Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pedro Rosselló, We Hardly Knew Ye

Above: Pedro Rosselló

This past Sunday, Puerto Rico had its gubernatorial primary for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP), which was won by popular young candidate Luis Fortuño, who has the distinction of possibly being the first Puerto Rican to be both a) a Republican and b) a dead ringer for Milhouse from The Simpsons. Other parties had primaries as well, but the other leading party, the pro-Commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PDP), did not hold a gubernatorial primary, apparently being satisfied to run Governor Aníbal Acevedo out there to get slaughtered in the fall. I imagine they must simply want to be rid of him one way or the other, be it through his inevitable loss in November or his possible incarceration for campaign finance violations.

Luis Fortuño: Res ispa loquitur.

The big story, however, is not so much that Fortuño won, but rather that former Governor Pedro Rosselló lost. Rosselló, a former tennis prodigy and noted pediatric surgeon, became governor in 1992, a post he held for two terms that were marked by noticeable public works initiatives and almost mind-boggling corruption within his inner circle. He opted against running for a third term in 2000, and retired to Virginia. His exile would be short-lived, however, since in 2003, inspired by the Warren G. Harding-esque ineptitude of the Sila Calderón administration and the prospect of running against Aníbal “Please God Let It Be Over” Acevedo, Rosselló returned to Puerto Rico.

Left: Aníbal Acevedo (believe it or not, this is what he looks like after plastic surgery paid for with suspicious funds).

In his absence, the leadership of the NPP had been taken over by Carlos Pesquera, a seemingly even-keeled guy who had headed up the Urban Train project. However, at some point in the summer of 2002, Pesquera lost his marbles. Here’s how it happened: news got out that the Office of Women’s Affairs, a state government agency, had chosen to display a Puerto Rican flag in its lobby, but not a U.S. flag. Somehow, Pesquera got it into his head that the best way to solve this problem was to gather up a mob, march them down from the Capitol building to the Office of Women’s Affairs while blasting country music (the strangest detail in this entire sordid fiasco), start a riot outside the office, and then break through the office’s glass doors carrying an American flag in order to plant it.

Left: Carlos Pesquera thought he could claim the Office of Women's Affairs for the USA by planting the flag in the lobby.

On a personal note, I was working in San Juan that day, and let me tell you, it made it hard to get lunch. After that clusterfuck, it wasn’t too hard for Rosselló to dispatch Pesquera (who, by the way, was caught on several video cameras in his incitement to riot and breaking and entering, and yet beat the charges without even going to trial by having even more of his followers cause tremendous traffic jams outside the courthouse, which is only blocks away from the Hacienda). Having thrown Pesquera under the bus, Rosselló immediately launched a new campaign to retake the governorship. His efforts came up short, and he lost a hotly contested election that the Puerto Rico Supreme Court wound up deciding.

And then he went crazy.

Having lost the governorship, he decided that he needed to be in the Puerto Rico Senate. Mind you, he did not run for Senate. However, Victor Loubriel, the guy in his party who won the Senate seat for the region where Rosselló lived, was made an offer which he opted not to refuse, quit two days after being inaugurated, and, voilá, Rosselló was in the Senate.

But just being the newest dude in the Senate was not enough for Rosselló. Although a Senate president had already been chosen—Kenneth McClintock, whom everybody here calls ‘MaClinton’—Rosselló and his followers decided that, since he was the president of his party, then he should naturally also be president of the Senate. McClintock was having none of it, however, and he refused to budge. Rosselló then did the democratic thing and had McClintock and his allies all thrown out of the party, which was still not enough to dislodge McClintock, whose hold on that seat was a strong as the moustache he used to sport was creepy.

Left: Kenneth McClintock: Not even Tom Selleck would tell you that that shit looks cool.

While this was all going on, more instances of impropriety on Rosselló’s part came to light. As if it weren’t enough that over thirty members of his administration—including several of his cabinet secretaries and his personal assistant—wound up serving time in prison for a veritable potpourri of corruption charges, the news surfaced that the government pension that Rosselló was receiving was about 40% higher than it should have been, because records of some of his early government work had been falsified: apparently, during one summer where he was supposedly working for the government as a student, he was actually in the U.S. playing in a bunch of tennis tournaments, and enrolled in classes at Notre Dame. Some other guy got sent to jail over this kerfuffle, and though Rosselló was ordered to pay back $80,000 of wrongfully-awarded pension funds, his supporters raised the money and paid it themselves. Rosselló was prosecuted in the matter, but beat the charges. Soon thereafter, he wrote a book called “The Triumvirate of Terror,” where he charges the PDP, the Federal government, and the Ferré family (owners of El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper), all of whom he compares to Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, with conspiring to bring him and the statehood movement down.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s economy went straight into the toilet, leading to a government shutdown for two weeks, which our illustrious governor Acevedo decided to solve by eliminating the excise tax, replacing it with a 7% sales tax, which after a year he decided hadn’t worked, and now wants to scale back down to 2.5% while bringing back the excise tax. Acevedo is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for campaign finance violations, and is pretty much hated by just about everyone who’s ever had anything to do with him.

2007 rolled around and it was time for Rosselló to gear up for another gubernatorial run, but this upstart Fortuño had the gall to run against him. A protracted primary campaign took place, which Rosselló “did not participate in.” Let me explain. Initially, he promised that he would not be running for governor. Then he decided to do so. But then he said he wouldn’t campaign for it. Except he did: he hit just about every town and municipality in Puerto Rico, holding rallies and marches and all sorts of events, except that he claimed that he was not campaigning, but instead was just appearing at the events as the president of the party. He refused to debate Fortuño, claiming that he didn’t debate members of his own party, and as far as I can tell, his only campaign promise was to set up “reconciliation commissions” wherein political officials who had committed acts of corruption would be given amnesty for them so long as they confessed to their actions and expressed contrition, claiming that this idea was inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that South Africa set up to deal with the legacy of apartheid. Because as anyone will tell you, when greedy assholes steal taxpayer dollars, that is exactly the same as apartheid.

Rosselló's campaign slogan was “Esto lo arregla Rosselló”, which translates roughly to “This mess? Rosselló can fix that shit.”

Fortuño whipped his ass 60-40, and now theoretically Rosselló will retire from politics, sparing the island from an Acevedo-Rosselló election, which would probably have resulted in mass suicides. Rosselló will be missed by fans of colossal trainwrecks and authoritarian tendencies the world over, and when Fortuño annihilates Acevedo in the fall, Acevedo will be missed by, uh, no one.

Also, as a bonus, it now looks like this guy, whose name is Tomás Rivera Schatz and who frequently sports what is essentially a Hitler moustache, will be elected to the legislature in the fall, and will probably hold a leadership position.

And here you are thinking that the Obama/Clinton race was interesting. Ha!


neenz said...

that was awesome!!!

Don Paco said...

YOU'RE awesome!

Anonymous said...

Not too bad! But do you really think that Fortuno has a chance?? Pleassseeee, give me a break! Un "mamalon" como ese? People voted for him because they did not wanted Rosello, not because they really belive in him.

Don Paco said...

As Leon Phelps would say, au contraire, bonjour. While I'm sure many people voted for Fortuño as an "anyone but Rosselló" gesture, it seems to me that there are plenty of people who believe that he is a very capable guy, and while I may not agree with him on many matters, I think he is unarguably a very accomplished individual.

While Acevedo is undoubtedly very crafty, I really do not think he has any shot of winning again--people do not like him, and whatever you think of him, his administration has been a disaster. You can blame it on outside forces if you want, but nothing here has improved in the last four years, and many things have gotten a lot worse.

I also think that at some visceral level, a lot of people simply don't like him--I've been to two events where I've seen him speak, one in a large banquet hall full of people, the other in a small group setting, and both times people just stopped listening to him after a while. It was shocking to see a political figure with so little ability to command attention.

And while the federal investigation on him has dragged on for so long that it seems to me like they probably don't have enough to charge him with (otherwise they would have done so already), it will at the very least unearth questionable dealings. That's not going to help him.

Also, any debate between Fortuño and Aníbal is going to look like a mamalón convention more than anything else. It's not like Anibal is the quarterback of the high school football team. Fortuño and Aníbal are the kids that Santini used to beat up on the playground. So I think the mamalón factor is pretty much a wash here.

PS: For our stateside readers, "mamalón" is roughly equivalent to "dorky loser," with a little "mama's boy" thrown in for good measure.

Adrian said...

I can't wait till the US Democratic primary race all comes down to us this June. It's gonna be a hilarious sh*tstorm of racism on forums everywhere.

Adrian said...

Also, McClintock looks like the Puerto Rican Clay Davis in that picture.

rich el rubio said...

Did I ever tell you my mom used to sleep with Rosello? Oh its true. His dad and my grandfather were friends and when the parents went out they left the babies together with the sitter.

Anonymous said...

Dude, take it easy on me!

Edwin Vázquez said...

Regarding Tomás Rivera Schatz's Hitlerian moustache, it may not be a coincidence. He is half German, on his mother's side (Schatz).

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