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A Rising Conservative Star – From Puerto Rico?

A Rising Conservative Star – From Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is approaching a plebiscite on statehood, pursuant to congressional legislation which is under consideration. Pat at And So It Goes In Shreveport has a good post summing up the current politics of statehood for Puerto Rico.

One person to keep an eye on is the current Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, who is active in the Republican Party (although technically he ran on the New Progressive Party).

Fortuño is someone to watch, as evidenced by his speech at Cornell in March, in which he set forth both his conservative philosophy and the politics of statehood in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately the embed code is not working, but you can view the speech here.

In the speech, Fortuño laid out his successes in cutting the budget in Puerto Rico, and his faith that only fiscal discipline can rescue the economy:

Fortuño also detailed economic reforms he has made to restore fiscal health and cut a budget deficit, and other challenges facing the commonwealth, in light of its territorial status and relationship with the United States.

“Since June of 2008, our priorities were to put our fiscal house in order … to spur private sector growth and lay the groundwork for economic growth,” the governor said, adding that he had “cut my own salary and that of all government employees, incentivized voluntary retirement, and cut staff and expenses.” He said that over the next three years, his programs will generate $7 billion in revenue and “tens of thousands of jobs.”

“The toughest times are the prelude to renewal,” Fortuño said.

Fortuño also expressed his unabashed patriotism:

“I see a bright star on the horizon,” he said. “I see a bright star in the constellation that is ‘Old Glory,” Fortuño said in a prepared speech.

Fortuño also appeared on The Right Angle show with Mark Finkelstein (who writes for Newsbusters), in which Fortuño addressed the issue of whether Puerto Rico automatically would vote Democratic. The interview is here.

I also was a guest on the show as we discussed not only Fortuño but also financial reform and health care. The full show, with my brilliant commentary, is here (takes time to load; btw, it’s true, the camera adds 10 lbs.).

Luis Fortuño is a rising conservative star. And he is from Puerto Rico.

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Thank you for writing about this, Prof. Jacobson. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and have supported statehood my whole life. HR 2499 is an immensely important bill and there's barely been any coverage of it. I might actually go down to DC this week and join a few pro-statehood groups in support of the bill.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about the politics in Puerto Rico – a major one being that Puerto Ricans are overwhelmingly left-wing. I'm not sure why so many believe this but it is the complete opposite from the truth. Puerto Ricans are generally conservative, myself included. And the Republican Party has been the one to historically support statehood and equality for us.

Another thing that might confuse people is the use of the word "progressive" by the major pro-statehood party, the NPP (of which I was a member while living in PR). "Progressive" is not used in the same way leftists use it in the continental US. It does not come from the Progressive movement or any sort of leftist point of view. It is a shame that a word as noble as "progressive" has been hijacked by the left. But, then again, they've done the same thing to "social justice" and "justice." Noble words that are entirely stripped of their original meaning and become oxymorons.

I meant to say "[T]hey've done the same thing to 'social justice' and 'democracy.'"

I hope it happens this time.

One big problem facing Fortuño is that he has had to face the very powerful government workers unions over there – and that includes the teachers' unions. A whole lot of cuts in government spending have caused plenty of layoffs – and plenty of people packing their maletas to look for work in the Mainland.

Government in the island depends aplenty upon high taxes there and plenty of cash coming from Washington. To right that government ship will require a lot more ganas than what el gobernador can muster. Not to mention the rampant corruption there, even within the state police.

Knowing how too many people there depend on the government for their daily living (either a government job of some sort or welfare benefits), I don't see him being re-elected in 2012.

I speak as a native Puerto Rican – born there, raised there.