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Puerto Ricans in Congress to Boycott Inauguration

Puerto Ricans in Congress are boycotting Trump’s inauguration, joining scores of mostly Democrats whose seats will be empty. / Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

Three of four Puerto Ricans – all Democrats – in Congress plan to boycott the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, and Nydia Velázquez and José Serrano of New York have stated publicly they won’t be at the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. Central Florida’s freshman congressman Darren Soto also added his voice to the growing boycott of the ceremony.

Raúl Labrador, the Republican Congressman from Idaho and a Trump supporter, is likely to attend the event.

“Looking forward to a productive partnership with . We must change business as usual,” Labrador tweeted earlier.

Growing Boycott

Most of the inauguration rejections – numbering about 40 mostly Democrats and still growing, as of this writing – came after Trump insulted veteran civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis on Twitter right before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, stating Lewis was all talk, no action.

Gutiérrez, who attended George W. Bush‘s inauguration, made a floor speech which he posted on YouTube explaining that “this is different.”     

He continued, “The reason I’m not going is that I can’t bring myself to justify morally or intellectually justify the immense power we’re placing in that man’s hands.” Instead, Gutiérrez said he plans to march with women in Washington on January 21.

New York Congresswoman Velázquez tweeted, “@repjohnlewis is a national hero and I stand with him! I also am not attending inauguration given the tone of @realDonaldTrump‘s campaign.”

Serrano also tweeted but didn’t mention Trump by name. “I will not attend the  next week- cannot celebrate the inauguration of a man who has no regard for my constituents. .”

Central Florida Representatives

Central Florida’s Soto sent a text to Nancy Alvarez of WFTV-Channel 9, stating  ““I am deeply disappointed with Trump’s attacks against civil rights hero John Lewis and will not be attending the inauguration as a result.”

Soto, who represents Congressional District 9 which includes Osceola and parts of Orange and Polk counties, got some immediate pushback on Facebook from Myrna Benítez de Vivaldi.

“This is what happens when you serve your own agenda and not the people. Mr. Soto, you were elected to SERVE a community, people from both parties voted for you because they thought you were a better option so do your work and stop acting like a brat. #Please #HeIsOURpresident #SuckItUpButtercup.”

Benítez is married to Peter Vivaldi, who once ran for the congressional seat that Soto now occupies.

Demings and Murphy to Attend

Unlike Soto, fellow freshman Congresswomen Val Demings of Congressional District 10 and Stephanie Murphy plan to attend, according to Channel 9. However, neither Demings nor Murphy have made public statements about the inauguration, as of this writing.

Demings and Soto are in fairly safe districts, in which either African-Americans or Latino voters, respectively, predominate. They are likely to be re-elected two years from now without much of a hitch.

Not so, Murphy, who ousted veteran Republican Congressman John Mica from Congressional District 7, which includes Seminole and parts of Orange and Volusia counties. 

Seminole County is mostly Republican and party supporters have already targeted Murphy,  looking to recruit a viable contender to take back the seat. By not attending, Murphy would be providing Republicans strong ammunition against her come re-election time.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Soto to Push for Presidential Vote for Puerto Rico

Cong. Darren Soto plans to sponsor a bill proposing that Puerto Rico vote for president. /Facebook

Newly sworn Central Florida Congressman Darren Soto (D) plans to push for the presidential vote for Puerto Rico.

It’s the second Puerto Rico-related measure in as many days, as newly elected Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González today filed a fill to admit Puerto Rico as the 51st state.

There is no doubt that Puerto Rico’s status needs fixing and obtaining the presidential vote for Puerto Rico is a worthy cause. And to be fair, Alan Grayson, Soto’s predecessor, last December called for the presidential vote for Puerto Rico, stating American citizens who reside in Puerto Rico suffer from disenfranchisement.

“The contradictions are painfully clear,” he added, comparing Puerto Rico to Washington, D.C., whose residents vote for president although it’s not a state.

However, González’s bill likely is dead on arrival, as will be Soto’s.

“Siéntate a esperar,”  said a Facebook reader in reaction to the news.

“Dream on sister!” wrote another in response to González’s bill.

Not Realistic

Let’s count the ways in which this will fail. First, the representatives are two newbies in Congress, meaning they have no clout. Second, Puerto Rico is in such a financial mess that no one will touch this. And third, neither of the bills is realistic.

Soto, who has said he would be supportive of Puerto Rico, is not backing Gonzalez’s bill, stating that first he’d like to see a clear referendum. He won’t need to wait long. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricky Rosselló is proposing one.

Long Shot

However,  Soto’s presidential vote for Puerto Rico bill would be far more difficult to achieve, requiring two-thirds approval by the House and Senate – and ratification by three-quarters of the states. It’s an often unsuccessful process.

The last amendment was approved in 1992, stipulating that congressional salary increases cannot take effect until the next class of representatives takes office. That amendment took over 200 years to see fruition.

What could Soto be thinking? He is drinking from the cup of status.

The González-Soto proposals are feel-good measures aimed at winning the hearts and minds of constituent’s back home. Soto is the first Puerto Rican from Florida in Congress. His district is over 40 percent Latino, mostly Puerto Rican.

Cruel Play

But it also plays cruelly with the hearts and minds of constituents back home, because the bills aren’t feasible in today’s political climate. They would be extreme long shots even in a favorable Congress.

This is political manipulation of a pueblo down on its luck and in a precarious emotional state of mind.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Status: The Elixir of Puerto Ricans

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricky Rosselló (right) shakes hands with Cong. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Rosselló will push for a political status bill in Congress. / R. Rossello-Facebook

Political status is the elixir of the Puerto Rican people – to paraphrase Karl Marx.

I’ve said this before and it bears repeating, because the newly installed island Gov. Ricky Rosselló and newly sworn Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González expect to file a bill in Congress on Wednesday for Puerto Rico to be admitted to the union as the 51st state.

At the same time, the Puerto Rico Legislature will put forth a bill for yet another plebiscite with only two options – statehood or independence –  thus excluding the present-day commonwealth status.

The move harks to a 2012 non-binding plebiscite – of which there have been several in Puerto Rico – in which statehood buried Commonwealth, garnering 61 percent of the vote. Congress ignored it.

For six decades Commonwealth has been billed as a semi-autonomous option, except that the congressionally imposed fiscal control board that likely will govern Puerto Rico over the next five years has proven that commonwealth is hollow. The island is not, in fact, self governing.

With Puerto Rico in dire financial straits as it tries to manage $72 billion in debt and in need of drastic economic reforms, a plebiscite can serve only as a public distraction from the very difficult decisions that lie ahead.

A distraction from billon-dollar budget deficits. A distraction from thousands of potential layoffs. A distraction from the downsizing and privatization of government. A distraction from badly needed education reform. A distraction from the island’s incredibly shrinking population as migrants continue to flee to places like Central Florida.

In fact, Rosselló’s father, former two-term governor Pedro Rosselló, utilized the very same distraction – twice during the 1990s. To no avail.

To be sure, the island’s political status needs to be seriously addressed and resolved. After all, it has been over 100 years since U.S. troops marched into Puerto Rico and took the island. And Puerto Rico is treated very unfairly in hundreds of federal programs because of its territorial status, as outlined in a recent report by a congressional economic commission on Puerto Rico that included Florida’s Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).

However, Puerto Ricans love, love, love talking about political status. Many will be more than happy to welcome the distraction.

Pour the elixir.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Worshipping the White Working Class

2016 is the year during which we rediscovered the white working class.


I will not genuflect at the altar of the white working class. I will not pray to this new god.

For I am the daughter of a woman who at age 14 strapped on high heels and slapped on lipstick so she could appear older and find work in New York City. I am the daughter of a man who bought the bulldog edition of the newspaper at 11 p.m. so he could get a jumpstart on the next day’s employment classifieds. So he could work in a box factory and other lines of thrilling work. Day after day.

People like me know what it’s like to be laid off. We keep going. It’s not just about the white working class. Ain’t we deserving, too? Had the drug and employment crises hit black and Latino communities hardest, would the response be the same?

Oh wait, these problems usually hit us hardest. “Get back on your feet” and “Pull yourselves up” are the common responses.

Get Back

Each time someone utters this new mantra about the white working class I hear,  “Get to the back of the bus.” Or, “Get back to where you once belonged.” Or, “We’ve been paying too much attention to you.” Or, “It’s time to move on.”

Do you hear what I hear?

That’s a lie. A big, boldfaced lie. Let LL Cool J tell it:

I’m sick and tired of the stories that you always tell
Shakespeare couldn’t tell a story that well
See, you’re the largest liar that was ever created 
You and Pinocchio are brotherly related
Full of criss-crossed fits, you lie all the time
Your tongue should be embarrassed, you’re a threat to mankind
That’s a lie

I cannot help construct this new altar for the coalition of the know-nothings who think they can explain it all after the fact, except they cannot because they still know nada. They suffer from a poverty of ideas and cannot contain the thought of you and me in their heads at the same time.

The Poorest Counties

Empathy has its rightful place in a society of thinking and feeling people. Where’s everybody been? It’s not like the white working class lacks political capital or representation at local, state and federal levels.

The poorest counties in the United States in median household income are nearly all in the ascendant South, growing in population and Republicans. Surely, there is power in that.

They are counties like Wilcox County, Ala., population 11,000, 72 percent is black. Half the population reports household income either above or below $23,750, according to the census. It has 0 percent foreign born. Republicans Jeff Sessions (nominated to be attorney general) and Richard Shelby represent Wilcox in the Senate. In the House, that responsibility falls to Democrat Terri Sewell. Where have they been?

Kentucky, in particular, dominates the list of poor counties, claiming three of the top five. Owsley County is the third poorest in the nation. Population 4,460. Median household income $20,985. It’s 98 percent non Hispanic white, foreign born 0.3 percent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans, represent Owsley in the Senate. Its Congressman Hal Rogers is the “longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected” – currently in his 18th term. What’s he been doing all?

In the 2016 elections, Kentucky “became a Republican trifecta” or single-party government, much like Florida, according to Ballotpedia.


Closer to home, Putnam appears to be the poorest county in Florida – over 72,000 people, 77 percent non Hispanic white, 4 percent foreign born. Median income: $31,700. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) represent  Putnam, while Ron DeSantis, a Republican who was just re-elected by 63 percent of the vote, speaks for Putnam in Congress.

Why haven’t elected officials advocated for their voters? They are not blind but they may be blinded by politics and cultural wars that place only scraps on the table. They have been busy raising money so they can win re-election or run for another elected office.

Help for the White Working Class

Now we hear,  “Oh, snap! We have to help the white working class.”

If I hear that from the lips of a person I helped elect, I will never vote for that person again.

And to you whom I hardly know – and who hardly knows me: Go ahead. Build your altar.

I am going to save the wear and tear my knees.

˜˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor