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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Roster of resident commissioner primary candidates takes shape

Pablo José Hernández Rivera

By The Star Staff

The roster of candidates for resident commissioner from the two major political parties became more apparent on Sunday.

New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. William Villafañe Ramos confirmed that he plans to seek the NPP candidacy for resident commissioner in the political party’s primaries.

“Today, I am making the forward step for Puerto Rico. I am going with all the strength of my spirit to ensure our people are treated equally in Washington,” Villafañe Ramos said in a social media post Sunday. “With God’s blessing and everyone’s help, WE ARE GOING TO THE FUTURE; WE ARE GOING TO WIN.”

Villafañe Ramos was also La Fortaleza chief of staff and government secretary from 2017 to 2018, under former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, before becoming a senator in 2019. He was reelected in 2020.

Villafañe may end up running against Popular Democratic Party (PDP) primary candidate for resident commissioner, Pablo José Hernández Rivera, who appears to be that party’s favorite. On Sunday, Hernández Rivera presented three of his proposals to promote the economic development of the island from the U.S. capital.

The presentation was part of a press event at PDP headquarters in Puerta de Tierra to announce the filing of Hernández Rivera’s candidacy for the Washington, D.C. post, before a large group of attendees, including his wife, family, friends, activists and community leaders.

During a speech, Hernández Rivera stressed that he will go to Washington with the agenda of “everyone” and not of “some.” He said the “everyone to Washington” agenda is to focus on the economic development and social well-being of Puerto Rico.

This, he said, contrasts with the “agenda of the few” of past NPP resident commissioners, who have focused on holding sterile and undemocratic plebiscites.

Among the proposals, Hernández Rivera highlighted promoting credit for salaries, benefits and investments made in Puerto Rico.

“These credits can be promoted like the content in the Territory Economic Development Tax Credit Act, filed in the federal Senate, to attract investment and create jobs, as we did with Section 936,” he said.

Another proposal that, in Hernández Rivera’s opinion, would have an impact on the island is to “promote amendments to federal tax laws, such as the Territorial Economic Recovery Act [introduced] by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez of New York and Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, so U.S. companies in the territories are not fiscally treated like those established in Ireland, Singapore or Mexico,” he said.

Regarding Puerto Rico’s political status, the lawyer proposed “addressing the status responsibly and inclusively, at the appropriate time.”

First, Puerto Rico must end PROMESA [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act] and then prove its ability to govern itself responsibly without the Financial Oversight and Management Board, the resident commissioner hopeful said.

“Then we must carry out a process with all the options: statehood, independence, free association, and yes, as it is and with a mandate to improve it, the Commonwealth [status],” he said.

Hernández Rivera also articulated his vision of the PDP as a centrist party.

“Being centrist means that instead of being anti-capitalist like Victoria Ciudadana [Citizen Victory Movement], or ultra-capitalist like some in the NPP, we believe in free enterprise with social justice,” he said. “May the tide rise and lift all boats, but may there be a life preserver so that those left behind do not drown.”

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