New Progressive Party
Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP)
|Senate leader||Thomas Rivera Schatz (Senate President) Roberto Arango (NPP Majority Leader)|
|House leader||Jennifer González (House Speaker) Rolando Crespo (NPP Majority Leader)|
|Headquarters||Hato Rey, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|Ideology||U.S. statehood, Annexation to the United States|
|Political position||Fiscal: Conservative (in the pro-Republican Party faction); Keynesian (in the pro-Democratic Party faction)
Social: Supports Puerto Rico annexation to the United States as a State with full powers and responsibilities.
|International affiliation||United States Democratic Party, United States Republican Party|
|Official colors||Blue and White|
|Seats in the Senate||22 seats in Puerto Rico Senate.|
|Seats in the House||1 Non-Voting Delegate in US House. 37 seats in Puerto Rico House of Representatives.|
|Politics of the United
Following the 2008 general elections, it currently holds supermajorities in the Commonwealth's House of Representatives and Senate. The NPP also won the seat for Puerto Rico's sole delegate to Congress and that of the Governor's office at La Fortaleza. Forty-eight of Puerto Rico's 78 mayoral seats are now also occupied by NPP mayors.
Party members, commonly called penepés or estadistas ("statehooders"), include supporters of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party of the United States who favor the integration of Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the Union.
In its beginning, the majority of the PNP leaders were also members of the Republican Party, yet the last two elected PNP governors, Carlos Romero Barceló, and Dr. Pedro Rosselló González, are registered Democrats. On the other hand, the party's current President, Governor Luis G. Fortuño caucuses with the Republicans and serves as Puerto Rico's Republican National Committeeman. House Speaker Jennifer González is a Republican while the former Senate President and current Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock is Puerto Rico's Democratic National Committeeman.
The party traces its beginnings to a 1967 assembly in a sports complex in the sector of Country Club, San Juan, Puerto Rico. On January 5, 1968 (eve of Epiphany), the party was belatedly certified as an official political group by the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico. The party had roots in a prior pro-statehood party led by Miguel Angel García Méndez. The incipient party campaigned unsuccessfully in favor of statehood in the Puerto Rico status referendum of 1967, even though the historical pro-statehood Puerto Rican Republican Party decided to boycott that plebiscite. Main party founder, president, and former statehood Republican Party standard-bearer Luis A. Ferré categorized the New Progressive Party as one which would not be aligned to any of the two major U.S. national parties. Co-founders of the New Progressive Party alongside Luis A. Ferre were Dr. Manuel F. Alsina Capo and attorney Nelson Escalona.
Under Luis A. Ferré, the NPP came to power in November 1968, defeating Luis Negrón López, the chosen candidate of the PDP. Smaller vote totals were obtained by the Partido del Pueblo led by Roberto Sánchez Vilella and the candidate from the PIP. The governing party was saddled by the break-away candidacy of then-governor Roberto Sánchez Vilella, who had feuded with the PPD leader, Luis Muñoz Marín.
Four years later, in 1972, Ferré lost to the reunified PDP's candidate Rafael Hernández Colón by the biggest percentual margin since the NPP's creation (7.3%), but in 1976, under the leadership of Carlos Romero Barceló, the NPP returned to power. Romero Barceló would face Hernández Colón three times for the seat of Puerto Rican governor.
In 1980, Carlos A. Romero Barceló won the governor's seat by a narrow 3,000 vote margin. A prominent event during Romero Barcelo's term, the Cerro Maravilla incident, would end up overshadowing Barcelo's governorship. The incident involved the killing of two young men who had gone to Cerro Maravilla, site of a major communications facility for the island, with the intention of intercepting communications transmission there. Upon arriving at their Cerro Maravilla destination, the two men were ambushed and killed by the central police (see also Alejandro González Malavé). Initially, it was reported that the two young men had been shot because they resisted arrest, but as the investigation progressed it became clear the men had been shot execution style while under police custody. The opposition party, the PDP, which at the time was in control of the legislature, orchestrated televised hearings in which they attempted to prove the whole incident was planned by the administration of Gov. Romero Barceló itself. Further scandals erupted when it became known that an undercover police agent who was with the two men had actually engineered the whole plan. This, combined with the fact that the then-mayor of San Juan, Hernán Padilla, left the party to form his own party (Partido Renovación Puertorriqueña, PRP), helped Hernández Colón get re-elected in 1984. In 1988, former Resident Commissioner, ex-mayor of San Juan, and ex-member of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court Baltasar Corrada del Río ran as the NPP candidate for governor but lost the race to Hernández Colón.
Rosselló launched an anti-crime campaign known as "Mano dura contra el crimen" ("Strong hand against crime") in which the Puerto Rico National Guard was used to assist the Island police force. During Pedro J. Rosselló's term a number of large-scale infrastructure projects were undertaken, including the "Tren Urbano" (Metro Rail System), the "Superaqueduct", the construction of the Puerto Rico Convention Center and the Puerto Rico Coliseum. His policies also included a push toward privatization of public entities and free health care for the poor.
He led the NPP in a campaign for Puerto Rican statehood in 1993 in which locally-enacted plebiscites were held to consult the Puerto Rican public on their position regarding the political status of the island with the United States. He supported the proposal for a referendum in Puerto Rico to define the political status of the island. However, the bill died in committee in the U.S. Senate. Nevertheless, Rosselló carried out another plebiscite in 1998 which gave electors four options plus a fifth one, "None of the Above". The opposing Popular Democratic Party led a campaign to boycott the plebiscite, charging it was structured to favor the ruling NPP party's statehood goals, and called the electorate to vote for the "None of the Above" option. The boycott was successful, as the None of the Above column garnered more votes than all of the other options. Rosselló, however, argued before Congress that statehood had won the plebiscite as he claimed that the fifth option ("None of the Above") was an undefined vote in terms of status.
In the 1996 elections, the NPP candidate, Rosselló, defeated opponent Héctor Luis Acevedo (PDP), the mayor of San Juan at the time, and Representative David Noriega (PIP), for a second term, after obtaining more than one million votes and the largest victory margin of any candidate since 1964.
In 1998, the sale of the state-owned Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC) to GTE for $1.9 billion led to a general strike organized by labor unions and backed by opposition forces. Rosselló's popularity took a hit along with the NPP's due to the backlash of the many images of protesters.
Rosselló stepped down as governor after eight years in power in 2000. His period as governor was marked by the Vieques protests and major economic growth due to the coincidence of the emerging Internet. In 2000, Carlos I. Pesquera, Secretary of Transportation under Rosselló, ran for governor. Pre-election polls had him at a considerable advantage over his PDP opponent, Sila María Calderón Serra. As the election grew closer, Calderón closed the gap as Pesquera's image was harmed by a PDP campaign focusing on corruption under Rosselló's tenure.
It also did not help Pesquera that the Acting US District Attorney Guillermo Gil said in June 2000 (three months before the November 2000 election) "corruption has a name and it is called the New Progressive Party" while announcing a grand jury indictment. The grand jury had accused 18 people - including two mayors from Rosselló's New Progressive Party - of running an extortion scheme that skimmed $800,000 in kickbacks from a $56 million government contract. During a news conference, Gil told journalists that the extorted money had ended up in the coffers of the New Progressive Party. This and other actions by Gil were object of many ethics complaints to the US Department of Justice by NPP leaders.
In this environment, the NPP lost the 2000 election, losing the Governor's seat, the Resident Commissioner, and the state legislature. This was the first election since its creation, that the NPP suffered a vote reduction. Leo Díaz assumed the NPP Presidency, but it was short-lived as Pesquera returned to occupy the position after defeating Díaz.
Turmoil consumed the NPP during the first two years of the 2001-2005 term. The Secretary of Education, under the Rossello's administration, Victor Fajardo, was charged and convicted by federal agencies of appropriating millions of federal funds directed to the Education Department. The former House Speaker and Republican National Committee Man, Edison Misla Aldarondo was also charged with extortion by the US Attorney's Office, and was forced to resign. In an ironic turn of events, NPP figures charged with federal corruption crimes were also charged with corruption by the Puerto Rico Justice Department using new anti-corruption state laws that the NPP had enacted. In 2001, Calderon named a Blue Ribbon Committee that was dedicated to investigate government transactions under Rossello's two terms.
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In July 2002, several of the party's leaders were involved in an incident at the Office of Women's Affairs. Pesquera led a phalanx of pro-statehood advocates and the press into the government office whose administrator had refused to display the American Flag alongside the flag of Puerto Rico. A jury acquitted Pesquera and other followers of any wrongdoing.
In March 2003, Rosselló, who had been living in the state of Virginia, returned to the island, responding to the many calls and visits he received from prominent citizens and politicians. Rosselló subsequently defeated Pesquera in the NPP primary for the gubernatorial nomination.
The fall 2004 campaign was lively and controversial. Rosselló's prior administration was repeatedly painted as corrupt, while his PDP opponent (Calderón chose not to run for re-election) Aníbal Acevedo Vilá (PDP) was initially behind in the polls. In his performance in televised debates, Acevedo's campaign gained momentum, aided in part by the favorable press he received from the island media outlets. In pre-election polls, Rosselló led by double digits, but ultimately Rosselló lost by some 3,000 votes (1,200 votes went as write-in for Carlos Pesquera) proving that the PDP's strategy worked once again. Rosselló challenged the electoral results alleging that split ticket votes, which had always been counted before, were now illegal. After a lengthy court battle decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (located in Boston, MA), Acevedo Vila was certified as governor.
As 2005 began, Rosselló became a Senator for the Arecibo district after elected Senator Victor Loubriel resigned from his seat, effectively gaining a seat for which he did not run. Thus started a struggle between Senate President Kenneth McClintock and Rossello for control of the Senate Presidency. The dispute ended in a stalemate as McClintock refused to leave the position, a stance respected by the PDP minority senators and 5 other NPP senators. This led to the expulsion from the party of McClintock as well as two of the NPP senators who backed him, a matter which led McClintock to file suit in San Juan Superior Court, winning the case, which was confirmed by the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in a 5-1 ruling. The infighting ended when Rosselló was defeated in the 2008 primary and when McClintock co-chaired Sen. Hillary Clinton's Democratic primary campaign and helped lead her to a record-setting 68-32% victory in the waning days of her bid for the Democratic nomination.
On March 7, 2007, Rosselló stated that he was no longer interested in the Senate Presidency and is now focusing his attention in preventing Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño from winning the March 2008 gubernatorial primary, and has allowed his name to be placed in nomination for the party's gubernatorial primary. McClintock and four other senators won in San Juan Superior Court a suit to nullify the sanctions and expulsions that the party leadership has levied against them. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court confirmed the lower court decision by a 5-to-1 vote. As a result, McClintock and his supporters are recognized as NPP members and free to run under the party banner.In March 9, 2008, Pedro Rosselló conceded the victory to Luis Fortuño after a large margin of votes in favor of his opponent in the NPP party primaries for the presidency of the party and gubernatorial nomination. Rosselló admitted defeat even before the votes were completely tallied claiming Fortuño as the next candidate of the PNP party. In Rosselló's conceding speech he said "Luis Fortuño has been selected by the people to be the new president of this party and the candidate for governor. I always say the people speak and I obey, Fortuño here is your party and here is your office (signaling the party's official headquarters). Now its up to you, the loyal members of this party, to make sure that this new leadership works for the statehood for Puerto Rico". After this conceding speech it was rumored and even announced at Fortuño's headquarters that the former Governor would arrive there along with his loyal supporter and mayor of the capital city of San Juan, Jorge Santini, but after Fortuño's followers waited for hours to see their leaders united neither Rosselló or Santini arrived. After the primary was over it was heavily rumored by many that Rosselló would not be campaigning for Fortuño and that he'd resign as senator to go back to his home in Virginia. On March 10, 2008, Rosselló sent the media a written statement regarding his future in which he confirmed he will be retiring from active politics and will not be campaigning for any candidate, however he will finish his term as Senator for the Arecibo District.
Most of Rosselló's supporters were elected in the primary and endorsed Fortuño as their candidate for Governor. However, several prominent NPP members demonstrated strong opposition to Fortuño's candidacy and victory.
As soon as the results of the March 9, 2008 primaries were announced, NPP's Second Vice President, "Doña" Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer, announced her immediate resignation, saying "Effectively right now I am no longer the Second Vice President of this party. You will not see me ever again involved in active politics, party reunions or party meetings, as I now plan to become a private citizen. There's a lot of things I haven't done I want to do, and I'll also do some things I have to do to help the statehood cause". Ramírez was a candidate for Resident Commissioner in the primaries and was openly supporting Rosselló. She lost to Fortuño's candidate, Pedro Pierluisi, and to another Rosselló supporter who was also defeated, former Senate President, Charlie Rodríguez. When Ramírez was asked by the media if she will vote for Fortuño, she replied "My vote is secret". This came as no surprise, as she had commented to the media before the primaries "I'd rather cut my hand than vote for Fortuño".
Another strong voice against Fortuño was NPP former President Leo Díaz. Díaz accused Fortuño and his wife of having ties to PDP law firms and to colonialist interests. At a November 4, 2007, rally called "Con Fuerza para Vencer" (With the Strength to Win), Díaz said, "In this primary the life of this party is in jeopardy. The other candidate, Fortuño, isn't a real statehood defender! He should explain why he has ties with PDP's law firms and why the colonialist special interests are financing his campaign[...]".
San Juan mayor Jorge Santini also made strong statements against Fortuño during the primary campaign, as he supported Rosselló. He said that Fortuño wasn't a "full time leader" and that he "made arrangements with other causes".
On November 4, 2008, the New Progressive Party achieved super-majorities in the Legislative Assembly, and won both the Resident Commissioner and Governor race with a landslide. Towns that were previously strongholds of the PDP, like Ponce, Aibonito and Naranjito elected PNP Mayors; as the results were completely counted, Luis Fortuno had won the governorship in 72 of 78 towns. Given the size of the majorities in the legislature, the minorities law has to be applied to prevent the party from having a two thirds majority. Meaning that the New Progressive Party received at least 34 of the 51 seats in the House of Representatives and it captured all district seats of the senate plus the 6 at-large candidates. Luis Fortuno received 1,025,945 votes beating the incumbent Aníbal Acevedo Vilá by 220,635 votes or 11.5%. This is the second time a candidate for governor from the New Progressive Party has received over one million votes, the first time being Pedro Rossello in 1996. No other parties' candidates has ever received over one million votes in Puerto Rico elections history. This was the largest victory the PNP has ever had and the largest defeat the PDP has ever had in election history.
The party is strongly associated with the color blue in Puerto Rico because of its logo. Since the logo features a palm tree, many Puerto Ricans call the PNP "La Palma".
Curiously enough, the use of a palm tree as a party symbol by the PNP was suggested, indirectly, by the opposition. In the original 1967 status plebiscite, then Puerto Rico governor Roberto Sanchez Vilella asked one of his then staff members, future governor Rafael Hernández Colón to come up with three ideas for art clips, as to identify each of the three status options in the ballot and assist illiterate voters who might not be able to read it. In his book "Vientos de Cambio", Hernandez Colón recalls that he conceived the three symbols while at the backyard of his father-in-law's house in Ponce, Puerto Rico. One of the symbols (the one which eventually represented the statehood option in the ballot) was a "palma real" (Roystonea regia), a species of palm tree that is native to the Caribbean. The group "Estadistas Unidos", the statehood supporters who broke rank with García Méndez to participate at the plebiscite, adopted the palm tree as a potential party symbol when they incorporated the PNP. Due to electoral law restrictions, however, they were forbidden to use a "palma real" as a logo because of its previous use in an election; therefore, a coconut (Cocos nucifera) palm tree was used instead. The use of the coconut palm tree as a symbol by the PNP persists to this day.
The logo's original version consisted of a light blue palm tree, partially encircled by words in a semi-circle (the exact color hue for the logo being that of the United Nations flag, as a personal request from the party founder, Luis A. Ferré. The original logo had the party's name surrounding it; eventually the words "estadidad, seguridad, progreso" ("statehood, security, progress" in English) substituted the party name. The logo later enclosed the palm tree in a blue oval and reversed its colors. The tonality of blue used in the newer logo was eventually changed to a deep navy blue, as to liken it to that of the canton of the United States' flag.
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