• The San Juan Daily Star

PDP House members propose shakeup of party leadership structure

House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez

By The Star Staff

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and most members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegation in the lower chamber virtually launched a coup Tuesday against the current PDP leadership before the party’s regulations committee.

Hernández Montañez proposed eliminating the positions of party president, currently held by Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago, and vice president, and replacing them with an executive committee whenever the political party does not win an election.

“Is there any doubt about the crisis that the Popular Party is experiencing? The solution is who is the next [party president]?” Hernández Montañez said at a press conference. “There is no such figure, there is no official [figure] today, because typically, the secretary general speaks on behalf of the candidate. That is the reality. The candidate will arrive in June. One thing is the political campaign and another is what happens with the institution. Someone has to keep the ship afloat: the ship cannot collapse on December 31st. There has to be someone who is watching over the institution on a day-to-day basis.”

Several political figures within the PDP have criticized Dalmau Santiago’s performance at the helm of the party.

“There is a complete change of how the party operates, that is our proposal. It is a peace pact, but for that you have to make changes,” Hernández Montañez continued. “And a big part of those changes is not doing things the way they used to be done. It’s not that you ask the president something and he says one thing and then everyone agrees that this is what we are all going to follow, no. Because we think differently, diversity must be respected.”

With his proposal, Hernández Montañez suggested, the invitations made by some community officials to leave the party could not be made.

“It would be unreasonable to continue every day with a leader from the left dribbling to the right and one from the right dribbling to the left when the party is in the center,” he said. “But what is that center? You have to find the center. A center party has to find itself consistently. A center party has to be on the table all the time. A center party today has a vision and has another issue that changes it, because it is dynamic, it is alive, but it cannot happen that with every controversy that there is in the Popular party, one sector throws out the other.”

Hernández Montañez is proposing that the party carry out periodic surveys to determine the feelings of its voters and establish the points of consensus that will form institutional policy. On issues where there is no consensus, it must be understood that the elected officials will express themselves in their individual capacity, he said.

Under Hernández Montañez’s proposal, supported by 23 PDP House legislators, if the party’s candidate for governor does not win in a given election, then the positions of the party president and vice presidents are eliminated and replaced by an executive committee made up of seven people, including a former governor and presidents or legislative spokesmen.

It would be the executive committee that would have -- under a majority vote -- the task of establishing the party’s public policy. In Hernández Montañez’s opinion, such a structure would prevent, for example, the perception that the PDP is an anti-abortion party, as Dalmau Santiago recently asserted.

In addition, the role of the secretary general would be amended, so that the position’s functions remain solely at the administrative level of the community.

“The secretary general will not be able to hold a press conference to discuss an institutional position,” Hernández Montañez said. “He is going to be able to hold a press conference to talk about fundraising, promote the full vote. He can’t talk about anything other than the administrative.”

The proposal was presented to the regulations committee, which is chaired by Villalba Mayor Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz.

New Progressive Party Sen. Keren Riquelme, who had predicted a coup in the PDP, said the political party is disintegrating under the people’s noses and that Hernández Montañez wants to be the next PDP leader.

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