Dominican President Danilo Medina arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday to meet with Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro García Padilla in a series of meetings aimed at creating stronger ties between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, as well as improving relations in Latin America and the Caribbean. New agreements were also aimed specifically at expanding the job market and increasing trade through both imports and exports.
President Medina was joined by a delegation of thirteen Dominican government officials, the largest group of Dominican officials to visit the Puerto Rico on business. While the topic of the economy dominated the conversation, the two leaders also discussed other pressing topics, signing a historic agreement divided into 10 sections—three on education, two on the environment, two on trade, two on security, and one on taxes.
Although Puerto Rico remains a territory of the U.S., the accords will allow for greater strategic collaboration with other neighboring countries and territories. They will also give the Dominican Republic easier access to the U.S. market through Puerto Rico, while at the same time creating greater unity in the Caribbean.
“We firmly believe that our foreign relations should start with strengthening relationships with our neighboring [countries and territories] that will make us all successful,” said President Medina.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Chávez designates successor as he heads to Havana; Puerto Rico convenes legislature for statehood; Arab-Latin American Forum in Abu Dhabi; and impact of recent energy takeover deals in Canada.
Developments in Venezuela: This is the final week of campaigning in Venezuela’s regional elections, and the electorate will vote on Sunday for state governors and legislators. The most important contest is the gubernatorial race in Miranda, Venezuela’s second most populous state, where chavista loyalist and former Vice President Elías Jaua faces off against presidential runner-up Henrique Capriles Radonski. Furthermore, after President Hugo Chávez’ announcement last Saturday night that he is returning to Cuba for surgery today and having designated Vice President Nicolás Maduro as his heir should he not be able to lead, many in Venezuela will wonder about the severity of Chávez’ cancer and the future of his Bolivarian revolution. Notes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini, “Now with President Chávez naming his successor, the gubernatorial election in Miranda is becoming a test of succession within the opposition over who could potentially have the legitimacy to lead in the post-Chávez era.”
Extra: Stay tuned for a Web Exclusive this morning from Javier Corrales, Amherst College professor of political science and AQ editorial board member, on Chávez’ announcement.
Puerto Rico Discusses Next Steps for Statehood: After Puerto Ricans rejected their present commonwealth status and 61 percent of respondents backed statehood in a referendum last month, Governor Luis Fortuño plans to call a special session of the legislature to discuss asking the U.S. federal government to honor Puerto Ricans’ request. However, although Puerto Rican voters supported statehood last month, they voted out Governor Fortuño and instead selected Alejandro García Padilla whose Partido Popular Democrático (Popular Democratic Party) wants to keep Puerto Rico as a commonwealth.
Arab-Latin American Forum: In recognition of the growing economic ties between Latin American and Arab countries (roughly $30 billion annually) Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) will host a forum this Saturday for representatives of the two regions. UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has stated that Arab states’ interest in Latin America goes beyond trade to other aspects of bilateral cooperation—such as food security, environment, education, and culture.
Impact of Canada Energy Deals: After Canada’s trade ministry rejected the takeover of Progress Energy Resources Corp. by a Malaysian state-owned enterprise in October to much disagreement, it seemed to have reversed course—approving the deal last Friday as well as the takeover bid of Canadian firm Nexen by the Chinese firm China National Offshore Oil Corporation on the same day. How will Canadians react to these deals: as necessary alliances for more capital inflow, or as strategic assets in the hands of foreign investors?
Nearly 2 million Puerto Ricans went to the polls yesterday, and while they could not participate in the U.S. presidential election, residents of the U.S. territory opted for statehood in a non-binding referendum. Voters on the island also elected the pro-Commonwealth candidate Alejandro García Padilla as the new governor of the island.
The first question on the two-part referendum asked voters if they wanted to change their political status with the United States. Nearly 54 percent (992,374) chose not to continue their 114-year-old relationship with the United States, while 46 percent (786,749) favored the status quo of the island remaining a territory. The second question was geared toward those who favored a change in status and asked voters to choose between three options—U.S. statehood, independence or “sovereign free association.” Sixty-one percent opted for statehood.
Under the current status of Free Associated State (Estado Libre Asociado—ELA) residents of Puerto Rico do not have the right to vote in presidential elections and only have one non-voting representative in Congress. However, Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. The status of Free Associated State grants a certain degree of autonomy to the island, but restricts its residents from becoming involved in topics such as security, trade and diplomatic relations, among others.
But the future of Puerto Rico also depends on who governs the island. While Governor Luis Fortuño supports Puerto Rico’s incorporation as the 51st state, Governor-elect Alejandro García Padilla advocates maintaining the status quo. García Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democrático—PPD) was elected with 48 percent (870,005 votes) support, while Fortuño of the New Progressive Party (Partido Nuevo Progresista) received 47 percent (855,325) of the votes.