Check out my other blogs

Click on La PrensaMA to read about what's going on in the Western Massachusetts/New York/Connecticut region.
Y para leer columnas en español, pulse Política Panorámica.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Puerto Rico Leads The Way for Immigration Reform

Gov. García Padilla celebrates with Dominican community new law he enacted that allows undocumented immigrants the right to test for driving licenses.SAN JUAN, PR – Where President Obama has not be able, nor has the US Congress willing, the US territory of Puerto Rico did what the federal elected officials promise and don't do: reform immigration, step by step.

The first step was to allow immigrants to take the driver's license test, both written and road, and if they pass, they get the licence. Whether they have a legal status to be in Puerto Rico, which is to say, to be on United States land, is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether they know how to drive.

Puerto Rico is home to immigrants from around the world, mostly from the Caribbean, mostly from the Dominican Republic. In Barrio Obrero in San Juan, where a thriving Dominican community has be living for decades, there were celebrations.

Official representatives from the Dominican Republic and Panamá lauded the news, made reality by the swift pen of Gov. Alejandro García Padilla.

Noticel has the complete story here.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Spanish as a Voting Language

Voting Rights Act GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney agreed that ballots should be available only in English, a position that goes against the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The law, passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, dismantled many of the obstacles that intentionally impeded blacks and other disenfranchised communities from voting. It was sweeping in its intent and enforcement. Today, according to the U.S. Census, “248 jurisdictions across the nation that must provide language assistance during elections for groups who are unable to speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.”

And yet, both Gingrich and Romney are in the lead for the GOP nomination, and just as bad, corporate media characterizes them as people to be taken seriously. Recent examples of their dim witted ideas:

  • Last week Gingrich served up the insane idea to colonize the moon and then convert it into the 51st state. The District of Colombia, with more than 600,000 residents, have been clamoring for statehood for decades to no avail. And they host Congress, the White House and K Street lobbyists. And it is the capitol of the country.
  • Romney pushed for a “self-deportation”plan for people with visas.


No wonder real estate tycoon, TV personality and Rosie O’Donnell hater Donald Trump thought he made perfect sense when he opted to run for the presidency. Any lunatic with money can.

The good news is that come election time, voters will go with President Obama again. Hopefully.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Romney’s Millions and Obama’s Law


obama Corporate and even independent media outlets have been leading the national conversation on GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vast wealth. What no one points out is that Romney’s millions is a cornerstone of the American Dream pitch, where all one has to do is work hard in dogged pursuit of wealth and happiness becomes a constant in your life.

Romney has not broken any law nor twisted any IRS regulation to benefit himself to the tune of a $20 million annual payout derived from his investments.

But it is so much easier and pleasing to blow all out of proportion Romney’s wealth and leave Warren Buffet, Bill Gate  and the canonized Steve Jobs plus the rest of Fortune 500’s top billionaires and millionaires alone. Romney’s a Mormon, a Republican and apparently, unAmerican for having achieved the American Dream.

The public discourse on the leading GOP presidential candidates is locked on the least important aspects of a candidate – his wealth as a barometer of his ability to “relate”to the common people. It matters little how much Romney has in his bank accounts, offshore or at home. Just as it mattered little, if at all, John Kennedy’s trust fund built on his father’s talent for bootlegging in Prohibition. Millionaires and billionaires and trust fund babies have no way of knowing what common people’s lives are like. But that doesn’t mean we need a presidential candidate to experience losing a home, not have health insurance, choose between medicine and food in order to come up bright ideas on how to make policies to improve people’s lives and chances.

Now all this sounds like a defense of Mitt Romney. It is not. I do not agree with his current views on just about everything he says. But if I want to push for intelligent debates, then I am obligated to call out dangerously foolish media tactics aimed at demonizing a man for his millions. Instead, I want the media to get specifics from him and others in the GOP camp – and from President Obama – on HOW their policies will create permanent jobs with living wages.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. There are about 30 million underemployed or unemployed people in the United States as a result of George W. Bush’s ludicrous presidency and a out-of-control, unregulated Wall Street that triggered a global crisis.

Romney’s millions don’t matter to us anymore than Tom Brady’s $20 million or Steve Jobs’s $8 billion.

What does matter is thoughtful debates that force candidates to be specific about how they will create jobs and address the other pressing issues of the day.

Lacking that, then a deep look into why Obama signed a law that makes indefinite detention of anyone possible in the United States.

According to American Civil Liberties Union, “"The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.”

Why is it that so many liberals want to ignore this in favor of pouncing Romney’s wealth?

Read full text of Obama’s justification for the signing the law here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Next Time, Come Back as President

Today, President Barack Obama returns to Puerto Rico as a candidate to raise money, starting at $35,000 a ticket, for his next presidential campaign.
Despite the brazen pretense of coming here to check on issues related to education and the economy –  and presumably to fulfill his campaign promise to return as president – there is still a chance for Obama to display presidential leadership.
Obama owes Puerto Rico serious consideration from the president its stateside compatriots helped elect in 2008.
There’s no doubt running a presidential campaign is prohibitively expensive – conventional wisdom says candidates must raise about $1 billion. Obama’s visit, while necessary for his campaign, could also have been beneficial to his presidency. He is, at heart, a teacher, and our firestorm status debates would welcome his gift of tempered leadership. If his presidency would actively address inequities in the relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S.,  Obama could have a major geopolitical victory in the Western Hemisphere.
His White House Task Force on Puerto Rico erred in its recent recommendation that Puerto Rico hold a status referendum in 2012. Obama could slow down the process to broaden informed participation.
In a future visit, the president could be the keynote speaker at a summit organized by his non-partisan task force and centered on the different status options. It could be one of several summits held across the island over the course of the next two or three years to ensure ample debate and participation.
Right now, partisan media outlets, mostly ruled by families and businesses who share a curious love of statehood, can’t sort out the complex nature of the U.S.–Puerto Rico relationship without calling it a “problem” or a vestige of colonialism.
The political status of Puerto Rico deserves more than instant gratification politics and tired, antagonizing buzzwords uttered by fear-mongering politicos.  We deserve thoughtfulness. This is us that we are talking about, the us that includes not just those to come but also those who came before.
No one should be shoved out of the process. The pro-independence movement isn’t any less worthy because of its small size anymore than the large pro-statehood or pro-commonwealth movements. Countries such as Spain value a multi-party system that relies on coalitions to advance its desire for progress.
History is a great teacher but for generations, Puerto Ricans have not had the privilege of being students of Puerto Rican history. In public schools, Puerto Rican history is an elective that competes with the much-enjoyed study hall hour. Yet students must take U.S. history. How can we vote on our future when we don’t know our past?
Obama could direct his Puerto Rico Task Force to nudge the Puerto Rico Education Department, despite its allegiance to the pro-statehood party, to include Puerto Rican history in the public school curriculum.
The president knows that thoughtfulness is the harvest of a good education, that it is through healthy debates in which ideas are rigorously tested that we can arrive at a vote of consequence.
Puerto Rico is vastly poorer than it was two years ago when Obama first visited to raise money for his campaign. Violent crime has expanded far outside the realm of narco-trafficking circles and crept out from under the cover of night. Prized cultural institutions have been decimated by a governor intent on disappearing Puerto Ricanness. Public education is in ruins. The incompetent health system forces sick people to wait hours for a regular office visit. The show-stopping ineptitude of the Legislature, which rivals children fighting in a sandbox over the fire truck, is a disgrace to those who fought hard build to a democracy, however still imperfect.
This is not the right environment to debate political status; Puerto Ricans are busy just trying to survive the day.
Hopefully, Obama will return again, this time solely as a president, to help lead Puerto Rico into a thoughtful debate about political status.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Obama's promise to Puerto Rico imperils Puerto Rico

The White House Task Force on Puerto Rico released its list of recommendations for what to do about Puerto Rico today, proving once again that Puerto Rico remains a mystery to Washington, DC.

In October of 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order updating and broadening the functions of the Task Force to not only examine and report on the status question, but to also focus on matters affecting Puerto Rico’s economic development, and provide advice and recommendations to the President and the Congress on policies that promote job creation, education, health care, clean energy, and economic development on the island.

Obama's commitment to helping Puerto Rico stems from a campaign promise that, while it did not win him the strangely coveted 2008 primary in Puerto Rico – Hillary Clinton won that vote overwhelmingly – was a historic first. 

For the first time, a politician acknowledged and stated on the record that Puerto Rico's special relationship with the United States was worthy of respect. It was a love letter, and he is fulfilling his promise.

In fact, the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico wants to hold at least two referendums on the island for voters there to choose which status they prefer: statehood, commonwealth, independence or free associated state.

Back in in February 2008, Obama the camdidate wrote: "As President I will actively engage Congress and the Puerto Rican people in promoting this deliberative, open and unbiased process, that may include a constitutional convention, or a plebiscite, and my Administration will adhere to a policy of strict neutrality on Puerto Rican status matters. My Administration will recognize all valid options to resolve the question of Puerto Rico's status, including commonwealth, statehood, and independence."

Yet, during a conference call this morning with task force members

                 Cecilia Muñoz, Task Force Co-Chair and White House Director of Intergovernmental     Affairs
                 Tom Perrelli, Task Force Co-Chair and Associate Attorney General of the United States
     Eric Waldo, Task Force Member and Deputy Chief of Staff, US Department of Education
     Judith A. Enck, Regional Administrator, Region 2 US Environmental Protection Agency
                 Laura Smith Morton, Task Force Member and Senior Advisor, Renewable Energy, Department     of Energy/EERE
in which 35 minutes were taken up by members repeating some of the 221-page report's most headline-catching points, it became clear that the report, as all previous White House reports, is thin on substance and thick on grand ideas and recommendations that have no teeth. There is no regulation, law, executive order – and, given Obama's record thus far on controversial initiatives – no power of persuasion to implement any of the recommendations.

And at least one fundamental piece is missing from the report.

The report implies there is an urgency to hold a referendum on Puerto Rico's status before the end of 2012. But doesn't state why.
And it doesn't address the lack of access to impartial information that is a conerstone of any democratic process.
There are no mechanisms in place to ensure that voters on the island have complete and equal access to objective information regarding the status vote.
Puerto Rico's public education system, the third largest within the United States, has been systematically dismantled by successive administrations intent on gaining statehood for the island by encouraging more than half of the 650,000 students to drop out of school before graduation day. Their theory is, the more people don't know, the more likely they will vote for statehood.
It is a Caribbean version of the Tea Party in the U.S. Mass ignorance is bliss for vested interests.
As if not allowing enough time for the public education system to return to being one of the best in Latin America weren't enough, Puerto Rico is also littered with partisan media outlets, almost pro-statehood, that have contributed to the situation the island faces today. It's not just pundits in Puerto Rico who influence public sentiment – it is also the type of stories and how they are presented that sways voters one way or another.

In sum, we have a situation where Obama is rushing for island Puerto Ricans to vote on an important issue that will affect future generations in a context where people are poorly educated and misinformed by partisan media outlets.

This is a bad promise to keep, Mr. President.

 Before putting issues on the table to vote on, people need education. Otherwise, it will be just another episode of "Survivor"  mixed in with "American Idol." 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On immigration, nothing new

By Natalia Muñoz

The question to Gov. Deval Patrick was, “How do you persuade people
with other views to your side so that in the end, undocumented
immigrants have the tools they need to get on with their lives?”
For instance, a driver’s license, an ID that can mark the difference
between a traffic violation ticket and deportation, remains an
untenable proposal for most Republicans while most Democrats tighten
their lips so shut it appears as if they do not have a mouth.
Patrick has tried repeatedly to show both local and federal
politicians that allowing undocumented workers to learn the rules
of the road and take the test is as much a safety issue as much as
common sense.
But many politicians equate common sense with losing an election.
They would rather keep the job they are not suited for than have
to work for a living. And in this electoral climate in which most
people do not vote, these politicians are masterful at fooling most
of the people most of the time.
What their Republican colleagues also do well is transform rational
proposals into matters of tyranny vs. democracy. And the mainstream
media, which have the budgets to research and present reality
vs. demagoguery, prefer to present insipid reality shows that
stun people into inaction, similar to how the hugely popular Jon
Stewart’s “Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert’s “Report” television
shows keep the masses laughing all the way into sleepiness.
The mainstream media opts to position a nicely groomed nincompoop
like Anderson Cooper front and center and empanel the same tired
DC insiders to deconstruct the latest round of political wrestling
until … the next nonstory is broken by another highly paid
nincompoop bureau chief somewhere.
In this miasma between Barbie mainstream media and lightweight
politicians gunning for more exposure, visionary policy makers and
expedient demagogues, Patrick chips at the path to citizenship
for the thousands of residents in Massachusetts who enrich the
commonwealth with their contributions, tax- and otherwise.
Patrick answered the question, again saying that he supports
immigration reform and wants to usher in the day when undocumented
workers can apply for a driver’s license.
But another journalist at the press conference wasn’t convinced he
is doing enough and asked Patrick why he didn’t just do it without
Republican support.
After all, she said, Utah gives drivers licenses to people who pass
the test, regardless of their immigration status or citizenship. So
do New Mexico and Washington.
Patrick, who also said the commonwealth could lose millions of
federal dollars if it allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for
licenses, was not aware of this but said he would look into it.
In the meantime, no doubt that waiting for him are a herd of court
jesters and naysayers who will delight and lead the spineless
mainstream media into a talk fest where one expert will preach

anarchy is about to takeover the country and the other will plug
his new book, a profile on a Washington, DC, player who is now a
multimillionaire and jokes with Matt Lauer on ”The Today Show.” And
Stewart and Colbert will make clever jokes.
And those of us in the ethnic media who ask Patrick again and again
about immigration reform, have nothing new to report.
Natalia Muñoz is founder and editor of

Monday, July 19, 2010

For George Will, A Quick Lesson on Puerto Rico

From a column by George Will that ran in the Washington Post on July 19, 2010:

"Many Republicans suspect that congressional Democrats support statehood for the same reason they want to pretend that the District of Columbia is a state -- to get two more senators (and in Puerto Rico's case, perhaps six members of the House). Such Republicans mistakenly assume that the island's population of 4 million has the same Democratic disposition as the 4.2 million Puerto Ricans in the Bronx and elsewhere on the mainland.

(Gov. Luis) Fortuno disagrees, noting that while Republicans on the mainland were losing in 2008, he was elected in the island's biggest landslide in 44 years. The party he leads won more than two-thirds of the seats in both houses of the legislature and three-fifths of the mayoralties, including that of San Juan. Fortuno, who calls himself a "values candidate" and goes to Catholic services almost every day, says that Puerto Ricans are culturally conservative -- 78 percent are pro-life, 91 percent oppose same-sex marriage and 30 percent of the 85 percent who are Christian are evangelicals. A majority supports his agenda, which includes tax and spending cuts, trimming 16,000 from public payrolls to begin eliminating the deficit that was 45 percent of the size of the budget." 

Dear George,
* Your newspaper can't even get the ñ to work in Fortuño's name.

* Fortuño won by a large majority in the 2008 Puerto Rico elections because the other contender, Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, had been hounded by the federal government on trumped up corruptions charges that resulted in A) discrediting Acevedo -- not Vilá, as many Americans wrongly assume is his surname -- B) propelling Fortuño to a position that is creating chaos in Puerto Rico.

* Acevedo Vilá was cleared of the charges, but the damage to his credibility had been done. Surely you know how influential the United States is in positioning its favored people in positions of leadership (Kharzi in Afghanistan; Saddam Hussein in Iraq until W. hung him, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Reagan's beloved Contras in Nicaragua, etc.)

* A majority do not support his agenda. If you were truly informed by reading translations from different media sources AND respected political analysts, who are nothing like the pundit circus we see on CNN, you would know this.

* A majority of Puerto Ricans do not want statehood as you noted. Frame the questions about what they value, and a majority will tell you that they want the schools to be well-staffed, the roads paved, the garbage picked up, they want meaningful and well-paid jobs, they want politicians from all parties (pro-commonwealth -- the current status that is akin to what Spain has with Catalonia, the Basque Country, Valencia, etc.; pro-independence and pro-statehood) to be clean.

The decade of the 1990s, when pro-statehood Gov. Pedro Rossello headed the most corrupt administration in Puerto Rico's 50-years democratic history, with more than 40 close aides from his administration in prison for stealing millions of dollars from the departments such as of health, education and housing, still sets the tone in current affairs.
The current Senate President, pro-statehooder Thomas Rivera Schatz, had blocked the media from recording public hearings. His lawyer, a former Senate president also from the pro-statehood party, Charlie Rodríguez, has taken the position that because the public hearings are transmitted via public access TV, there isn't a need for other media to be present.

* Just this week, on July 18, there was march against the government repression. You must know about Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, when hardly anyone in the U.S. general population knew about the Dirty War. In Puerto Rico, a similar and worrisome growth in intolerance by the government is taking place  that people fear could lead to political violence. Hardly covered by the pro-statehood owned media, however. But

* Re: " The United States acquired Puerto Rico 112 years ago in the testosterone spill called the Spanish-American ..." How could you show such disrespect to Puerto Ricans and American soldiers? It was a war in which Puerto Rico was robbed of  its newly-gained right for autonomy from Spain. In the 100+ years that have followed, we have been subjects of American policies crafted by congressmen who by and large know nothing about Puerto Rico, much less Puerto Ricans.

* Fortuño's belief that Puerto Ricans on the island are more conservative than Puerto Ricans in the United States holds truth. Those of us who have lived here know the U.S. much better than those on the island who believe in the Hollywood version of the United States. 

* If Puerto Rican in the United States could vote for any political status, independence would win. Ironic, isn't it? But then, maybe we should be grateful that we don't have independence just yet. Not while Fortuño continues policies that recall the 1990s. Not while there is a strong chance that we could end up with a Pinochet, who, as you must know, grabbed power from Latin America's shining example of democracy on Sept. 11,  1973.

In sum, George, you are usually the best-informed analyst at the table. But this time, your sources ambushed you and your reputation is cementing half-truths. Next time you want to know about Puerto Rico, talk to some of the Puerto Rican congresspeople in DC like Reps. Nydia Velázquez of New York, Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois and even the pro-statehood José Serrano. You'll see just how complicated this is. Thank you.