This freshly posted video shows Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño addressing a group of conservatives who had come to the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan just last week on a Caribbean cruise sponsored by the infamous CPAC, or Conservative Political Action Group. If you dare click on that link, you’ll see that CPAC’s website is festooned with photos of some of the Worst Persons of the World: Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Jim De Mint, and minority rising stars Marco Rubio and Allen West. The video features, in the background, the presence of Puerto Rico Secretary of Economic Development José Pérez Riera, the Director of Tourism Mario González Lafuente, and at the very end, a glimpse of former Karl Rove lackey and Fortuño right-hand gal Annie Mayol. The video was shot and posted on the personal web page of Lisa Miller, a well-known Tea Party activist whose speech at the July 4th 2009 Washington D.C. rally is very similar to Luis’s smarmy commentary.
After opening with his now-standard patter about Puerto Rico’s Spanish past and American present, Fortuño clearly makes reference to the idea that he is taking the lead in implementing a conservative Republican program of austerity that he says should have begun “on the national level two years ago.” He unabashedly boasts about Puerto Rico’s economic recovery (at least in the eyes of the bond raters), achieved through the combination of slashing government spending and drastically reducing corporate and personal tax rates. He also takes credit for creating 7000 jobs that very well may have been the result of stimulus spending in Puerto Rico. During the video you can hear the kind of hootin’ and hollerin’ you might encounter at a Sarah Palin rally, which is no surprise, since Miller is clearly trying to do a Palin-lite imitation good enough to land, maybe, a cabinet position in her upcoming administration? The video is also posted at sarahpalinvideos.net.
Curiously, even though information about this cruise has been posted on CPAC’s website for months, Fortuño has denied his connection to the event in the past, and continues to deny Tea Party ties even after the surfacing of the video. In April he even wooed the the CEO of the ultra-conservative Newsmax (one of those publications Sarah Palin reads), who visited Puerto Rico on a previous cruise. It’s a rather crude attempt at controlling easily available information, but I guess it goes over en La Isla del Encanto.
Meanwhile, as the University continues to be occupied by police, student groups began an indefinite strike, flouting Fortuño’s latest offer, a government fund that would provide students with jobs so that they can pay for the additional $800 due beginning next semester. Both sides dispute the amount of students that would actually be covered by this, and the strikers have larger concerns about privatization and the heavy-handed way the university has been used to assert the policies of the ruling PNP party. There is a growing consciousness in Puerto Rico of the near-dictatorial rule of the PNP in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. That and a rejection of austerity policies gives the student strike a broad support.
Now about that information that governments like to conceal from view. A new player in the island’s political discourse is slowly manifesting itself–it’s a website called “iupileaks.” Currently they are featuring a post that challenges the idea that the University’s deficit crisis is unavoidable. The post implies that there has been a diversion of funds from the IVU sales tax away from the University and toward the shoring up of government bonds, which is one of the primary concerns that Fortuño addresses above. So, true to the austerity policies that are increasingly going into effect around the world, the government is demanding that poor, working, and middle-class people pay for the transgressions of the financial sector that caused the recession.
Balancing the budget on the backs of the people. Socializing the debt, privatizing the profit. It’s what they don’t the people to know, but the people of Puerto Rico seem to know it.