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South Florida Puerto Ricans Distressed By Island's Election Debacle; Want Better U.S. Help

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Danica Coto
/
AP
A Puerto Rican poll worker (right) outside San Juan informs a voter there are no ballots at his precinct for last Sunday's primary election.

Puerto Rico's Governor has sued election officials over primary elections. South Florida Puerto Ricans feel the U.S. could have done more to help prevent the mess.

On Tuesday, Puerto Rico’s governor sued the island’s election officials to hold a complete do-over of recently aborted primary elections. South Florida’s Puerto Rican community is distressed by the debacle – but feels the U.S. could have done more to help prevent it.

Half the voting precincts in the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico couldn’t provide ballots for last Sunday’s primaries. Election authorities had to delay the vote for those precincts until this Sunday.

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Now Governor Wanda Vázquez is trying to force Puerto Rico’s election commission to hold a new primary for all precincts. Vázquez is running for her party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Puerto Ricans in South Florida say the mess is proof the island’s political crisis has only deepened since former Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned last year amid corruption scandals. Mario Catalino is a spokesman for the Puerto Rican Leadership Council in Miami.

“It’s really embarrassing and frustrating because we’re hoping the awakening that’s happened in the island will lead us to changes for the better," says Mario Catalino.

"And when we see this it’s painful, because it’s more of the same.”

But Catalino argues the U.S. could have helped Puerto Rico avoid the primary snafu by ensuring it had sufficient election resources. The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, a financial oversight body created by Congress in 2016 to fix the island’s economic crisis, controls that funding.

“The fiscal control board has a very tight noose on finances," he says, "and the elections this year were shortchanged – I think it was like 30 percent of the budget actually needed.”

This week, however, the oversight board insisted Puerto Rico’s election commission “has more than enough to perform the one task it is charged with.”