Candidates give their all on final campaign weekend
Political analysts, experts put their predictions on the table
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
After a weekend filled with drive-in events, convoys, and virtual campaign closings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Puerto Rico voters are a day away from learning which gubernatorial candidate will be elected as the island’s first executive and which candidates will occupy the Puerto Rico Legislature starting in January.
With less than 24 hours until Tuesday’s general elections, political experts spoke on Sunday to the Star about the 2020 electoral campaign and how every gubernatorial candidate has projected throughout the race.
Political analyst Jorge Colberg Toro said the COVID-19 pandemic led politicians to rely on “media campaigns,” which the former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) representative at-large alleged has brought its ups and down as it has not led them to visit neighborhoods, speak with citizens, and see for themselves the issues islanders are confronting day by day, to which he added that “it has been absent and puts every candidate at a distance from the communities’ problems.”
Meanwhile, political science professor José Rivera González said the electoral race has been “extremely atypical” as it has proven to voters that “there are no ideologies that allow you to govern if you do not attend to the issues that concern Puerto Ricans on a daily basis.”
“This will greatly affect the mood of Puerto Ricans and, particularly, the voters,” Rivera said. “I imagine that the feeling of fatigue is there, but I do not know, in my opinion, if it will be enough to implement a substantial change in terms of the government that we are going to choose and the parliamentary majorities that will go to the Legislature.”
Meanwhile, international politics expert Alondra del Mar Hernández Quiñones said the current campaign has been “plagued with an absolutely strong tension that the electorate has to raise a flag.”
“Candidates have to look for these epic complaints so that people can go to the collective memory and continue to vote for personalities, rather than capabilities,” Hernández said.
Experts dive into gubernatorial candidates’ performance
As for PDP gubernatorial candidate Carlos Delgado Altieri, Colberg Toro said his 20-year tenure as mayor of Isabela and his $27 million surplus in the city’s administration is his trump card. He emphasized that “he maintained budgetary reserves for many years to turn to them and be able to take financing to carry out long-term projects.”
However, for Rivera González, Delgado Altieri represents “a bland candidate, who does not have much charisma.”
“It will be necessary to see how effective he is as governor (if he is elected), and how much moral authority he will have if, in effect, [former Gov.] Aníbal Acevedo Vilá is elected resident commissioner, because the [latter] is a shady figure in ethical-moral terms,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile, Hernández Quiñones said the PDP gubernatorial candidate “regarding issues of public interest such as reproductive rights, gender perspective, church and state separation, which are also constitutional issues, has shown an absolute inability to position himself for or against.”
“We have those ups and downs, which subtracts merits and strength from his authority,” the internationalist said.
As for New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Pierluisi, Colberg Toro said that although he recognizes his experience and work as resident commissioner and his connections within the U.S. Congress, Pierluisi “must drag everything that has happened with the NPP during this four-year term.”
“It’s difficult for the party to ask for four more years after what we have lived through, and he carries that,” he said. “He’s been the party’s president for a while now, and there have been incidents on which he hasn’t taken action, and I don’t think he’ll be able to separate himself from such responsibility.”
Meanwhile, Rivera González said that “if Pierluisi had an ounce of integrity and common sense I would not have applied for what in effect is the NPP, which is a criminal and gangster organization.”
“His unsuccessful moves after the summer of 2019, trying to usurp power by imposing himself as the obvious person to replace [Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, who had resigned under pressure], having been appointed as secretary of State without confirmation from the Senate, left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said.
Hernández Quiñones said Pierluisi’s projection seems “desperate.”
“His demeanor and aggression that he shows each time he has to debate reflects previous concerns,” she said.
Regarding allegations that surfaced recently in which a former personal trainer accused him of sexual harassment, she said it would raise a flag with people who were unsure about voting for him.
“Nonetheless, the allegations would not affect the vote from most statehood and party supporters,” she said. “The NPP has also been a conservative party that creates doubts on issues such as violence against women in any of its iterations.”
About Puerto Rican Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Dalmau, Colberg Toro said his strength has been to be a “good, serious and respected senator” and his focus on attracting the millennial vote in the current race. However, he added that Dalmau’s campaign has been more focused on him than on the party and its legislative candidates.
“It catches my attention that, during recent decades, Dalmau has adopted an official speech where he says that a vote for him is not a vote for independence, when the party has been a national liberation party and its base has been to fight for independence,” Colberg Toro said. “I don’t know which effect this might have with voters.”
Rivera González said that out of all the candidates, Dalmau is “the most upright person on that gubernatorial candidates’ roster.”
“What concerns me is the party he belongs to, the party is orthodox, dinosaur-like; it assigns itself the mantle to fight for independence, alienating those pro-independence supporters who ideologically combine with the center-left platform, and it has not only rejected them, it has been nullifying them over time,” he said.
Hernández Quiñones, meanwhile, said Dalmau has performed efficiently as he has used his platforms to appeal to the youth as has shown support in moments such as the University of Puerto Rico and May Day protests, “where traditional parties have remained neutral or have appeared to heavily criticize its political-community organization.”
“It has been a surprise because he has transformed his political strategy to make the independence movement more inclusive in ideological terms,” she said. “This is happening in a country where independence and anything involved with it creates much suspicion.”
As for Citizen Victory Movement (CVM) gubernatorial candidate Alexandra Lúgaro, Colberg Toro said “she remains strong in her postures and her ideals, yet there have been many occasions where she hasn’t been as honest with the people.”
Rivera González said that although Lúgaro might not break the bipartisan syndrome and has changed postures recently, she “has benefited much for having liberal, leftist, avant-garde candidates who were able to form the movement.”
Hernández Quiñones added that the CVM candidate has shown “political maturity” as she has used outlets to “recognize that she has made mistakes.”
“She understands the implications from earlier postures and so she thinks differently now,” the analyst said.
As for Project Dignity gubernatorial candidate César Vázquez, Colberg Toro said “he has been the only candidate to campaign with his legislative candidates.” Meanwhile, he deemed successful how Vázquez has been able to effectively uplift the conservative population on the island with a solid platform.
However, Rivera González said that “although his political campaign has been intriguing, no one wants to turn the island’s government into a theocracy.”
“No one is interested in going back to the past,” said the professor, describing the candidates’ proposals as “retrograde and medievalist.”
Moreover, Hernández Quiñones said citizens must be very careful with people who use religious beliefs to obtain power.
“That is why we need a [nonclerical] state, where everyone, independent of their religious and ideological beliefs, feels represented and no one needs to resort to groups that want to suppress freedoms and obtain rights with arguments that have no scientific basis,” she said.
As for independent Eliezer Molina, Colberg Toro deemed his candidacy “positive” because it has given a democratic platform to the average citizen and “picks up the people’s logic through his discourse.” Nonetheless, he criticized Molina’s proposals because “he doesn’t know how the government works.”
Meanwhile, Rivera González said Molina’s rhetoric is effective even though “the electorate doesn’t understand what he has to offer” and that “even though I don’t know him, his ego was too big to let him be part of a group,” noting that Molina would have fit with the CVM.
Hernández Quiñones pointed out that Molina “is the first farmer to apply to be a gubernatorial candidate, yet Puerto Rico is used to seeing a person who speaks elegantly and wears a suit and tie.”