Popular Democratic Party (Puerto Rico)

Popular Democratic Party
Partido Popular Democrático
President David Bernier
Vice President Brenda López de Arrarás
Governor Alejandro García Padilla
Senate President Eduardo Bhatia
Speaker of the House Roberto Rivera Ruíz de Porras
Founded July 22, 1938 (1938-07-22)
Split from Liberal Party
Headquarters Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Ideology Social liberalism[1]
Political position Center-Left[lower-alpha 1]
National affiliation Democratic Party
International affiliation None
Colors      Red
Slogan "Unidad, trabajo, prosperidad"
"Unity, work, prosperity"
Anthem "Jalda Arriba" (Johnny Rodriguez)
Seats in the Senate
18 / 27
Seats in the House of Representatives
28 / 51
47 / 78

The Popular Democratic Party (Spanish: Partido Popular Democrático or PPD) is a political party that advocates for maintaining the current political status of Puerto Rico as that of an unincorporated territory of the United States with self-government.[lower-alpha 2][lower-alpha 3] Founded in 1938 by dissidents from the Puerto Rican Liberal Party and the Unionist Party, its founders defined the party as center-left in the ideological spectrum.[3][lower-alpha 4] In recent years however, its leaders describe the party as being centrist.[lower-alpha 1][lower-alpha 5] The party was originally led by Luis Muñoz Marín, the first Puerto Rican governor elected by the people of Puerto Rico, and is today led by David Bernier, an odontologist turned public servant.

The PPD is one of the two major parties in Puerto Rico with significant political strength and currently holds the seat of the governor. It also has a simple majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives; effectively controlling both the executive and legislative branch without political opposition. The party also holds more than half of the seats of mayors in the municipalities of Puerto Rico.

In terms of standing, the PPD is contrasted politically by the New Progressive Party (PNP in Spanish), which advocates for Puerto Rico to become a state of the United States, and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), which advocates for the independence of Puerto Rico. Another option, spearheaded by a caucus within the PPD, advocates for Puerto Rico to enter a compact of free association with the United States.

Members of the PPD are commonly called populares (English: "populars") and mostly affiliate with the Democratic Party of the United States.[lower-alpha 6]



Dissidents expelled from the Liberal Party of Puerto Rico (then led by Antonio R. Barceló), founded the PPD in 1938.[3] 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 the Bill.[8] 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).[9]

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 as a violation of the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico.[10] 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.


Sila Calderón

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.

Plebiscites on political status

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.[11][12] 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 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.

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.[13]

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"[14] 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.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

Support for discussion of Puerto Rico status within U.N. General Assembly

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.[21]

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".[21]

Party logo and song

The PPD used as a logo the silhouette of a rural farm worker, jibaro, wearing a straw hat, 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")[22]

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.

"Jalda Arriba"

Jalda Arriba va cantando el popular

Jalda arriba siempre alegre va riendo

Va cantando porque sabe que vendrá

La confianza que ha de tenerlo contento

Jalda Arriba hacia al futuro marchará

Un futuro de paz y prosperidad

Jalda Arriba va triunfante va subiendo

Jalda Abajo van los de la oposición.


Party presidents

Gubernatorial nominees

Other major leaders

See also



  1. 1 2 Banuchi 2013 (in Spanish) "No podemos pedirle a un gobernador y a un presidente de un partido de centro que tiene diversos extremos que asuma postura."[5]
  2. Party platform 2012 (in Spanish) p. 248. "El Partido Popular Democrático reafirma que el Estado Libre Asociado es la opción de estatus que mejor representa las aspiraciones del Pueblo de Puerto Rico."[2]
  3. Party platform 2012 (in Spanish) p. 248 "El Partido Popular Democrático apoya firmemente el desarrollo del Estado Libre Asociado hasta el máximo de autonomía compatible con los principios de unión permanente con los Estados Unidos y la ciudadanía americana de los puertorriqueños. El Partido Popular rechaza cualquier modificación de estatus que se aparte de estos principios y que atente contra nuestra nacionalidad puertorriqueña o que menoscabe nuestra identidad lingüística y cultural."[2]
  4. EFE 2013 (in Spanish) "Definido por sus dirigentes como una formación de centro-izquierda en orientación ideológica[...]"[4]
  5. Gómez 2013 (in Spanish) "Es un partido de centro y al ser un partido de centro es normal que tenga vertientes hacia un ELA con mayor autonomía y un ELA tal vez más conservador."[6]
  6. WAPA-TV 2012 (in Spanish) "Incluye a miembros tanto del Partido Demócrata como del Partido Republicano, a diferencia de su oposición, el Partido Popular Democrático, que se identifica mayormente con el Partido Demócrata."[7]


  1. Popular Democratic Party. "Historia".
  2. 1 2 "Plataforma de Gobierno 2012" (in Spanish). Popular Democratic Party. May 2, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  3. 1 2 Government / Brief history of elections in Puerto Rico. Encyclopedia Puerto Rico. Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  4. "El Partido Popular Democrático de Puerto Rico cumple 75 años de historia". Orlando Sentinel (in Spanish). EFE. July 22, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  5. Banuchi, Rebecca (July 24, 2013). "Senadores del PPD presentarán proyecto para la Asamblea Constitucional". El Nuevo Día (in Spanish). Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  6. Gómez, Antonio (August 3, 2013). "Perelló asegura que el PPD está unido para desarrollar el ELA". El Nuevo Día (in Spanish). Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  7. "Historia del PNP" (in Spanish). WAPA-TV. March 15, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  8. "La obra jurídica del Profesor David M. Helfeld (1948-2008)'; by: Dr. Carmelo Delgado Cintrón
  9. "Puerto Rican History Timeline". Welcome to Puerto Rico.org. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  10. "Jesús T. Piñero y la Guerra Fria".
  11. KIRK SEMPLE, "Puerto Rican Governor Faces 19 Counts", New York Times, 27 March 2008
  12. Indictment - United States of America v. Anibal Acevedo Vilá, et al., UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO, The United States Department of Justice
  13. Public Law 600, Art. 3, 81st Congress of the United States of America, July 3, 1950
  14. "Popular Democratic Party Governing Board Members ("Junta de Gobierno PPD")". Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democratico). 2010-01-18. Archived from the original on September 8, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  15. "Rechazo a la Libre Asociación (Free Association Rejected) (Spanish)". Carmen Arroyo Colón, El Vocero. El Vocero de Puerto Rico. 2010-01-18. Archived from the original on January 21, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
  16. "Vega Ramos repudia resolución de la Junta Popular sobre el status (Spanish)". CyberNews. Expreso de Puerto Rico. 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
  17. "Se desata la pugna en el PPD (Spanish)". Carmen Arroyo Colón El Vocero. El Vocero de Puerto Rico. 2010-01-20. Archived from the original on January 21, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-20.
  18. "PPD no debe descartar ningún concepto para desarrollo del ELA (Spanish)". Cybernews. El Vocero de Puerto Rico. 2010-01-21. Archived from the original on January 25, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-21.
  19. "Resolución (Resolution) JG-2010-003". PDP Government Board (Junta de Gobierno PPD). Popular Democratic Party. 2010-01-18. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  20. "Lawmaker urges Ferrer to resolve PDP status dispute". Eva Llorens Vélez. Puerto Rico Daily Sun (Newspaper). 2010-01-23. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
  21. 1 2 Vargas, Yaisha. "Government looks for allies to go to UN". Associated Press (AP); January 8, 2007.
  22. "Estrena insignia el PPD". 5 May 2016.
  23. "N.Y. Encyclopedia of Famous Puerto Ricans".

External links

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