Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

Up until now, I have refrained from blogging on U.S. presidential politics because . . . well . . . it doesn't really have much to do with the Caribbean. This week, however, the campaign has taken a bizarre twist as Hillary Clinton has come to Puerto Rico to do what no one else has probably ever done before in a U.S. presidential campaign: aggressively campaign for the island's fifty-five delegates to the Democratic National Convention. This is even more bizarre given that Puerto Rico is a U.S. colony whose residents have no vote in the upcoming general election.

That being said, Clinton's three-day jaunt across Puerto Rico has provided some entertaining news coverage. Some news outlets, for example, have made much of Clinton's efforts to impress prospective Puerto Rican voters by "swigging from a bottle of Presidente beer" (see photo above). Apparently, nobody noticed that cerveza Presidente is a product of Puerto Rico's neighbor, the Dominican Republic. If Clinton really wanted to score points with voters, she should have tried drinking a locally brewed Medalla.

While some pundits questioned the wisdom of Clinton's Sunday morning visit to the Pabellon de la Victoria (a Pentecostal megachurch that I routinely drove by several times per week when I lived in Puerto Rico) in a country that is predominately Roman Catholic, this was probably a strategically smart move given that Pentecostalism is, after all, one of the fastest growing segments of Christianity in Latin America.

Not quite so entertaining, however, were Clinton's remarks in a Memorial Day speech that “I believe it is long past time that we give the people of Puerto Rico--United States citizens all--an equal voice in the vote for the commander-in-chief who sends young Puerto Ricans to war.” While I suspect that many Puerto Ricans wholeheartedly agree with those comments (keeping in mind that many others would argue that an independent Puerto Rico would not have to send young Puerto Ricans to fight in American wars at all), her words rang hollow.

Having lived in Puerto Rico for three-and-a-half years during Bill Clinton's presidency, I observed first hand as Governor Pedro Rosselló--a strong Clinton supporter--practically bent over backwards trying to obtain Puerto Rican statehood (holding two island-wide referendums on the issue during his eight years in office) while the Clinton administration basically ignored him. So unless Mrs. Clinton has chosen to stake out a radically different position on this issue, my guess is that this is nothing more than an empty campaign promise which she has no intention of delivering.

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