Chicago, Illinois - The US Democratic Party (DNC) closed yesterday the controversy over the February 2017 election of its Puerto Rican committee, giving the benefit of the doubt to the group headed by former Senator Charlie Rodríguez.
By approving the Credentials Committee report on the cases of Florida and Puerto Rico that were examined in a meeting on Friday, the DNC confirmed the decision to dismiss the complaints filed by 23 Democrats of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and two representatives of Our Revolution movement - inspired by Bernie Sanders -, against Rodriguez and three other members of the Island's Democratic Party executive committee.
Louisiana state Senator Karen Carter Peterson, co-chair of the Credentials Committee, submitted yesterday before the DNC summer assembly, in Chicago (Illinois), the agreements reached on Friday. The report was approved without objection.
According to Rodríguez, the DNC passed a resolution calling to end Puerto Rico´s territorial status. The resolution was not available yesterday.
On Friday, when evaluating the complaints, the Credentials Committee did not explain its reasons for dismissing the case. It simply approved a motion by Florida delegate Alma Gonzalez - whose position was also in dispute over Democrats in her state - in favor of dismissing the challenges.
"That is not how it´s done in my state," said Michael Kapp, Credentials Committee member and DNC delegate for California, regarding the lack of grounds for the commission's decision. The meeting on Friday was Kapp´s second one as a member of the Credentials Committee.
Through the decision, the DNC validated the position of the New Progressive Party (PNP) in the US Democratic Party of Puerto Rico regarding that it was reasonable to call the February 7, 2017 election just a week in advance and through a business card size advertisement in El Nuevo Día.
It also accepted the argument submitted by Rodriguez and his group stating that 35 percent of the members present met the required quorum, contrary to the complainants' position that the election of the island´s Democratic committee requires a central committee of the island's Democrats election required half plus one quorum.
The PPD and Our Revolution plaintiffs asked to consider those revelations made by El Nuevo Día over emails Alvaro Cifuentes (member of the Affirmative Action Committee) sent Rodriguez and that questioned the impartiality of the evaluation conducted in Puerto Rico. However, the Credentials Committee leadership considered that these communications were not part of the case record.
Rodriguez, Senate former president, plans to form a committee in San Juan to examine amendments to local regulations. Then he must submit the proposals before the US Democratic Party Central Committee in Puerto Rico. He said that he did not do it before because the challenge was pending.
Once his election to the DNC was ratified, Rodriguez said that a petition to remove him could not advance in the Puerto Rico Democratic Party Central Committee. "I am the president of the Democratic Party until 2020. That is already resolved. What we have to do now is amend the regulation," noted Rodriguez.
PPD plaintiffs, led by Senator Eduardo Bhatia, consider that Rodriguez has never called the Central Committee since February 7, 2017 when he was elected because he is not supported by the majority of its members.
For PPD Senator José Nadal Power, when voting to dismiss the complaints 19-5 –with three abstentions- the majority of the DNC Credentials Committee, "turned their back on the slightest sense of justice , after the trap was showed."
The plaintiffs recalled the fact that there were about six or seven votes cast in the name of delegates who did not attend the meeting, which means that they did not listen to the plaintiffs point of view on Friday. "It's very disappointing to see things like these happen at a time when people are asking the parties for transparency," said Nadal Power, who attended the Credentials Committee hearing.
For the PNP, the decisions of the DNC represent a victory and confirm the elected leadership which includes Johanne Vélez as Vice President; Mayor of Ponce, Mayita Meléndez, as national committeewoman; and Luis Dávila Pernas as national committeeman.
But now they face the challenge of attracting new island Democratic supporters like those of the Sanders movement that in 2016 also denounced before the DNC that they were marginalized by the US Democratic Party leadership favoring Hillary Clinton.
Rodriguez said that his intention is to "open the party" and that the process begins with changes to the regulation he inherited after 14 years of harmony in the leadership headed by PPD Roberto Prats, and PNP Kenneth McClintock.
The internal conflict between the Island´s Democrats - in an organization that usually functions as a club activated every four years for presidential primaries-was stirred after, on August 5, El Nuevo Día disclosed emails that question the impartiality of the local review of the complaints filed against Rodríguez and his group.
The communications revealed by El Nuevo Día included emails in which one of the three members of the Affirmative Action Committee, former chief of staff Álvaro Cifuentes, sent Rodriguez drafts of the opinion issued on February 12, 2018. Rodríguez said that he never received them.
Cifuentes, who was at the Credentials Committee session on Friday, also consulted with Rodriguez and Anthony Maceira -current Ports Authority director and back then examiner of the case hearings- on recommendations made by Harold Ickes, member of the DNC Rules Committee, about how to address the complaints.
Once the opinion in favor of Rodriguez was issued, Manuel Ortiz, Governor Ricardo Rosselló´s lobbyist and one of the members of the DNC Credentials Committee, also exchanged emails with the former NPP senator on how to address the appeals before that commission, what they finally achieved this weekend.
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