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Popular Democratic Party (Puerto Rico)
Popular Democratic Party (Puerto Rico)

The Popular Democratic Party (Spanish: Partido Popular Democrático, PPD) is a political party in Puerto Rico that advocates to continue as a Commonwealth of the United States with self-government.[1][2] The party was founded in 1938 by dissidents from the Puerto Rican Liberal Party and the Unionist Party and originally promoted policies on the center-left.[10][3] In recent years, however, its leaders have described the party as centrist.[4][5]

As one of the long-standing parties on the island, the PPD has played a significant role in the history of Puerto Rico. In the early 1950s, for example, the party held a majority in the delegation convened to draft the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Once the constitution was ratified, the document was proclaimed by the party's leader and co-founder, Luis Muñoz Marín—who, in doing so, became the first Puerto Rican governor elected by the people of Puerto Rico. The party ruled all branches of the Puerto Rican government afterward for 36 of the past 67 years, while establishing many of the institutions that permeate Puerto Rican society today.

Today, the party is one of the two major parties in Puerto Rico with significant political strength. In the executive branch, the party's last governor was Alejandro García Padilla who governed the island from 2013–2017. It also holds minorities in the legislative and judicial branches by holding minorities in the Senate, in the House, and in the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, however, is from the PPD; a circumstance that allows the party to designate political appointees in the judicial branch since the Chief Justice is also constitutionally the chief judicial administrator. Finally, in the municipal landscape, the party holds more than half of the seats of mayors.

Ideologically, the PPD differs from the other parties active in the island. Historically, for example, the party's opponent has been the New Progressive Party (PNP in Spanish). Both parties have ruled the island unopposed for years after the Puerto Rican constitution was ratified in 1952.

Members of the party are referred to in different terms depending on their faction. In general, those affiliated to the party are commonly called populares (English: "populars") and mostly affiliate with the Democratic Party of the United States.[14] Internally, members aligned with the delegation that drafted the constitution compose the largest faction and are referred to as 'conservatives'. A smaller 'liberal' faction is referred to as the soberanistas, and advocates for Puerto Rico to enter a compact of free association with the United States rather than remain an unincorporated part of the United States.


Dissidents expelled from the Liberal Party of Puerto Rico (then led by Antonio R. Barceló), founded the PPD in 1938.[10] Many of them were part of the old socialist movement of Puerto Rico. The dissident faction, initially calling themselves the Partido Liberal, Neto, Auténtico y Completo ("Clear, Net, Authentic, and Complete Liberal Party") (PPD), was led by Luis Muñoz Marín. In 1937, the debate had concerned the differences between the moderate demands of autonomy leading to gradual independence by the Liberal Party faction led by Barcelo, and the desire for more radical demands of immediate independence and social reform by Muñoz and his followers.

In 1940, the highest elective political office in Puerto Rican was as president of its Senate. At the time, the governor was appointed by the president of the United States; no native-born Puerto Ricans were appointed to the post until 1946.

In the 1940 election, the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (PPD) finished in a dead heat with the Liberal Party. Luis Muñoz Marin of the PPD brokered an alliance with minor Puerto Rican factions so as to secure his position as Senate president; such coalition-building was fundamental to the multi-party society. The elections in 1944 and 1948 resulted in greater victory margins for the PPD; nearly all the legislative posts and mayoral races in Puerto Rico were won by PPD candidates.

Once Jesús T. Piñero stepped down as the first Puerto Rican named governor, the governor's office became an elected position. In 1949, under the leadership of Luis Muñoz Marín, the PPD won the first gubernatorial elections in Puerto Rico, and Muñoz became the first elected governor of the island.

He served for what is the longest continuous rule by a governor in Puerto Rican history, being re-elected three times, and serving a total of four 4-year terms, or 16 years. This record has been surpassed only by Miguel de la Torre, one of the governors under Spanish rule.

On May 21, 1948, one of the PPD introduced a bill that would effectively restrain the rights of the independence and nationalist movements in the island. Controlled by the PPD, the legislature passed the Bill.[15] The Bill, also known as the "Ley de la Mordaza" (gag Law), made it illegal to display a Puerto Rican flag, to sing a patriotic tune, to talk of independence, and to fight for the liberation of the island. The Bill which resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed in the United States, was signed and made into law on June 10, 1948, by the U.S.-appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Jesús T. Piñero and became known as "Ley 53" (Law 53).[16]

The new law made it a crime to print, publish, sale, to exhibit or organize or to help anyone organize any society, group or assembly of people whose intentions are to paralyze or destroy the insular government. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years of prison, be fined $10,000 dollars (US) or both. According to Dr. Leopoldo Figueroa, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, the law was repressive and violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Speech. He pointed out that the law was a violation of the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico.[17] Numerous Nationalists were arrested under the law, and Figeroa defended 15 of them. He also defended a man in a case taken to the US Supreme Court, to challenge the "Gag Law" on the basis of the government's not having had sufficient evidence to arrest the suspect. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law.

During the 1950s, Luis Muñoz Marín was re-elected as Puerto Rico's governor. In 1952 he assumed the responsibility of pushing forward the drafting of a constitution to create the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The constitution was passed by the legislature and overwhelmingly approved by the people with an 82% vote. On July 25, 1952, the new constitution went into effect. Munoz pushed his political-financial platform, called Operation Bootstrap (Operación Manos a la Obra), in which he stimulated Puerto Rico's economy to develop industry. Teodoro Moscoso was in charge of the project.

In 1964, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, representing the PPD, became the second governor to be democratically elected in Puerto Rico. The party remained in power until 1968 and the election of Luis A. Ferré, candidate of the newly established New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (PNP). The win has been credited to the division among populares during the 1968 gubernatorial race. Personal and irreconcilable differences had developed between Luis Muñoz Marín, the founder and president of the PPD, and Roberto Sánchez Vilella. Muñoz Marín opposed Sánchez Vilella's attempt to run for reelection. At a party assembly, Munoz nominated Luis Negrón López as his candidate for governor.

Sánchez Vilella left to create a new party called Partido del Pueblo (People's Party (Puerto Rico)). The new party's motto was "Que el pueblo decida", (Let the people decide). The motto was obviously directed to Muñoz Marín, who denied Sánchez Vilella a chance to compete in the party primary.

With Sánchez Vilella and Negrón López competing as candidates for different parties, voters split their votes. Luis A. Ferré of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (NPP) the victory with a plurality of votes among the three major parties. This was the first defeat of the PPD in a general election since its founding.

By 1972 the PPD had a young and fresh leader in former senate president Rafael Hernández Colón. After the 1968 electoral defeat, Muñoz Marín left the island and went into "exile" in Italy to stay away from local politics and let the PPD find its new direction without him.

Muñoz Marín did not return to Puerto Rico until the PPD had selected Rafael Hernández Colón as its new leader and candidate for governor. Muñoz Marín introduced him before 300,000 people in Hato Rey at a party meeting. In the 1972 general election, Hernández Colón defeated Ferré by a wide margin, and his party won in all but 4 municipalities. In 1976, Carlos Romero Barceló, mayor of San Juan and the NPP candidate, defeated Hernández Colón.

In 1980, Rafael Hernández Colón ran again as the PPD gubernatorial candidate. Controversy arose when PPD followers alleged that there were irregularities during the vote count. The power went out during the night while results were being counted. PPD supporters said that, before the power went out, the vote count was favoring Hernández Colón, but when the power was restored, results started favoring Romero Barceló. The Populares alleged fraud and Hernandez Colón said, "Populares, a defender esos votos a las trincheras de la lucha." (Populares, let's fight for those votes in the trenches). After the recount, Romero Barceló of the NPP won by 3,000 votes. The PPD won almost every other part of the election.

In 1984, Hernández Colón was elected again as governor, defeating his long-time political rival Romero Barceló of the NPP. His second term was marked by his successful fight to keep federal Law 936 (U.S.C. TITLE 26, Subtitle A, CHAPTER 1, Subchapter N, PART III, Subpart D, § 936, "Puerto Rico and Possession Tax Credit") in force. The PDP had helped establish the law, which gave tax breaks to American companies operating in Puerto Rico in order to encourage new businesses.

In 1988, Hernández Colón was re-elected by a comfortable margin, defeating Corrada del Río of the NPP. The two candidates conducted a formal debate on issues. That same year Héctor Luis Acevedo, the PPD mayoral candidate for San Juan, won the San Juan mayoral race by only 49 votes.

In 1988, Santos Ortiz, a.k.a. "El Negro", mayor of Cabo Rojo, left the PPD. He ran for mayor in the next election as an independent, and was the first person not affiliated with Munoz Marin and any of the three major parties in Puerto Rico to win an elected position.

In 1992, after Hernández Colón decided not to run for governor again, the PPD elected Victoria Muñoz Mendoza, daughter of Luis Muñoz Marín, as its candidate. The first woman in Puerto Rican history to run for governor, she lost the election to Pedro Rosselló.

In 1996, Héctor Luis Acevedo ran for governor from the PPD, but lost to Roselló. That year, the PPD won San Juan mayoralty with its candidate, Sila María Calderón.

The opposition party, NPP, led two campaigns for Puerto Rican statehood in 1993 and 1998. Locally enacted plebiscites were held to consult the Puerto Rican people on the issue of future political status of the island in relation to the United States. In 1993 the PPD campaigned in favor of the status quo Commonwealth, while the NPP opposition campaigned for full statehood. Voters supported continuation of the Commonwealth option, which received 48% of the votes.

In 1998, the NPP Governor Pedro Rosselló carried out a non-binding plebiscite on political status, in which voters were asked to choose from one of four political status options (statehood, free association, commonwealth, or independence) or a fifth one, "none of the above". The Popular Democratic Party led a campaign to boycott the plebiscite, calling on the electorate to vote for the "none of the above" option. The boycott was successful, as the "none of the above" choice garnered more votes than any of the other options.

Among the four alternatives, the statehood option won the most votes. Rosselló argued before the US Congress that statehood had won the plebiscite. He considered votes for the "none of the above" option to be invalid.

In 2000, Sila María Calderón regained the governor's seat for the PPD, defeating NPP's candidate Carlos Ignacio Pesquera, and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) candidate Ruben Berrios.

After Calderón announced that she would not be running for governor in 2004, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá emerged as the new candidate. He was the current Resident Commissioner and a former PPD president. Acevedo Vilá was victorious in the 2004 elections against a former governor, Pedro Rosselló. He was the fifth governor from the Popular Democratic Party.

On March 27, 2008 governor Acevedo Vila had been indicted with 24 federal counts ranging from conspiracy to wire fraud relating to the governor's campaign finances when he was acting as Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the US Congress.[18][19] However, 15 of these charges were quickly dismissed on revision by the judge. On March 20, 2009, a federal grand jury decided there was not sufficient basis to try Acevedo Vila on the remaining charges and he was released.

In November 2008 Acevedo Vilá ran for re-election against the NPP gubernatorial candidate, Luis Fortuño, but was defeated. The PPD selected Héctor Ferrer Ríos as the next president of the party.

On the elections held on November 6, 2012, the party regained the top offices: Alejandro García Padilla was elected governor and Carmen "Yulín" Cruz was elected as Mayor of San Juan. The party also took control of the House Of Representatives and Senate of Puerto Rico.

On the elections held on November 8, 2016, the party lost governorship, the House of Representatives and Senate of Puerto Rico. The Popular Democratic Party retained a majority of the mayoralty races in the island, with a total of 45 out of 78 municipalities. The New Progressive Party (PNP) won a total of 33.

Political ideals

The PPD political platform calls for a free associated state, autonomous, Puerto Rico that maintains a voluntary relationship with the federal government of United States in areas of mutual benefit, such as national defense, like any other state. Two notable areas of discontent with the current political arrangement are the taxation system and the empowerment of the courts. Currently, custom duties and the authority to enter into treaties with foreign nations remain within the control of the federal government of the United States. In the legal realm, decisions of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court can be overruled by higher courts in the United States. PPD supporters charge that this is unsatisfactory arrangement given that Puerto Ricans are not allowed to exercise their democratic right to vote for the person that appoints those judges - the President of the United States. Puerto Ricans are also not allowed to exercise their democratic right to elect Senatorial representation into the US Senate, the authority within the US of government that is empowered to approving appointees into the federal court system. Furthermore, Puerto Rican court decisions must be made consistent with the laws of the United States and in alignment with the Constitution of the United States.[20]

The PPD objectives have trended towards gaining further autonomy and greater local control over the foreign relations of the Commonwealth. The PPD supports Puerto Rico taking on more of the character of an autonomous territory rather than becoming a state of the American Union. Puerto Ricans, for example, pride themselves in having their own Olympics representation, having an identity with Spanish as their mother tongue, and sharing an appreciation for their own unique cultural identity.

At its 2007 convention, the PPD approved a new philosophy and set of ideals for the party. The new philosophy commits the party to defending a political status for the island that is based in the irrevocable right of the people of Puerto Rico to form a sovereign country. This shift in philosophy caused a stir among party detractors, since the PPD was not known for being that liberal before. Its conservative stance had been represented by its unshakable defense of the commonwealth status quo.

In January 2010, the "governing board"[21] of the party approved a resolution presented by the current party president Héctor Ferrer, among others, rejecting the free association concept to develop the commonwealth status based on the current free association compacts of the United States with the pacific jurisdictions; the resolution indicate that this free associations compacts does not recognize the indissoluble link between the U.S. and Puerto Rico of the United States Citizenship. Other members of the party reject the resolution indicating that is not in agreement with the official position adopted by the party "general assembly" on the 2007 convention. They indicated that the "government board" could not revoke the decisions of the party "general assembly" and just the "general assembly" itself as the party’s top organ could revoke the 2007 decisions.[22][23][24][25][26][27]

On January 8, 2007 Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá stated that he intends to garner support to have the political status of Puerto Rico considered before the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). He also expressed that he expected such support to come from both inside and outside of Puerto Rico as well as from within and beyond the PPD.[28]

The Associated Press reported that Governor Acevedo Vilá announced that "We have started negotiations with other sectors of Puerto Rico, to see in what way we can accelerate that issue and achieve more allies at the UN".[28]

Party logo and song

The PPD used as a logo the silhouette of a rural farm worker, jibaro, wearing a traditional straw hat (pava), with the words "pan, tierra, libertad" (bread, land, freedom). The party logo was designed by Antonio Colorado, Sr., one of Muñoz's party staff members and an eventual cabinet member. In 2016, the logo was updated to include a woman and the words "pan, tierra, libertad' were substituted with "unidad, trabajo, prosperidad" ("unity, work, prosperity")[29][30]

The PPD is unique in Puerto Rican politics in having adopted an anthem. "Jalda Arriba" was written by Johnny Rodriguez, a famous Puerto Rican singer, composer and club owner. He dedicated the song to former governor Luis Muñoz Marin. The song also became strongly associated with the PPD because of this. Rodriguez was the elder brother of Tito Rodríguez, one of Puerto Rico's most famous international singers.


See also

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