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In the Republican electoral crossroads
Javier Llopis Puente*
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The refusal of Puerto Rican Republican leaders to support Donald Trump in the presidential race of 2016 is another chapter in the complicated history between the Island and the United States.

The primary elections of the Republican Party took place in Puerto Rico this past Mar. 6. The results gave a resounding victory to the then candidate Sen. Marco Rubio with over 70 percent of the vote and he was awarded all the 23 delegates that the Island will send to the Republican convention to be held in Cleveland in July. Trump, meanwhile, only received just over 13 percent of the vote.

The election for President of the United States is an indirect election. Citizens vote for the delegates appointed by the candidates, who form the Electoral College, and they, in turn, vote for the president. In the 2012 presidential election Democrat Barack Obama won 332 electoral votes, against 206 for his Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

After losing the Florida primary on Mar. 15, his home state, Rubio dropped out of the presidential race. It should be stressed that the 23 Puerto Rican delegates and most of the delegates obtained by Rubio are bound to vote for the candidate of Cuban origin, even though he is no longer in the race. James Cohen, a French-American professor at the Institut du Monde Anglophone (Institute of the Anglophone World) at the Sorbonne University and author of a doctoral thesis on the colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, told Latinamerica Press that “since Trump has the majority, it is clear that there will not be a second round.”

Two months later, on May 16, Trump, the New York magnate, secured the Republican nomination for the presidential elections having obtained the required number of delegates to vote for him at the Republican convention. The political “earthquake” responsible for this event led to several party leaders to express their antipathy or outright rejection towards Trump.

The prominent Bush family, the family of the last two Republican presidents, announced that neither George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) nor George W. Bush (2001-2008) would support the party’s candidate; on the contrary, they would maintain silence. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush, son and brother of the past presidents, and former Florida governor and candidate of the Republican Party, announced that “I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton,” making reference to the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.

Surprisingly, on May 27, Rubio, who was one of the strongest Trump opponents inside the Republican ranks and who he even described as “the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency”, expressed his support for the candidacy of the New Yorker real estate magnate.

Neither voice nor vote
The political history of Puerto Rico is characterized by its lack of clarity. While Puerto Ricans are US citizens and the Island sends delegates to the nominating conventions of the major parties at the time when presidential elections are held, by not being a state of the union (it has the status of commonwealth), Puerto Rico has no electoral votes, those who finally define who wins the presidential race.

The main political parties in Puerto Rico are the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and the New Progressive Party (PNP). The former is in favor of maintaining the commonwealth status of the island with respect to the US.

Cohen says that “it is a ‘modernized’ version of the former colonial regime, which was a much more direct form of colonial despotism, with the governor being appointed by the US President”.

Meanwhile, the PNP is in favor of statehood, which would allow the Island to become the fifty-first state of the union. The historical irony behind this is that the PPD is linked more closely to the Democratic Party, and the PNP, albeit with different factions, to the Republican Party. So, while the PNP calls for turning the Island into a new state, Trump has categorically rejected this possibility. In one of his most recent statements, full of xenophobia and ignorance, he said that “the dirtiest and thieve-ist of Mexicans are 100 percent, from Puerto Rico.”

Faced with this situation, Republican leaders in Puerto Rico opposed the candidacy of Trump. Jenniffer González, president of the PNP, said that she could not support “a person who talks the way Trump does about women and Latinos.” This statement echoed the one made by Abel Nazario, Puerto Rican Republican leader, who said that “Trump is not the leader that the United States needs”.

“Given that the candidate has already been chosen nationally, all of this is purely symbolic,” says Cohen. So, Puerto Rico immerses in a new crossroads where, in fact, the Island has neither voice nor vote. —Latinamerica Press.

* Peruvian, Political Sciences graduate in Political Science at the Institute of Political Studies-Sciences-Po, France, who presently is doing an internship at Comunicaciones

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