Wallice J. de la Vega
Puerto Rico’s elections campaigns, tied to those of the United States scheduled for voting next November 3, are in full push. Thousands of promotional signs hung in public spaces and noisy vehicles caravans every weekend brings us the usual “more of the same”, even though they are obsolete facing communications’ advanced technology.
As it has been since 1967, the main face-off is between Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) and Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP). The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) has always had a minor participation. After 53 years of alternated government between the PPD and the PNP – and the corruption and scandals both have caused during that period – on this election there appears to be a valid alternative with the potential for a surprising change: Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVP)
“This collective was born to address three urgent duties of our time: to rescue public institutions, social, economic and environmental rebuilding, and decolonization”, Andres Acosta, District 21 Senate candidate, told The Weekly Issue/El Semanario. “We are a citizens movement with people from different experiences, groups, and backgrounds. We celebrate diversity and plural positions”.
That has been the core message publicly expressed at town squares throughout the island and on social media that has won MVP momentum.
Managing to receive the endorsements required by law, MVC was officially founded March 11. Its candidates’ selection didn’t follow the normal partisan protocol of holding primaries, instead opting to follow the alternative way of holding a national assembly that chose their candidates amongst volunteers.
Victoria Ciudadana arises from the people’s weariness about the status quo that has deepened Puerto Rico into extreme political corruption. MVC was the strongest catalytic for massive protests in San Juan in 2019 – the last one drawing some 500,000 people – demanding Governor Ricardo Rosello’s resignation. The 15-day pressure led the governor to resign in August last year to avoid being legally dismissed after six individuals – including two of his high-level officials – were arrested under federal corruption charges.
Fighting corruption has been the movement’s highest priority. It holds first place among its governmental program’s three planks covering 60 points.
In fact, it has been a combination of several causes what has not only drawn active voters fed up with the main two parties, but also has brought back from political lethargy people who had entirely left both parties and their elections. Such is the case, for example, of Salvio Torres Cardona, retired agronomist from Mayaguez, who has openly expressed his leaving the current governing party.
“Today I state that after a lifetime belonging to the New Progressive Party, I cancel my affiliation to said party with much pain in my soul”, said Torres Cardona. “I cannot continue to belong to a political organization that protects a gang of corrupt thieves that has taken our motherland to the disastrous socioeconomic situation it finds itself today, aside from a totally discredited image before the world”.
He was referring to the approval of a new elections code that doesn´t require that absentee voters present their valid voter identification card in order to vote, nor justify their absence from the island to do it. Such a move would add votes to the PNP from Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. They would vote without the legal right to do it.
“I voted many years ago and regretted it, but after that nothing has motivated me again because both parties are the same thing”, said Deyka Iglesias, an Aguadilla resident. “This time I have been motivated to vote for Victoria Ciudadana, considering that by doing so it would be more probable that none of them (PPD and PNP) win, and at the same time the change that we are seeking happens.
Her husband, a journalist who identified himself only as Saudeur, added: “At 64 years of age I have voted only once, at that was while living in the U.S. Here voting changes only some people on the posts, but everything continues the same, worsening. In Victoria Ciudadana I see a dynamism without fearing being seen, literally, as ‘politically incorrect’ before the huge partisan mass that supports the current political status. I registered and will vote for them”.
Victoria Ciudadana has gathered a diverse mixture drawn by its dynamism, particularly that of its current leader and governorship candidate. Alexandra Lugaro had achieved ratification as an independent candidate for governor in the 2016 elections. Surprisingly, she garnered 175,831 votes – 11 percent. Lugaro, a lawyer, has been an overachiever her whole life. She was accepted at the University of Puerto Rico at age 15, eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a master’s degree in Spanish Law, and a doctoral degree in Jurisprudence.
Puerto Rico doesn’t have a formal polling system that periodically would show voters’ preferences. Of course, the majority is betting that one of the two main parties will once again win the island’s governorship. However, it is also widely discussed – mainly among young voters – how Victoria Ciudadana has been using a style totally different than “same as always”, both in its inner procedures and its strategies to reach the people.
Could Victoria Ciudadana be the great election surprise of 2020?
Wallice J. de la Vega is a Freelance Journalist based in Puerto Rico.
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