Carmen Yulin Cruz announces run for Puerto Rico governor

by | Apr 9, 2019 | Elections, Headlines | Comments

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (PDP) officially announced that she will run for Governor of Puerto Rico, challenging incumbent governor Ricardo Rosselló (NPP, D).

The announcement took place on the Puerto Rican holiday of Emancipation Day, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the territory in 1873. The timing of the announcement was intentional, signaling that the mayor would pursue a campaign centered around the unequal political status of Puerto Rico.

“We have to break away from the chains that tie us down in order to have a promising future and break our cycle of poverty,” said Yulín Cruz.

Yulín Cruz, who recently signed on to co-chair Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, will likely take advantage of her national platform in her effort to be elected governor. She first came into the national spotlight with a highly-publicized feud with President Donald Trump over Hurricane Maria relief.

But before Yulin Cruz can face off against the incumbent governor, she would first have to emerge victorious from a tough primary race in the Popular Democratic Party. The former President of the Senate of Puerto Rico Eduardo Bhatia has already declared his intentions to be the nominee, emerging as an early frontrunner for the nomination. Mayor Yulin Cruz’ announcement sets the stage for the first gubernatorial primary in the history of the PDP.

The two will also face off against mayor of Comerío, Josean Santiago, and former senator Roberto Prats, who served as the chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 primary campaign in Puerto Rico.

If she were to secure the nomination, Yulín Cruz would challenge Governor Rosselló, who is running for a second term. Rosselló, from the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, has also made Puerto Rico’s political status a key issue during his first term, advocating at home and in Washington, DC for movement on the admittance to statehood.

Unlike Rosselló, Yulín Cruz does not support statehood, and has emerged as one of the biggest critics of the governor’s statehood efforts. Her party, the Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democrático in Spanish), argues that statehood threatens Puerto Rican linguistic and cultural identity, instead endorsing a permanent commonwealth status, albeit with the highest level of autonomy within the United States.

Yulín Cruz has advocated for a step beyond the PDP platform, supporting an advanced Compact of Free Association with United States, with dual citizenship for Puerto Rico residents—similar to the arrangement the US has with the much-smaller Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. This arrangement would mean independence for Puerto Rico, albeit with a close relation with the US. The contrast between the two sides raises the specter of effectively putting the statehood question on the ballot yet again.

NPP representatives soon responded to the announcement by Yulín Cruz.

“The mayor was clear yesterday when she said she will seek sovereign powers for Puerto Rico that are only acquired through independence,” said Representative José Aponte (NPP), speaking in Spanish. “We all knew [she] has always wanted to be a president of the nation, but Puerto Rico already has one nation: the United States,” he said.

Representative Aponte also pointed out that a pact of free association only comes with independence, because it requires sovereignty. Puerto Rico is not sovereign, and Congress has not been willing to renegotiate the status since the creation of the current commonwealth title following the ratification of the Constitution of Puerto Rico in 1952, effectively leaving Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory of the United States until statehood or independence.

“The reality is that we still live on an island that fights for food, liberty and land,” said Cruz in her March 22 announcement. “We’re building a new movement within the Popular Democratic Party.”