I love the fanciful premise of the iconic film “Dave” in which a president who really is not, and who has no long-term aspirations, decides to adopt revolutionary, yet logical measures that any reasonable president would if they did not have their hands tied weighing on political considerations that help re-election.
I recently realized that in many ways Gov. Wanda Vázquez is right in that position (colonized version, of course) … and is wasting it spectacularly.
Vazquez arrived by chance to a chair she never aspired to and to which she will not aspire in the future. Because of her extreme caution in being decisive, I realize that she does not see it that way, but the reality is that, if she wanted, she is free to do what no governor has ever done in Puerto Rico: to run the administrative matters of the island based on logic, justice, strategic economic growth, and real transparency instead of playing with political games at heart.
She has no favors to pay to get elected. She has no “big interests” to compensate after the election. Vázquez is in a golden privileged position that no woman or man in Puerto Rico has had or possibly will ever have.
Before Vázquez there is a wide range of possibilities that she has yet to grasp. We can stipulate that there is plenty she cannot achieve without going through the mafia-like interests at the Capitol, or the power of the Fiscal Control Board, but on the other hand, there is much that she can do from the power of her executive chair.
Let us count the ways. She can clean the corrupted web left by the brief presence of Ricardo Rosselló and whose bad smell still permeates this government. She can take steps to start the process of auditing the debt. She can demand from her team deeper and more coherent solutions than, say, creating 12-hour police shifts in the face of a terrifying crime war.
She can redirect all economic priorities so that the deep pockets of political interests don’t keep getting fuller at the expense of the most basic needs of our people. She can put the full weight of the Justice Department on the mission for which it exists and effectively stop those who see the resources of the island as their own private property to dispose of and keep doing it because they know that impunity protects them.
She can take blunt measures to support local entrepreneurship and see that it flourishes, instead of crushing it. She can deal with the scandal of the port monopoly that Rosselló left behind and that will make life in Puerto Rico even more expensive in almost every aspect.
She can solve the eternal transportation problem of Vieques and Culebra, reactivate them with a serious DMO and not accept excuses. She can stop the avalanche of contracts that go to family members of officials and former officials of the government, including the son of her own Chief of Staff. She can open up to a really transparent government instead of continuing with Rosselló’s obstructionist policies and respond to requests for information from the press and the people openly and seriously, instead of continuing to fight them in court.
She can demand a formal record on how many mental health patients are charged with a crime in the island’s prison system and hospitals and address the severe mental health crisis we face.
We could write pages and pages of what Vázquez is free to do in over a year that she has left in power, without asking anyone for permission and without thinking about the political consequences, but with this brief list, you get the gist of it.
It’s a simple matter of will… so simple and so impossible among the people who govern us.
But most importantly, she can choose to speak to the people with the truth, even if it’s hard. We grow from the point where the truth is accepted. In the shade of lies, it’s impossible.
Recently Vázquez said she does not have “a magic wand” to solve the island’s problems.
Well, she may not have a magic wand, but what she does have is a historic opportunity to do what nobody has ever tried: to kick the hornet’s nest to see what happens if we do things differently and abandon the nonsensical rules of governance that have long since betrayed us.