CHICAGO, Ill. - Democrats of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and those identified with the Our Revolution movement –inspired by Bernie Sanders- believe that the challenge against the Puerto Rican Democratic leadership is a new crucial test for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), whose Credentials Committee will address the controversy today.
After accepting that in the 2016 presidential primaries between Hillary Clinton and Senator Sanders there was an institutional preference for the former Secretary of State, the DNC has to consider whether the election of the island's Democratic leadership was improperly convened, without quorum, and that even the process of evaluation of local complaints was contaminated in favor of the New Progressive Party (PNP) sector.
The election of the current local leadership headed by former PNP Senator Charlie Rodríguez was held on February 7, 2017.
The meeting was called call just a week in advance, through a card-size advertisement in El Nuevo Día, and without directly notifying most of the members of the Puerto Rico central committee.
Original complaints filed by PPD Senator Eduardo Bhatia and Delgado Vega and Maruxa Cárdenas Surillo from Our Revolution -claiming that half the members of the central committee plus one constitute a quorum and not 35 percent as indicated by Rodríguez’s sector-, were rejected in February 2018.
However, on August 5 El Nuevo Día revealed emails that question the impartiality of the local review process, done by an examiner -now Ports Authority Executive Director, Anthony Maceira- and an Affirmative Action Committee appointed by the executive committee headed by former Senator Rodríguez.
In the opinion, the Affirmative Action Committee admitted that the election of the group led by Rodriguez was part of a process to place supporters of Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares in charge of the US Democratic Party in Puerto Rico.
Among other matters, the communications to which El Nuevo Día could access revealed that one of the three members of the Affirmative Action Committee -former Chief of Staff Álvaro Cifuentes- sent Rodríguez drafts of the opinion issued last February.
Cifuentes also consulted with Rodríguez and Maceira over recommendations made by Harold Ickes -Clinton White House veteran and member of the Rules Committee- regarding how to handle the complaints.
Rodriguez says he never received the drafts, while Maceira's does not recall seeing Ickes’ recommendations.
Once the opinion in favor of Rodriguez's group was issued, Governor Rossello's main lobbyist, Manuel Ortiz, who is a member of the DNC Credentials Committee, exchanged emails with the former PNP Senator on how to defeat the complaints.
Both the lawyers of the PPD sector, José Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral, and that representing Sanders’ movement, Michael McCall, have requested a new Democratic election in Puerto Rico and the inhibition of Ortiz and PNP Senator Margarita Nolasco, who is also part of the Credentials Committee that reviews the appeals.
"The contrast in the treatment of both parties in this process is clear," said lawyer McCall, in a communication sent to the DNC's leadership on Tuesday, in which he also recalls that he has challenged Nolasco and others as members of the Democratic Party for having supported the candidacy for Resident Commissioner in Washington of Jenniffer González, who chairs the US Republican Party on the island.
McCall also stressed that the former President of the US Democratic Party in Puerto Rico, Roberto Prats, sworn that in the folder he gave to then local Democratic Interim Vice President, María "Mayita" Meléndez, Mayor of Ponce, he left information with the telephones of the central committee members. Former Senator Rodriguez said that the folder did not include contact information.
In response to the request of inhibition for Ortiz and Nolasco, Rodríguez, who ruled out calling a new election or any transaction, maintained that "the regulation I have inherited establishes that there can be no discrimination based on ideological beliefs."
"We are in the final process. (The Credentials Committee) will have to evaluate and make its decision based on the file," said Rodriguez.
However, plaintiffs consider that the file is contaminated. Although Hernandez Mayoral is sure that he has "a solid case," he said that "I cannot beat a judge who exchanges decisions with one of the parties."
Hernandez Mayoral hopes that today´s debate at the Credentials Committee will have "a level of impartiality that we did not have in lower levels."
"The whole process has been a mockery of the procedures and regulations," said PPD senator José Nadal Power, who will be at the hearing today along with Bhatia, who expressed yesterday that they are asking to "correct this lack of shame."
In the 2017 election, Johanne Vélez and the Mayor of Ponce as committeewoman and lawyer Luis Dávila Pernas were elected as Vice President, committeewoman and committeeman respectively.
The Credentials Committee session is part of the DNC summer meeting that started yesterday and ends tomorrow.
The Committee will have up to 15 minutes to listen to the representatives of each party before debating and proposing any resolution.
Any decision taken today must be ratified by the DNC plenary session this Saturday.
The DNC summer meeting in Chicago has been marked by the interest of seeking greater harmony within the US party, which in Puerto Rico is basically a club that is activated for presidential elections.
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