The election for the governorship of Puerto Rico was decided just in time for the swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 2.

Anibal Acevedo Vila obtained 48.4 percent of the vote, beating former governor Pedro Rosselló, who got 48.2 percent, by a margin of only 3,500 votes. The close Nov. 2 vote, which was certified just five days before the inauguration of Acevedo Vila, had set off an automatic recount.

Rubén Berríos of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), which favors Puerto Rican sovereignty, got 2.7 percent of almost 2 million votes cast in this Caribbean nation of 3.8 million people.

Rosselló, a leader of the annexationist New Progressive Party (PNP), which seeks to make Puerto Rico a U.S. state, had challenged in federal court the validity of “mixed votes,” where voters selected their party preference and then voted for candidates of other parties. About 28,000 votes were challenged.

Most of the voters who cast such ballots favored Acevedo Vila of the autonomist Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which favors the current status for this island nation, a colonial possession of the U.S. Many of the ballots were marked with a party preference for the PIP and for Acevedo Vila and Roberto Prats, PPD candidate for resident commissioner, Puerto Rico’s non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress.

By voting under the PIP insignia and for the individual candidates of the PPD, voters tried to assure that the PIP maintained its ballot status while voting strategically to block the election of Rosselló.

Many call the previous two Rosselló administrations the most corrupt governments in Puerto Rican history. Twenty-seven members of his administration, including his secretary of education, his own executive assistant, and political appointees in a number of agencies, were convicted of corruption.

Part of Rosselló’s campaign centered on his calling the outgoing PPD governor Sila María Calderón corrupt because six members of her administration were convicted of malfeasance, while Rosselló claimed he was wrongly victimized by disloyal associates and political allies.

When a group of voters sought to have their “mixed vote” ballots declared as valid in the Puerto Rican courts, Rosselló moved to have the case heard in the federal court in Puerto Rico together with his own case. In the meantime, the Puerto Rican Supreme Court ordered the State Electoral Commission to count the split-vote ballots as valid.

Daniel Dominguez, judge of the U.S. federal court in Puerto Rico, decided to hear the case and ordered the Puerto Rican court to vacate its order while ordering the State Electoral Commission to count, but not validate, the split-vote ballots. The interference of Dominguez gave rise to protests, including a 20,000-strong “March for Dignity” demanding the federal court stop interfering in the Puerto Rican electoral process. Dominguez is considered partisan to the pro-statehood PNP.

On appeal, the First Circuit Court in Boston found that Dominguez had overstepped his authority and ordered that he remand the case back to the Puerto Rican Supreme Court. Based on the Puerto Rican Supreme Court decision, the State Electoral Commission counted all the votes and certified Anibal Acevedo Vilá as the new governor.

j.a.cruz@comcast.netclick here for Spanish text