Here Are the Top Moments From the Puerto Rico Governor Debate


Image courtesy of WAPA TV.

By Mivette Vega

September 18, 2020

The candidates addressed the economy, education, corruption, and public debt during the two-and-a-half hour debate.

SAN JUAN—The six candidates for governor of Puerto Rico faced off during their first debate last night on the road toward the elections.

Local channel WAPA-TV aired the live debate among candidates Charlie Delgado of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), Pedro Pierluisi of the New Progressive Party (PNP), Juan Dalmau of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), Alexandra Lúgaro of Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC), Eliezer Molina of Movimiento de Conciencia (MC), and Dr. César Vázquez of Proyecto Dignidad (PD).

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Gender equality, political status, and debt management were the issues that sparked the most confrontation between the candidates.

When talking about public debt, the candidates ganged up against Pierluisi, because of his ties to the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board as its former attorney. The board is in charge of managing the island’s debt. 

“The PROMESA law was implemented in Puerto Rico with the non-payment of its general obligations under the government of [Alejandro] García Padilla. Within that system, some amount of debt will have to be paid. This does not necessarily imply a rise in the cost of living. Sustainable debt has to allow the government to operate,” Pierluisi said, defending the payment of the debt while also blaming the PPD for its existence.

Pierluisi also had to account for the thousands of public employees fired under Law 7, a reform project for the island’s economic recovery that declared a fiscal emergency and enabled former Gov. Luis Fortuño to restructure government employees in ways that would be illegal under regular circumstances. The law, for example, permitted the unilateral suspension of union contracts.

When Law 7 was implemented, Pierluisi was Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington, D.C.

“Back then, there was a severe fiscal crisis. Yes, there were some layoffs, and they were justified. From then to now everything changed, because the government went bankrupt during the administration of Alejandro García Padilla, resulting in a fiscal oversight board,” Pierluisi said.

One of the most intense confrontations during the debate was between candidates Lúgaro and Vázquez when discussing gender equality. Vázquez is a physician and a pastor, and is against gender-equity education. When discussing gender violence, he told Lúgaro “she had no idea what she was talking about.”

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“We are not going to impose a religion, but neither are we going to allow ideology to be imposed on the biological reality of mankind. Life depends on man and woman, and something else is something else,” Vázquez said.

Dalmau agreed with Lúgaro and told an anecdote about an instance when he had to physically intervene with a man who beat a woman in public.

Among his positions, Dalmau stated he would not seek to reduce government but instead make it more efficient. Regardless of being pro-independence, he is not aiming for the separation of the island from the United States.

“I believe in independence—not to separate us from the United States—but to join us rest of the the world and prosper,” Dalmau said.

“I believe in independence—not to separate us from the United States—but to join the world and prosper. That process […] includes a decolonization assembly where the [Puerto Rico] will be able to vote democratically and express its wishes, forcing the [US] Congress to do the same,” said the Senate speaker from the PIP.

Regarding the political status of the island, Lúgaro admitted she is pro-independence, and claims she is part of a movement that would bring together all ideologies and abide by the decision of the people through a constitutional status assembly.

Delgado was also questioned regarding his position on political status. Traditionally, the PPD president has sided with the pro-commonwealth party, which bids for changes that would give Puerto Rico further say in the US government.

“We must ensure our [US] citizenship and strengthen the relationship with the United States so it is a dignified relationship. It is important that the Federal Relations Act, specifically Section 9, can be amended, so we can ensure that Puerto Rico has a say every time Congress goes into legislation. The colonial commonwealth is clearly in need of reform,” he said.

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Molina, who is an independent candidate, was asked how he would implement government programs without the support of legislature or municipal mayors.

“We are precisely coming from outside of those ties, which have destroyed this country. I am an engineering graduate, I have my coffee farm, I know the economy. Puerto Rico has an economic problem, and we understand it fully. We are going to create an economy of production, starting with exports. If we don’t do that, the state income becomes reduced and we fall into public debt. We have thoroughly studied this model,” Molina explained.



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