The Working People's Party of Puerto Rico (PPT) Speaks to Young Voters at UPRM

On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, the Working People’s Party of Puerto Rico, commonly known as the PPT, held a forum titled Ruta de la Juventud: Hacia la Reconstrucción Social de Puerto Rico, with the purpose of meeting the focus on meeting the students directly in order to promote the party’s proposals. Among the participants were Rafael Bernabe, candidate for governor; Amárilis Pagán, candidate for senator by accumulation; Félix Córdova, candidate for representative by accumulation; and Pedro Resto, candidate for senator for the Mayagüez/Aguadilla district.

With less than two months left until Puerto Rico’s general election, the country is at a turning point. Traditionally, elections in Puerto Rico are usually between the two majority parties, the Popular Democratic Party and the New Progressive Party. However, this election seems different from others in past years . From independent candidates running for office and gaining significant momentum, to other political parties receiving more attention than usual, it’s evident that people want change; even more so with the debt crisis and subsequent implementation of the Fiscal Control Board.  There are people who feel that the island’s economic crisis is due to the island’s past governments, and aspire to see a change in the country’s politics this year.

Promotional poster for Ruta de la Juventud.

The Working People’s Party of Puerto Rico was founded in December 2010. According to Rafael Bernabe, the party is composed of people with different ideas about Puerto Rico’s status, but who share the goal of creating a change and moving  towards decolonizing the nation. The PPT was established because of the need to fight for social, economic and political causes. Speaking exclusively to Her Campus UPRM, Bernabe explained the PPT’s philosophy: “instead of having to ask politicians to create or adjust laws to advance our causes, we should place our own people in the legislature.”

Also at the panel was Ana Isabel Escobar, a first-year UPRM student who is part of Working People’s Party of Puerto Rico’s youth, who believes that “working with the PPT gives young people the opportunity for their voices to be heard.” In addition, she loved how the PPT doesn’t only focus on advancing their political agenda, but also “tackles the economic, environmental, and educational situations as well.” The PPT also has a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere. “What I like most about it is that everyone has an opportunity to participate, it’s not only a select group of people. Everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinion,” concludes Ana.

Ana Isabel Escobar (left) representing the PPT party.

Before the forum started, people gathered around the Student Center out of curiosity. Mónica Ortíz, a junior at UPRM said, “I’m here because I want to hear what [the candidates] have to offer, their proposals; and I want to consider all of my options before voting.” Like her, UPRM freshman Yamilette Toro was also interested in the event. “I want to vote for something that’s worthwhile. I want to understand the different alternatives in order to vote conscientiously.”

The Working People’s Party of Puerto Rico’s (PPT) information table.

The first candidate to speak was Rafael Bernabe, who discussed  the party’s  proposals for Puerto Rico. Some of the proposals were to audit and renegotiate Puerto Rico’s debt, carry out a constitutional assembly to determine the best option for Puerto Rico’s status, and move toward solutions for decolonization, and to ensure that the money generated Puerto Rico benefits its economy.

Next up was Amárilis Pagán, who expressed her desire to fight for the rights of women and the LGBTT community in order to promote equity, and encouraged people to vote for women in politics. After Pagán, it was Félix Córdova’s turn. He denounced the corruption that has plagued Puerto Rican politics, and the inequality in the county. Córdova explained a proposal that the PPT party has which is to raise the minimum required salary from $7.25 to $10 an hour, and to reduce work week hours from 40 to 35. Lastly, Pedro Resto expressed his desire to encourage the island’s agriculture in order for Puerto Rico to become a more self-sustainable nation.

The candidates from left to right: Pedro Resto, Rafael Bernabe, Amárilis Pagán, and Félix Córdova.

Afterwards, there was a Q&A section where the attendees could ask questions directly to the candidates. There, Bernabe answered the question which has been sweeping the nation: would he be open to uniting with independent candidates Alexandra Lúgaro and Manuel Cidre? Bernabe expressed that there are disagreements between the candidates on the proposals each of them have for Puerto Rico, and therefore  it wouldn’t be logical to unite just for the purpose of winning the election.

Needless to say, this forum was an educational experience where students got to interact with the candidates and listen to their party’s proposals. Whether or not students agree with them, will have to wait until Election Day.