria survival, are needing direct access to “essential services” the most; and minority pro-independence PIP and pro-commonwealth PPD opposition mayors, barrio leaders and other independent lawmakers are ALL being shut out of the decision-making process. Even as “La Junta” "eyes more power" over our dark and vulnerable future.
Bad-faith autocratic maneuvers by the fallen Rosselló administration (the “Dream Team” of Junta-imposed downsized government and fiscal responsibility, radio opinionators would have us believe) that raised the red flag of another Dissident Writer's Guiding Principle I dared not ignore
Rule #2: Remember, external business interests are pulling the colonial strings and you never know what kind of “puppet regime” we could be under (or may get next.)
Elected officials—make that, the governor, the legislative bodies and judicial branches of government, their know-nothing political hacks or “ñames con corbata” and high-priced consultants (hired under superfluous contracts to do their jobs)—are notorious among islanders for doing more harm than good in their terms of public office, with impunity. As proven by the central government’s rollover debt crisis and deficit-spending pattern, dragging the 2006 recession ad infinitum.
Save for Puerto Rico’s “First Woman Governor” Sila Maria Calderón who history would judge, and my personal testimonial (a former Community Development Organizer for her administration’s anti-poverty initiative Communidades Especiales) was the more principled administrator of them all. In that, she refused to get mired in the blame game between PPD “populares” and PNP “estadistas” traditional governing parties, as attests the legendary retired journalist A.W. Maldonado for Caribbean Business.
Naturally, I cheered the San Juan Mayor on. ”The Dirty Politicking "La Politiqueria" had become a death match for opposition “populares.” Carmen Yulin’s fallback position is to always fight back without hesitation, and I could not help but think just how different the disaster recovery would have been if not for the “Politiquería” that repeatedly jeopardizes Puerto Rican lives.
As the former executive aide to the Director, Federal Programs Office, Municipality of Vega Alta, the Rosselló power grab did not escape my attention. And, I said to myself:
(“Self. Why aren’t they following the San Juan Mayor’s lead? Every single one of the 45 PPD opposition mayors should be SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER, right about now. The governor will one day have to reconcile his nefarious actions with his maker, should he have a conscience—at all
“The Rosselló Power-Grab”
It was at the behest of his morally bankrupt consultants, the “Deposed Governor Rosselló” diverted Housing and Urban Development (HUD) federal allocations from their designated 78 municipalities straight to the Governor’s Office, to be administered by his 107 newly-revamped central government public service agencies run by his unqualified political hack appointees.
That is, prior to the Rosselló PNP administration, CDBG Community Development Block Grant funds from HUD—for municipalities with populations less than 50,000—had been funneled through the Commissioner’s Office on Municipal Affairs or OCAM “Oficina del Comisionado de Asuntos Municipales.” An expertly staffed fiscal oversight and technical support office—legacy of the iconic Gov. Rafael Hernández Colón “populares” administration—that Rosselló and his PNP Legislative henchmen deliberately eliminated to spite the opposition. (In other words: I’ve got mine. You get yours, the best way you know how. “A Dios que reparta suerte”).
Such is the nature of “build and destroy” government in Puerto Rico. (My thing is: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it).
This devil-may-care switcheroo caused the paralysis of 5,000 FEMA-approved projects slated for CDBG-DR Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery funds from HUD. Due to the failure of “bankrupt Puerto Rico” and the inept cabinet chiefs and agency heads the Chief Executive installed, to produce timely and audited financial statements as required by FEMA and HUD submission guidelines (and the Fiscal Control Board, for that matter.)
When in fact, each of the 78 municipalities, having its own Federal Programs Office, keep updated Single Audit Reports (SARs) on hand, in compliance with the CDBG federal funds (they depend on) already administered annually by their technologically trained and capable staff.
However, the PNP statehood administration wasted no time supplanting OCAM with the American equivalent Office of Management and Budget “Oficina de Gerencia y Presupuesto” (OGP). Thereby, clearing the way for a $5 million influx straight to the Governor’s Office, allowing the central government to continue financing the illegal quid pro quo using public funds originally destined for the 78 municipalities.
The HUD-mandated “vistas públicas” local public hearings engaging community-based residents in the decision-making process—BE DAMNED.
Consequently, hundreds of communities coast-to-coast and on every rural and urban mountainside awaiting CDBG Disaster Recovery funds that never materialized, were left in shambles: defenseless against future natural, and man-made disasters (such as this one.)
But the wild insinuation by the Mayor’s mudslinging detractors, that her grassroots militancy on the frontlines of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, and solidarity with his democratic socialist national agenda for—“enacting ambitious job programs, strong environmental regulations, and massive investments in public housing and education; embracing unions as partners, rather than enemies; ending corporate tax exemptions that fail to generate jobs; and passing Medicare for All”—makes Carmen Yulín Cruz PUERTO RICO’S PUBLIC ENEMY #1—goes beyond the pale.
Political chicanery that (frankly) leaves a lot to be desired of radio station management, their election campaign sponsors, and grossly opinionated and sexist political pundits.