Jackie Rodríguez, ‘Che’ Pérez, others to vie for open House seat

By John McPhaul

The president of the Organization of Progressive Women, Jackeline “Jackie” Rodríguez Hernández, and former New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. José “Che” Pérez Cordero announced over the weekend that they will run for the seat in the island House of Representatives left vacant by the resignation of former Rep. Néstor Alonso Vega.

“My vocation is to serve the people of Puerto Rico, particularly women and the most vulnerable people, such as our children, the elderly, and people with special needs,” said Rodríguez Hernández, a member of the NPP. “My candidacy is focused on giving these sectors a strong voice in the House of Representatives, presenting cutting-edge legislation that enables a better quality of life for them and their communities.”

“We represent a sector that cannot lose, our women. The fight for women’s rights in Puerto Rico is one of the most important battles we have to fight as a society,” she added. “Our people will not be able to reach their full potential without there being true equality between men and women.”

For his part, Pérez Cordero said he had the experience, the preparation, youth and knowledge that the position requires, “particularly in the historical moment in which we live.”

“Therefore, I am in a position to resume my work as a representative and thus continue to contribute to the progress that Puertao Rico deserves,” the attorney said.

On his agenda, Pérez Cordero included continuing to fight to advance the cause of statehood for the island both in Puerto Rico and in Washington, D.C.

The former legislator said the issue of statehood is one of the utmost importance.

“The mandate of the people has to be respected once and for all,” he said. “I will be a spokesperson for equality for Puerto Rico from the House of Representatives. Our unworthy territorial condition legally sets us apart from our fellow citizens in all 50 states. As a lawyer I am very aware that this is a civil rights issue; therefore, the admission of our island as a state is a pressing issue.”

Pérez Cordero said he will also prioritize the issue of gender violence.

“As the father of a girl, husband, brother and son, violence continues to be an evil that threatens a free and dignified society,” he said. “Helping us eradicate this problem that afflicts us so much will be a priority; in me, they have an ally.”

On Saturday, the New Progressive Party (NPP) board announced that it will hold a special election on March 21 to fill the at-large seat.

Rodríguez Hernández said she will be submitting all the documentation required to be certified as an official candidate in the coming days.

The president of the Organization of Progressive Women, which is an auxiliary body of the NPP, noted that among the initiatives that would promote in the lower chamber is the creation of a new legal system, the Code Against Gender Violence in Puerto Rico, a compilation of all laws against this terrible social evil under the same code to make it more responsive, easier to implement and easier to amend in favor of women.

Rodríguez Hernández said she would also launch an investigation into the impact of Law 16-2017, better known as the Puerto Rico Salary Equality Law, which seeks to establish a culture of equal pay for equal work in order to eradicate the existing wage discrimination between employees of the public and private sector due to gender.

In addition, she would seek to create a use permit program for women who have developed businesses from their homes in the face of the reality of the pandemic, and would convene a roundtable with experts to evaluate legislation that encourages more adoptions of minors, particularly those aged six to 17.

“We will fight for statehood, which is the tool our women have in order to get out of the social and economic stagnation in which the colony has left us,” said the former legislator for District 25 (Ponce, Juana Díaz and Jayuya). “We will be knocking on the doors of congressmen, through emails and calls, to carry the message loud and clear: that they have to legislate in favor of admission in this same four-year term. Enough of delaying the will of the American citizens of Puerto Rico.”

Others on the list of those interested in the House vacancy are the former mayor of Ceiba, Angelo Cruz; the former representative for the 18th district (Aguada, Añasco, Mayagüez, Moca and Rincón), Jorge Emanuel Báez Pagán; the former candidate for representative for District 21 (Lajas, Guánica, Sabana Grande, Maricao and Yauco), Yamilet González; and pro-statehood activist Alan McAbee González, among others.

The special election could cost over $70,000, according to news reports.

In November, FBI officials arrested former lawmaker Alonso Vega over an alleged kickback scheme.

Alonso Vega, who resigned his House seat on Nov. 10, faces nine federal charges, including receiving illegal commissions (kickbacks) in a type of bribery scheme similar to those for which former legislators Nelson del Valle and María Milagros Charbonier were also accused.

He also faces charges for wire fraud and theft of federal funds from the government of Puerto Rico.

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