Puerto Rico violence follows governor turning to the left

Puerto Rico violence follows governor turning to the left
© Getty Images

This week, Puerto Ricans saw violence against the police erupt during their annual International Workers Day protests. This year’s annual May Day strike by unions, teachers and retirees was set against the backdrop of forthcoming reductions in pensions and a reduction in the public workforce required by the federal control board.

Violence, drugs and murders are skyrocketing, too. Puerto Rico is reeling from decades of profligate spending and irresponsible leadership implemented by left-leaning leaders, some of which have fostered ties to radical Latin American actors such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.

While this week’s violence was condemned by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, this was really only lip service. Over the past few months, the governor’s rhetoric is more reminiscent of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro than a governor of the U.S. state that many Puerto Ricans so desperately want to be.

This is the sort of rhetoric that has created an unstable, unsafe environment in Puerto Rico. In recent weeks, Rosselló has stated publicly that he will fight the federal control board, and is even willing to go to jail by doing so. This has provided the platform for radical elements to take control of Puerto Rico, resort to violence and stoke tensions. This has created an unsafe environment for police, families and their children, and will undoubtedly force more to flee to the mainland, primarily to states like Florida.

This is a dramatic about-face moment for Rosselló. He came into office with great fanfare. He was a fresh face taking over a territory besieged by debt, corruption and years of poor governance. He was a break from the past, and Washington greeted this development with delight.

Rosselló came into office at the same time as President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE and just after the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act, known as Promesa, which is the federal government’s effort to stabilize and reform the territory, after decades of malfeasance.

Unbeknownst to many, Rosselló is what we on the mainland consider a Democrat. He was actually a delegate for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden prepares to confront Putin Ending the same-sex marriage wars Trump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' MORE. Many supporters were unconcerned, as in Puerto Rico, there is no red versus blue or left versus right. Rather, party lines are defined by whether you support statehood or independence.

Yet, Rosselló surrounded himself with Republicans. His running mate was Jenniffer González Colón, a Republican representing Puerto Rico in Congress. His campaign manager was a Republican and a delegate for Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFive years after the Pulse nightclub massacre the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues Rubio calls on Biden to 'forcefully' confront Iran over movement of war ships Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua MORE (R-Fla.). The government hired Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey LewandowskiCorey LewandowskiLewandowski says Trump has not spoken to him about being reinstated Sunday shows preview: Infrastructure expected to dominate as talks continue to drag The Memo: The mystery of post-presidency Trump MORE, to represent it in Washington. Even bondholders — who are owed billions, and whom Rosselló promised to pay — looked the other way in the hopes that he’d pay them.

All signs pointed to a Mauricio Macri of Argentina in our midst and, ironically, part of America. Yet, behind Rosselló’s veneer of tweets and countless TV appearances was a charade. This played out in the streets of San Juan this week as he foments dissent, moves left and campaigns against Republicans across the United States.

First, he went back on his pledge to bondholders last year when, instead of taking a pro-free markets position, he refused to pay, adopting the Obama-Weiss-Summers line of debt forgiveness and sticking it to bondholders, many of which are average Americans that put their life savings and retirement funds in these bonds.

Then something dramatic happened: A Category 5 hurricane hit Puerto Rico. Our president, Donald Trump, sprang to action, deployed the military and more than 10,000 federal officials, and worked with the Republican Congress to allocate tens of billions of dollars for response and recovery efforts.

None of this was appreciated by Puerto Rico’s leaders, and certainly not by Rosselló, who called the Trump administration “pennypinchers” in their efforts to rescue and rebuild Puerto Rico. This was certainly not appreciated by the governor’s leftist comrades, like Carmen “Nasty” Yulín, who troll about San Juan and attack Republicans and the president on late-night comedy shows.

Rosselló has gone on to openly attack Rubio, who arguably has been the foremost Republican advocate for Puerto Ricans in the Senate. Rubio has done, in my view, too much for Puerto Rico but, nonetheless, certainly does not deserve to be attacked.

Now, Rosselló has launched a new PAC to unseat Republicans called “Poder,” or “Power.” Ostensibly, he claims it is nonpartisan. However, the evidence shows that to be patently false. The PAC is backed by Democrat strongman Manny Ortiz, a big-time bundler for Democratic politicians like Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale Sanders push to block arms sale to Israel doomed in Senate Schumer tactics on China bill reveal broader trade strategy MORE (D-N.J.).

The governor is a passionate campaigner for statehood for Puerto Rico. Yet, his actions are increasingly radical and a move away from the ideals of America, and they further polarize the country’s politics. This is exactly why Puerto Rico should never be a state, and why Congress put a new control board over Puerto Rico.

Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit that aims to educate students on free-market values. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieKirk11.